Doha, – The Charge d’ Affaires at South African Embassy in Qatar Douw Vermaak has hailed the existing relations between his country and Qatar, welcoming the visit of HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to South Africa.

In a statement to Qatar News Agency (QNA), the Charge d’ Affaires described HH the Emir’s visit to South Africa as important, adding: “We are grateful for the opportunity to discuss not only South African-Qatari relations with His Highness but also political and economic developments on the Continent including the long term vision the African Continent has for itself, AGENDA 2063.” Douw Vermaak pointed out that South Africa and Qatar established diplomatic relations in 1994 and South Africa has had a resident diplomatic presence in Qatar since 2003. Since then, the political and economic relationship has grown substantially, he stressed.

He said HH the Emir and South African President Jacob Zuma will have the opportunity to discuss political developments in Africa and the Middle East. Both of these regions continue to be confronted with socio-economic challenges and conflict.

“The South African Government will also be discussing the possibility of Qatari involvement in the South African ocean economy with His Highness. South Africa has, as a strategic government initiative announced in 2015, embarked on an intensive programme to unlock the potential of South Africa’s coastal and marine resources.” The Charge d’ Affaires at South African Embassy in Qatar said that South Africa has great appreciation for the role that HH the Emir and his government is playing in the peaceful resolution of the conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Libya as well as the support Qatar is giving to the people of Palestine through its involvement in the reconstruction efforts in Gaza, pointing out that the two side will have an opportunity to discuss the possibility of working together to better the lives of Palestinians living in the occupied territories.

The two countries regulate and manage their bilateral relations through annual structured Bilateral Consultations, the Charge d’ Affaires said, adding that the fifth round of the Consultations will take place in Pretoria in October 2017 to be chaired by the two Foreign Ministers of the countries.

During HH the Emir’s visit to South Africa, a Business Forum will be held in Pretoria, where businessmen from both sides will take part and will be co-chaired by the South African Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies and HE Minister of Economy and Commerce Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al-Thani, hoping that the Forum will allow for strategic discussions between the two private sectors of the countries and will also allow for the Qatar Investment Authority and Qatar Fund for Development to evaluate some of the opportunities available in South Africa.

Douw Vermaak revealed that bilateral trade between South Africa and Qatar stands at US$ 517 million (2016). During his March 2017 visit to South Africa, HE Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met with the South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane as well as President Zuma. During the meetings it was decided that the two countries will increase the trade figure to US$ 1 billion by 2020. The Ministers also decided that the two countries will develop a joint 5 year plan focusing on political cooperation, people to people contact through art, culture and sport and economic diplomacy, he added.

“South Africa is invested in the Qatari energy sector through SASOL involvement in the Oryx Gas-to-Liquid plant in Ras Lafan,” he said, adding that South African exports to Qatar consist mainly of fresh and processed food as well as high end machinery and motor vehicle and aviation spare parts and steel products.

Concluding his statement, the Charge d’ Affaires said that tourists visiting South Africa has increased substantially over the last 5 years. First time visitors and returning guests contributed to a 23% increase in the number of visas issued to Qatari citizens between 2015 and 2016. (QNA)

Source: Qatar News Agency