30 April 2012
There is great potential for increased trade and investment between South Africa and Saudi Arabia, International Relations Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said during a meeting with his counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdul-Aziz bin Abdullah, in Riyadh on the weekend.
Ebrahim, who is on a two-nation tour of the Middle East and Asia, said South Africa had significant investment interests in Saudi Arabia, through various companies in the engineering, hospitality, retail and health care industries.
Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of Saudi Arabia’s exports, and the kingdom is presently the largest supplier of crude oil to South Africa.
According to Ebrahim, bilateral trade between South Africa and Saudi Arabia amounted to more than R37-billion in 2011 – despite the fact that relations between the two countries were “not at the level that they should or could be”.
“We appreciate the importance of Saudi Arabia in an international and regional context, and have taken some steps to address the unsatisfactory state of affairs.”
The deputy minister said President Jacob Zuma had extended invitations to King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al Saud and his foreign minister to visit South Africa.
“We hope that these visits can take place soon, as the memorandum of understanding for the establishment of regular bilateral political consultations is ready for signature,”
“Furthermore, allow me to take this opportunity to extend an invitation to you to undertake a visit to South Africa to further strengthen our bilateral standing,” Ebrahim said.
South Africa and Saudi Arabia have so far signed eight bilateral agreements together providing a framework for co-operation, and the South Africa and Saudi Arabia Business Council was established in 2009.
The two countries have also established a joint defence committee and a joint committee on science and technology.