Friday's state visit by the President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, marks the beginning of a new chapter in the long-standing relations between his country and the UAE, it was announced in a joint statement.
"President Ramaphosa’s first visit to the UAE ... constitutes a step in further enriching the strong bilateral ties between the two countries," the statement read, according to state press agency Wam.
The South African leader was in UAE to discuss trade, investment and review potential economic and cultural opportunities to help achieve sustainable development.
On arrival in Abu Dhabi on July 13, President Ramaphosa was received by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. An official reception ceremony was held at the airport, where the national anthems of South Africa and the UAE were played, along with the firing of 21 artillery rounds to greet the country's guest.
Sheikh Mohammed and the South African president discussed ways of enhancing co-operation between their countries, as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest. He highlighted the country's policy of building good and constructive relations with friendly countries, based on mutual respect.
The UAE aims to create partnerships with African countries, but Sheikh Mohammed stressed that the UAE has prioritised its ties with South Africa, which is an important and effective partner in the African continent. Both countries are leading regional and international symbols of tolerance and openness.
Sheikh Mohammed wished South Africa greater development, progress and prosperity, and Mr Ramaphosa with luck and success in leading the development and modernisation of his country, while Mr Ramaphosa expressed his happiness at visiting the UAE.
The president and his delegation also visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and Wahat Al Karama (Oasis of Dignity), the Abu Dhabi’s landmark designed to commemorate the sacrifices and heroic deeds of UAE martyrs.
He attended the Guard of Honour ceremony, then laid a wreath at the monument that was made up of 31 panels leaning on one another in a symbol of solidarity between the leadership, people and soldiers of the UAE.
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, received at the ministry premises Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa.
Mohammed bin Ahmed, Minister of State for Defence Affairs, received Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, South Africa's Minister of Defence and military veterans at Emirates Palace on Friday. They discussed ways of boosting a joint strategic partnership in the defence and military fields.
The UAE further welcomed South Africa’s positive role in supporting peace and stability on the African continent and the two sides pledged to work closely together. Since formal diplomatic ties were first established in 1994, the UAE and South Africa have maintained vibrant economic and trade relations.
''Non-oil foreign trade between the two countries saw a marked increase of 23 per cent last year to US$3.2 billion from US$ 2.6b in 2016, boosted by UAE re-exports to South Africa,'' said Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, during a keynote address.
The visit this year also marks the centenary of the birth of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Nahyan and Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa.