SA, Middle East relations get major boost

Tuesday, March 29, 2016
President Jacob Zuma with the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Al Rashid Maktoum at the Zabeel Royal Palace, Dubai. Source: GCIS

Pretoria - South Africa and Saudi Arabia’s economic and political relations received a significant boost following a successful state visit by President Jacob Zuma to that country at the weekend.

President Zuma spent his Easter weekend telling the South African story in the Middle East on Saturday and Sunday.

The Presidency described the visit as an important structural catalyst for strengthening bilateral political and economic relations particularly in the areas of trade and investment.

This, in addition to bilateral trade in targeted sectors, including the South African agricultural and agro-processed goods and services, defence procurement, manufacturing, mineral beneficiation as well as South Africa's participation in the Saudi National Transformation Plan, especially in infrastructure development, including construction and engineering.

“We are very pleased that this state visit will ensure, among other things, continued Saudi private sector investment in our country's renewable energy sector in support of the National Development Plan; the South African petrochemical sector; banking and finance; tourism infrastructure as well as Saudi participation as a maritime state in our Operation Phakisa,” President Zuma said at the end of his visit on Monday.

First Order award

On Sunday, the President Zuma had met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz where he was also given the First Order, the highest award the King bestows on a foreign national.

"I am very humbled to receive this rare award from His Majesty King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz on behalf of our people and our country South Africa," said President Zuma.

Business-to-business cooperation

President Zuma also addressed a high level meeting of South Africa - Saudi Arabia business entities where he emphasised the importance of creating a platform to enhance business-to-business cooperation in order to increase South African exports to the Saudi market and attract Saudi investors to South Africa.

The President said he was pleased the state visit offered South Africa an opportunity of an overview of the regional security challenges from Saudi Arabia's perspective.

"We are looking forward to the possibility of us as South Africa sharing our own experiences with regards to negotiation and reconciliation to assist in moving towards peace and security in that region," he said.

The two countries have agreed to work to ensure closer bilateral intelligence cooperation, in particular in relation to the regional terrorism threat to domestic and regional security and stability.

South Africa and Saudi Arabia will also promote the stabilisation efforts of South Africa's Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) Special Envoys in support of international efforts to find a lasting solution to the Palestine - Israeli conflict.

Working visit to the UAE

On Monday afternoon, President Zuma’s mission moved to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a working visit.

There the President met Prime Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, followed by an interaction with the UAE business community prime minister, as well as several business leaders.

The objectives of the working visit to the UAE were to consolidate and elevate the solid and cordial political and economic relations which exist between the respective countries in particular in the commercial, trade and investment sectors, as well as people-to-people and cultural interaction.

The UAE is one of the most developed countries in the world with the best infrastructure.

The two countries enjoy a strong bond of friendship and strategic bilateral relations characterised by the exchange of several high level visits, a high level of trade and economic interaction, multiple daily flights between the UAE and three South African cities and a large South African expatriate community in the UAE.

President Zuma is accompanied on the working visit by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, State Security Minister David Mahlobo, Police Minister Nathi Nhleko and the Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba. –