His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Photo: Supplied
JOHANNESBURG – IN 1995, The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) late founding father, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, honoured the late inspirational South African President Nelson Mandela with the Zayed Medal to celebrate his historic visit to its capital city, Abu Dhabi.

This year, both South Africa and the UAE commemorate the 100th Anniversary of their great leaders’ birth.

The late Sheikh Zayed and Nelson Mandela not only stood for the common ideals of freedom, justice, and universal peace, but also shared the same passion and love for their countries that inspired and greatly influenced their people.

Both countries continue to strive on their leader’s legacies: “Mandela 100” organises events and initiatives rooted in education and community service, and similarly the UAE’s “Year of Zayed”, showcases Sheikh Zayed’s great impact and ever-lasting legacy.

The UAE and South Africa have built a strong ongoing relationship since the establishment of their diplomatic ties in 1994, with a journey that has brought both countries and people together.

Such a strong friendship stemmed from a mutual recognition of shared values, treasured within the people of both nations by two great leaders as a guiding light forward.

Today, economic and commercial interests between the UAE and South Africa run deep, enabling both countries to capitalise on common interests across numerous fields. Together they have developed a well-integrated import and export market that continues to expand. As a result, this has enabled both governments to boost bilateral trade by an impressive 29 percent, from $3 billion (about R43.08bn) in 2016 to $3.9bn in 2017.

In July 2018, the UAE had the honour of hosting South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, where the UAE pledged investments of $10bn, focusing on numerous sectors such as tourism and mining.

Such an announcement creates a new milestone within a long-standing relationship and comes as a token of the UAE’s confidence in the resilience and strength of the South African economy.

The growing people-to-people ties between both countries are supported by a vibrant aviation sector with a total of 63 direct weekly flights operated by UAE airlines to South Africa.

This represents an excellent launching pad to ease the facilitation of business and development.

More prominently, this shall increase the number of Emirati tourists travelling to South Africa, which in 2017, was approximately 2 500.

Furthermore, there are around 20 000 South Africans who call the UAE their home, while almost 80 000 visited the country in 2017.

Moreover, beyond its mutual economic and commercial interests, both countries also share common international concerns, in which the UAE values South Africa’s support and positive engagement in favour of international peace and security.

The UAE holds its relationship with South Africa dearly and remains keen on investing and exploring possibilities, not only to strengthen bilateral relationships but also to promote and continue the development and prosperity of both our nations.

From this strong bond, the UAE looks forward to celebrating the common and mutual achievements to the benefit of its people, remaining confident that the two nations will align closer on both domestic and international matters.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.