It was with great pleasure my family and I arrived in Abu Dhabi to take up the appointment of Ambassador to the UAE. During our few months we have been here we have enjoyed the warm reception of many South Africans as well as the Emiratis.
The UAE is a very important partner and friend of South Africa. Diplomatic relations were established almost immediately after our first democratic elections in 1994. President Mandela’s first representative, Ambassador Yusuf Saloojee, arrived in 1995. My predecessors have been great trail blazers and I hope to continue in their fine tradition. I am glad to say that I have great support from my teams in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in this endeavour.
As a sign of our strengthening relations the Dubai Consulate was opened and a Consulate General appointed in 2005. South Africa has benefited hugely from the effort put in by various parties, especially the South African business community and SABCO.
Looking forward, we will not be exaggerating in saying that humanity and the planet face serious challenges. Given South Africa’s commitment to a ‘better South Africa, in a better Africa, in a better world’, our country and government will have to play a key role in finding solutions to these challenges. Our government will work with the South African people and the international community in pursuing policies which are to the benefit of all people, especially the most impoverished and destitute.
We as South Africans should continue to reflect on the kind of South Africa we want to live in. As South Africans we are in a much better space than we have been in many years. As a country we now have a National Development Plan to unite the country in moving faster towards achieving the goal of building a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa. We value the partnerships of the United Arab Emirates in our pursuit of these development goals.
There is thousands of South Africans living in the UAE and most of them are highly skilled. They play an important role in the development of the UAE with their skills and I would like to request my fellow South Africans to investigate ways in which they can also contribute towards the development and growth of their home country. My door is open to discuss ideas or programmes that you might have in this regard.
The UAE government are one of the world leaders in the renewable energy sector. Their sovereign wealth fund stands in excess of $800 billion. Here in the UAE there is a potential tourist market that remains untapped by South African tourism institutions. We also know that with a good motivation they are willing to invest in South Africa. These factors put together give us an opportunity to optimise our trade relations. This is a task together with SABCO and other South Africans in the UAE I hope to achieve. In essence I am here to join you as South Africans in the UAE in your hard work in contributing to a better South Africa.
Our work on the international pillar is only meaningful when it contributes in ensuring that more people at home have access to water, electricity, sanitation, decent housing, functional schools, clinics and police stations and other services.
We need to continue promoting our country as a great source of top quality goods, as a wonderful destination for vacations and hosting of conferences and the ideal place to be investing. A number of wonderful investment opportunities are available – especially in the real estate, energy and infrastructure sectors. Notwithstanding the downturn, we find that our host country is still looking globally for investment opportunities.
From my side I can only promise to ensure that service levels to South Africans and all other clients continue improving through our two missions. In that regard I appreciate the feedback I have received from many of you and will continue welcoming that.
Let us continue to serve our country and our people.
H E MK Lekgoro