Speech by President Jacob Zuma to the Members of the Abu Dahbi Business Chamber and SA Business Delegation at the Emirates Palace, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Business Delegates from Abu Dhabi and South Africa
Program Director
Government Officials
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentleman

It is a distinct pleasure for me to be addressing you today and I wish to express my gratitude the hospitality accorded to me and my delegation.
South African and United Arab Emirates formal relations started around the birth of a democratic government in South Africa, in 1994. Our relations have grown and intensified to be a mutually beneficial and valuable relationship. Both our geographical positions as regional business hubs and gateways into our respective regions provide us with the muscle to increase our economic and trade outcomes.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The world as we know is changing and is now characterised by global influences that affect both our economies. We have seen this by the impact the financial crisis has had on the trade between our countries and regions. Like many countries in the world, South Africa was been negatively affected by the global financial crisis, economic growth in 2009 fell to 1.7%.

However, the economy recovered in 2010 led by the construction and manufacturing sectors. In April 2011 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected South African gross domestic production would grow by 3.5% in 2011 and 3.8% in 2012. South Africa enjoyed a trade surplus with the UAE in 2009, due to aforementioned global economic crisis, this swung into a deficit of R365 million in 2010.

It is imperative to continue to work and ensure that this disruption does not erode the work that has already been done in terms of increasing trade and investment between our countries. This state visit supports these initiatives.
The current sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone poses an additional threat to our economies. Currently the EU is working to address the crisis that threatens to spill over from Greece into Italy, Spain and the rest of Eurozone.

Although both our countries enjoy strong long standing economic ties with the EU, the crisis should be seen as an opportunity for developing countries to intensify economic relations.  The shift in global trading patterns has been noted with countries such as India, China and Brazil leading the way. Indeed the IMF has predicted that Africa is the next big growth story after China and India.

Climate change is another important global phenomenon that threatens to erode the progress made by the developing nations. Like the financial crisis, it is likely that the developing world would endure more of the consequences particularly if nothing is done to address this climate change issues. South Africa is hosting the 17th Conference of Parties meeting of the UNFCCC (COP17) and CMP7 later this month to discuss the phenomenon of Climate Change and its impact. The impact of Climate Change is high on the agenda of the developing world as it affects their right to development. In this regard the developing nations should work together with the developed countries to ensure that we have a common understanding and a binding text.

A two way complementary investment flows has been flowing between our countries. We now have South African companies in UAE in construction, retail, hospitality and financial sectors. UAE has also recognised South Africa as the gateway to Africa and has invested in the country. South Africa presents unlimited opportunities for investment in different and key sectors. We have a combination of a well-developed business services support and dynamic investment environment with a number of global competitive and comparative advantages and opportunities.

South Africa is fast becoming a centre of manufacturing excellence offering promising opportunities in both trade and investment in automotive components, capital equipment, aerospace, chemicals, agro-processing, ICT amongst others.

The World Economic Forum report of 2011 has also ranked South Africa 50th on the world competitive index ranking list. This is a great improvement as we have been moved from the 54th rank within a year.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman
In conclusion, the economic growth and job creation are the cornerstones of our economic activities. The contribution of business in improving these elements is essential. We believe that in the partnerships that will be intensified and built during the visit, much will be achieved.

I thank you.

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