The visit to Oman of the President of South Africa, Dr Jacob Zuma, is part of a long and well orchestrated process designed to bring the two nations together in friendship, trade and tourism. The links being strengthened are the result of lengthy contacts and negotiations, which started with the establishment of a South African Embassy in the Sultanate. Oman was fortunate in South Africa’s choice and the South African diplomatic team went about the task of establishing closer ties between the two nations with zeal and enthusiasm.
The visit of the South African President this week is thus putting the seal on a friendship now well established and given the maritime links of both nations it is fitting that the South Africans are putting much energy in establishing links with the ever growing Port of Sohar and it’s free zone. Much work has been done at a diplomatic and commercial level to organise a very substantial investment in Free Zone Sohar, which is now clearly going to bear fruit.
Private industry interests both in South Africa and Oman have been working on plans to build a vast cold storage facility in the Free Zone for the storage of fresh produce, which will allow fresh products from South Africa to be exported to the whole region. When the facility is completed it will mean that Oman will no longer have to import South African fresh fruit from Dubai. Instead Oman will be exporting South African fruit and fresh products.
The link will be with Johannesburg Market, a wholly owned entity of the city of Johannesburg Municipality, which deals in over 1 million tonnes of fresh produce every year, making it the largest market of this type in the world in terms of volume.
This however is just one example of close co-operation. There are many more. As South Africa’s current Ambassador to the Sultanate, Yusuf Saloojee pointed out the recently signed Partnership Forum Agreement signed by the two nations allows for co-operation in the fields of education, science, technology and agriculture. Part of the visit too is a forum at the Al Bustan Hotel where prominent Omani and South African business representatives are meeting today.
There is also scope for tourism development, especially if direct flights can be established. With South Africa concentrating these days on increasing links through the Brics group of nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) it is becoming increasingly important commercially, politically and diplomatically. Oman has a powerful friend.