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SA Relationship
with UAE

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Mandela Day

Establishment of relations:
Informal bilateral relations between South Africa and the UAE were initiated in 1992 when the South African Department of Trade and Industry and the South African Foreign Trade Organisation organized a successful exhibition of SA products in Dubai. This exhibition took place in October 1992 and has laid the foundation for what soon became a prosperous business relationship.

Formal diplomatic relations between South Africa and the UAE were established soon after the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the UAE, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed al Nahyan, visit to South Africa in 1994 to attend the inauguration of Mr. Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first democratically-elected President.

The SA Embassy in the Abu Dhabi was opened on 17 January 1995. During the same year the UAE Embassy was opened in Pretoria. A South African Consulate was soon afterwards established in Dubai. The Consulate was upgraded to a Consulate General in December 2005 with the arrival of the first Consul General, Ms. Agnes Nyamande-Pitso.

High level visits:
SA and the UAE have exchanged several high-level and ministerial visits. Former SA President Nelson Mandela attended the summit meeting of the Gulf Co-operation Council in Abu Dhabi in November 1998 and addressed the Emirates International Forum in Dubai in February 2000. The current President of SA Mr. Thabo Mbeki visited the UAE in March 2000. The South African Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Trade & Industry and Defence and the Deputy Minister of Communications have visited the UAE for discussions that further cemented bilateral relations.

In an attempt to further explore and expand bilateral economic relations, a range of Provincial visits from South Africa, often led by Premiers, have taken place, particularly since November 2006. In that month, Premier Rasool led a government and business delegation from the Western Cape to the UAE. Also in November 2006, Premier Marshoff of the Free State and Premier Shilowa of Gauteng led separate government delegations to the UAE. These visits enabled the visitng delegations to learn more about the UAE and introduce a range of trade and investment opportunities in their provinces and the rest of the country.

In July 2007, Premier Peters of the Northern Cape visited the UAE with a strong government and business delegation. This successful visit was followed by two more equally successful provincial visits in November. Premier Moloto from Limpopo, accompanied by a government and business delegation, explored trade and investment opportunities. Premier Balindlela from the Eastern Cape, accompanied by a strong government delegation, investigated infrastructure development and investment opportunities. All of these visits have generated positive spin-offs with follow-up visits planned.

South African presence in the UAE:
There is a growing community of South African nationals in the UAE, stimulated, in part, by a growing demand for South African labour force. The major sectors where the requirement is increasing are: construction, hospitality, financial, medical, retail management and education. Local employers have come to know and appreciate the quality and professionalism of SA expatriates.

More than 100 South African companies have established themselves in the UAE. The number continues to grow. These range from well-known restaurant groups such as Nando’s, Butcher Shop, Meat Co, Mug & Bean and Debonairs Pizza, to companies in the construction and engineering, banking, energy, travel and hospitality, trading, and HR consultancy sectors.

The Mission is determined to promote public awareness of the richness, variety and potential of South African trade, investment and tourism opportunities through partnerships with the media in the UAE. Newspaper advertisements and supplements on South Africa, features on tourism, education and other sectors, as well as radio and TV interviews and documentaries on South Africa, are frequently utilised for this purpose.

The Mission furthermore uses international exhibitions such as Gulf Education and Training (GETEX) and Arabian Travel Market (ATM) to provide a national pavilion build-up for participating South African institutions or companies. These and other pavilions are designed and branded to promote a particular South African awareness, including the country’s hosting of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

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