SA, Qatar meet to advance bilateral relations

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cape Town - Foreign Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe is expected to meet with Qatari Assistant Foreign Minister for Follow-up Affairs Mohammed Abdullah Al-Rumaihi are expected to meet in Cape Town on Wednesday to advance bilateral relations.

South Africa and Qatar will meet within the context of South Africa consolidating relations with countries in the Gulf.

Talks will centre on a review of standing bilateral relations; political and economic developments in South Africa, Africa and the Middle East; and economic relations in the fields of defence, science and technology, energy, and arts and culture.

According to a statement by the Department of Foreign Affairs, South Africa and Qatar enjoy good bilateral relations dating back to 1994 and have strengthened over the years. Qatar is strategically of great importance to South Africa as it contains oil reserves of 15.21 billion barrels, while its natural gas reserves exceed 25 trillion cubic meters.

The Amir of Qatar visited South Africa in 2002 and then President Thabo Mbeki visited Qatar in May 2008. The Amir remains the only Gulf head of state to have visited South Africa, the department said.

The Arab nation's investment in Africa and South Africa, in particular, through the PME Infrastructure Management Limited Fund totals $400 million.

The fund is investing in infrastructure in Africa and is concentrating on the areas of transportation, communication and energy.

According to the Government of Qatar, South Africa is the biggest beneficiary and of the fund which is considered to be the first investment by the Qatar Investment Authority in South Africa.

South African companies have also enjoyed a beneficial relationship with Qatar and in 2006 Sasol and Qatar Petroleum entered into a $900 million joint venture gas-to-liquid facility at Ras Lafan.

The plant was inaugurated on 6 June 2006 by the Minister of Minerals and Energy Buyelwa Sonjica.

In December 2006, Qatar hosted the Asian Games and several South African construction companies benefited from infrastructure projects related to the Games.

Among these was Murray & Roberts, which finished construction of the multipurpose Khalifa Stadium in Doha in June 2005.

Genrec of South Africa was awarded a R200 million contract to supply all the structural steel for the project.

Future infrastructure and development projects in Qatar over the next few years are likely to be substantial and include new oil and gas facilities, ports, an airport, several new roads, hotels, museums and residential compounds, all offering opportunities for South African companies.

The department confirmed that Qatar enjoys a healthy trade surplus, primarily due to its export of crude oil and petrochemicals to South Africa.