Trade between the UAE and South Africa jumped 21.7 per cent in 2010, exceeding $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion), the Ministry of Foreign Trade said Tuesday.
But the UAE's exports to the African powerhouse, amounting to $92.4 million, are dwarfed by imports from South Africa, which were valued at $899.6 million in 2010 — largely due to Dubai's status as a re-export hub for goods from Africa to elsewhere in the world.
That is something the government of the UAE would like to change. It says that South Africa represents a lucrative export destination for products manufactured in the UAE. The UAE is seeking to strengthen trade between the two countries, particularly in the industrial sector, by appearing at business and trade events in South Africa.
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Irfan Al Hassani, a UAE-based economic expert, stressed the importance of improving trade links with South Africa. "South Africa is fast becoming an emerging market that provides diverse products and resources," he said.
Al Hassani pointed out that greater Africa has good potential for UAE companies, with over 725 million consumers. "The rich resources and high population of the continent might create a potential market for UAE exporters and importers," he said.
Al Hassani also said the UAE business community, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Dubai, could help extend cooperation between the UAE and South Africa beyond trade to other vital areas such as industry, training, knowledge and education and innovation.
The UAE recently participated in Africa's Big Seven Exhibition held in Johannesburg. Following the event, Mohammad Hamdan, Director of Trade Promotion in the UAE Ministry of Foreign Trade, said: "South Africa has been a key trade partner of the UAE as manifested by the growing trade volume between the two countries."
He added that the healthy import growth highlights the importance of South Africa as a key supplier of a number of commodities.But, he reiterated that the government would like to see more South Africans invest in the UAE.
The volume of non-oil exports from Dubai to South Africa has jumped from Dh1.26 billion in 2009 to Dh2.41 billion in 2010, according to the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Meanwhile, Dubai imports from South Africa show a slight growth from Dh3.011 billion to Dh3.055 billion in 2010.
The Dubai Chamber said that mineral fuels, mineral oils, bituminous substances and mineral water are the top exports with a share of exports at 48.1 per cent. Pointing to the other major Dubai export/re-export products to South Africa in 2010, electrical machinery, equipment and parts comprised 18 per cent of foreign trade.