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2018 UAE-South Africa Trade and Investment Workshop

24 April 2018

Under the guidance of His Excellency, Ambassador Mahash Saeed Alhameli, the Embassy of the UAE in Pretoria held the 2018 UAE-South Africa Trade and Investment Workshop.

The event was held in partnership with South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry, the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency and the Black Business Council. The Workshop had a number of objectives. As an immediate objective, the Embassy aimed to introduce the UAE’s 2018 trade and investment strategy to South African stakeholders while in the long term, the event was held to enhance trade and investment cooperation between the countries. The event laid the foundation for 3 sector specific workshops that will be coordinated by the Embassy over the course of 2018.

The gathering brought together speakers from key agencies within the UAE and South Africa, who provided insight on a number of different areas. The UAE was represented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Ministry of Economy, the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority and the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce. Along with the Embassy’s partners for the event, South Africa was represented by Wesgro, the Limpopo Economic Development Agency and the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Additional presentations were delivered by the Institute for Security Studies and the Minara Chamber of Commerce. The workshop was attended by over 200 individuals from various government agencies, the private sector, civil society, the diplomatic corps and the media.

Regional and national government representatives spoke at length about the potential for investment in their respective jurisdictions. Together with input from the floor, the Workshop also covered challenges in respective business environments and further explored ways of encouraging a favourable climate for foreign investment and economic development. The Workshop also covered issues around food security and the nexus to agriculture, the potential of the blue economy and social empowerment as a by-product of economic development.  

The Black Business Council (BBC) noted that there are great opportunities for South Africa and its members to accelerate the increase in trade between the two countries.

“Todays event reflected the interest of the black business council members who attended in great numbers to explore opportunities available in the UAE”  said Sello Rasethaba - the Chairman of the BBC.

Economy of the UAE
The economy of the United Arab Emirates has seen incredible transformation over the last 50 years. From an economy that was based on nomadic farming, the cultivation of dates, fishing and pearling, the UAE progressed at great speed to becoming one of the region’s economic powerhouses. While the discovery of oil contributed to the initial success of the UAE economy, the country has been successfully developing other sectors of the economy and is consistently moving into new and innovative spheres, contributing to the diversity of the UAE economy.

The UAE’s projected growth stands at 2.6% for 2018 and 4.1% for 2019. In an effort to drive growth, the UAE has designated 7 strategic priority areas: renewable energy, health, transportation, water, space, education and technology.

The Workshop highlighted several key features of the UAE economy to take into consideration with regards to investing in the country:

1.    Strategic location – The UAE has transformed into a major hub for global business in recent decades. The geographic location of the country serves as a strong central connection point between Africa, Asia and Europe.

2.    Financial stability – The UAE possesses strong financial reserves and has the advantage of a stable and accommodating banking sector. The UAE has the largest sovereign wealth fund in the Middle East and among one of the largest globally. Combined, these factors greatly contribute towards building an enabling environment for foreign investment.

3.    Consistent government spending – Government spending on infrastructure has ensured consistent development. Infrastructure projects in turn contribute to the country’s economic capacity and its ability to cope with increasing trade and investment. Such infrastructure is often key to the efficiency within the economy for which the UAE is known.  

4.    Diversification – The UAE has been actively and successfully diversifying its economy in an effort to curb the country’s dependence on oil. As a result, key industries have developed and begun to thrive. These include tourism, air transport, alternative energy and manufacturing.

5.    Free zones – The UAE is home to a number of economic free zones which offer considerable financial incentives to investors. These include exemption from corporate taxes and import/export duties, as well as full foreign ownership with 100% profit repatriation.

6.    Investment in youth – The energy and innovative spirit of the UAE’s youth population is harnessed and strongly encouraged, giving rise to an active, capable and youthful workforce. Steered by wise leadership and guidance, the UAE lays the foundation for the future by investing heavily in youth and the development of young people in particular.

7.    Political stability – Political stability, public confidence in the leadership of the UAE, a strong institutional framework and high government efficiency continue to contribute to the growth of the UAE economy and make the country a trusted and stable destination for foreign trade and investment.
8.    Global competitiveness – In 2017, the World Economic Forum ranked the UAE 17th globally and first in the Middle East in terms of Global Competitiveness noting that increased diversification has contributed to the resilience of the UAE economy.

9.    Social development – In line with economic endeavours, the UAE places a large emphasis on social development. Such efforts have expanded outside the border of the UAE and have left a global footprint.

Relations between the UAE and South Africa
Trade and investment between the UAE and South Africa reached R36 billion in 2016, an increase from R28 billion in 2015. Minerals, agricultural produce and transport equipment are the key exports from South Africa to the UAE, while mineral and chemical products are the key exports from the UAE to South Africa.

The UAE is host to an estimated 200 South African companies from across the spectrum, such as construction, communication, financial services, healthcare as well as hospitality and retail.

South African companies have significant visibility in the UAE’s retail sector. Major South African brands present in the UAE include: such as Woolworths, @Home and De Beers. Restaurant chains include Nando’s, the Meat Co, the Butcher Shop & Grill, Mugg and Bean, Dulce Café, Jimmy’s Killer Prawns, Steers and Ocean Basket.

From the side of South Africa, a visible air of optimism was present among government officials who firmly believe that the economy is to see significant improvement under the new government administration, headed by His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa. In light of the prevailing atmosphere of optimism, the Embassy is of the view that the timing for greater economic cooperation between the countries is ideal. The Embassy is looking forward to facilitating efforts between the countries that will work towards achieving this goal.

Embassy of the UAE in SA



February/March 2020











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