Abu Dhabi: The total bilateral trade between South Africa and the UAE is valued at approximately $3 billion (Dh11 billion), the South African Ambassador to the UAE, Mpetjane Kgaogelo Lekgoro told Gulf News yesterday.

In an interview, Lekgoro said South Africa’s exports to the UAE primarily constitute agricultural products, machinery, automotive parts, gold, raw diamonds and financial services, while it mainly imports crude oil from the Arab-Gulf country.

In November 2011, South Africa-UAE diplomatic ties got a boost with the state visit of South African President Jacob Zuma to the UAE.

Zuma, at the time, met President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Shaikh Khalifa and Zuma discussed ways to enhance bilateral cooperation.

“Our focus is to further grow the trade ties between the two countries. I want to make the UAE aware of the investment opportunities in South Africa. There are several opportunities for the UAE to invest in South Africa’s infrastructure, agriculture, automotive and mining sectors,” said Lekgoro.

Given the scale of available investment opportunities in South Africa, Lekgoro said he would expect to see Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia) increase its exposure to South African assets, directly or indirectly. He also said boosting tourism from the UAE to South Africa would also be a key focus area.

“Cooperation in the area of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is yet another field where South Africa could be of assistance to the UAE. On our part, we are keen to leverage the UAE’s strengths in the area of research and development in alternative energy. Our Minister for Energy, Dipuo Peters is already a jury member of the Zayed Future Energy Prize,” he added.

The Middle East is considered one of South Africa’s top five regions in its agricultural exporting network. The UAE is considered one of the top 10 countries in South Africa’s global exporting network.

According to figures provided by the South African embassy in Abu Dhabi, the UAE is the 24th largest investor in South Africa and is its largest trading partner in the GCC region. The UAE is also the 21st largest export market to South Africa.