SA, Qatar bolster relations

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa has deemed his visit to Qatar as significant, saying it serves as an opportunity to discuss and share views on the recent international developments. 

“This visit is very significant, not only as an opportunity to strengthen bilateral relations between our two countries, but also to share views on recent international developments. 

“The events in Palestine, and the growing deaths of civilians, particularly children, grieves us all. South Africa supports all efforts to secure an immediate and full ceasefire, with talks on a political solution to address the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for statehood,” President Ramaphosa said. 

The President was delivering remarks at the Qatar - South Africa Business Roundtable in Doha, Qatar, on Wednesday. 

President Ramaphosa is currently on a two-day State Visit in Qatar at the invitation of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of the State of Qatar.

The visit occurs in the context of three decades of diplomatic relations. The two countries will celebrate the 30th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations on 11 May 2024. This is President Ramaphosa's first visit to the State of Qatar as Head of State.

President Ramaphosa told the roundtable that while the political relationship between the two countries is strong, much more can be done with each other in areas of trade, investment and economic development. 

“For this reason, I am particularly pleased that I have had an opportunity to engage with both the Qatari Business Association and the Qatar Chamber of Commerce earlier. I want to point to five features of the South African economy that offer us the opportunity to build and expand our economic relationship,” he said. 

Firstly, the President highlighted that South Africa is Africa’s most industrialised economy with well-established companies.

He told the roundtable that many of these companies are active in the Middle East and Qatar. The President mentioned companies like Sasol in the petro-chemical sector with its advanced technologies and iconic consumer brands such as Nandos and Ocean Basket. 

“South Africa has well developed manufacturing and services sectors. South African agriculture and agro-processing companies are world class, and we can support the Food Security Program of the State of Qatar. 

“Beyond these, South Africa is developing its expertise in areas such as pharmaceuticals, the space industry and advanced manufacturing,” he said. 

Secondly, the President said South Africa is developing greater market access across the world. 

He mentioned that the country has free trade agreements in place with the European Union and the United Kingdom and is about to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area, uniting 54 economies into a large tariff-free market intended to cover 1.3 billion consumers. 

In addition, South Africa currently has access to the US market on preferential terms through the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) and preferential access to certain Latin American markets. 

Thirdly, President Ramaphosa emphasised that the African continent has vast resources of critical minerals that will be used as the world embraces cleaner, greener growth. 

With Qatar’s experience, technology and capital in the petrochemicals, natural gas and energy infrastructure, President Ramaphosa said government is looking to companies from Qatar partnering with South Africa as it implement its just energy transition.

Fourthly, the President highlighted that the country is embarking on far-ranging economic reforms that provide opportunities for partnerships between foreign investors and domestic firms in South Africa. 

He said the energy market is being restructured. The public electricity utility, Eskom, which faced severe challenges, has improved maintenance of its generation fleet and has received debt relief from the State to strengthen its financial position. 

“Private energy generation, specifically in renewables, constitutes a growing share of total energy generated. Since the implementation of regulatory changes, the pipeline of private sector generation projects has increased to over 100 projects representing more than 10,000 MW of potential new capacity,” he said. 

Fifthly, the President told the business roundtable that the country has a stable legal system, strong protections of property rights, a deep capital market with Africa’s largest stock exchange, and a growing pool of skilled employees. 

“South Africa is ready to build partnerships for faster, sustainable and inclusive growth. South Africa is keen to deepen our bilateral relationship with Qatar. We look forward to partnering in sectors such as agro-processing, automotive, aquaculture, manufacturing, hydrocarbons, infrastructure, hospitality and tourism, to mention a few.

“I invite Qatar to join us in developing a portfolio of South African investments that your sovereign wealth fund and your private sector can participate in,” the President said. 

President Ramaphosa commended the business delegations from South Africa and Qatar for their engagement, adding that he look forward to successful outcomes. –