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Envoy sees potential South Africa-Qatar tie-ups in food security, technology sectors

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On the back of its technological advancements in a wide range of sectors, South Africa would be a reliable partner for Qatar in the development of different areas of mutual concern, South African ambassador Ghulam Hoosein Asmal has said.
Speaking to Gulf Times, Asmal said: “As developing countries, technology is a sector that both Qatar and South Africa may share.
South Africa is the most technologically-advanced country in the African continent.”
He emphasised that the technology available in South Africa “is suited for developmental purposes” and “is suited for conditions in Qatar,” citing the exchange of technologies in addressing water scarcity for example.
“One area that we are very excited about is agro-processing and new methods related to food security.
Food security, which has become a very topical issue today, is caused by both natural causes like climate change and man-made issues, such as the situation in Ukraine, so both have emphasised the need for food security and I think we can cooperate with regard to that,” the ambassador stressed.
Similarly, Asmal said South Africa has made tremendous advances in the field of veterinary sciences and agronomics.
He said the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute is “among the 10 best in the world” and is producing vaccines for animals, as well as various technological researches, “so there is a lot of scope for improvement in that area.”
According to Asmal, such advancements that South Africa has achieved in this field is reflected in its exports of a variety of high-quality meat to Qatar, such as beef and lamb.
He also noted that the proximity between Qatar and South Africa is an advantage for both countries in terms of imports and exports.
The ambassador stressed that South Africa also has advanced technologies in the field of hydroponics and how to grow foodstuffs “in the conditions of drought.” He said the seeds and other agricultural materials developed in South Africa “are hardy for harsh conditions.”
“In terms of desalination, I believe we are very keen to learn from Qatar about this process and how to use that in South Africa.
Our country is uniquely positioned that we have two oceans – the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, so knowing how to use and develop cost-effective ways of desalination to provide water is very important.
He noted that proximity, particularly the frequency of flights between Qatar and South Africa, is considered an added value.“We have 31 flights a week between both countries.
In Johannesburg alone, there are three flights a day, so I think the infrastructure is there for imports and for quality organic meat from South Africa,” he explained.
While meat has been a dominant export commodity from South Africa to Qatar, Asmal noted that there is a need to expand trade exchange to other products, as well, citing other sectors on technology.
“Besides agriculture, our banking technology is among the best in the world, so there is also scope for collaboration in this sector.
Similarly, there is another great area for partnerships in the IT and services sector.
“We have already seen a number of South African teachers here.
In fact, the bulk of the South African expatriate population in the country are teachers and professionals.
In South Africa’s accounting sector, we have a very credible and vigorous workforce, so there is also great potential for collaboration in that area,” he said.
He said other growing areas for collaboration are in environmental sciences and waste management: “I’ve noticed that there is some consciousness about caring for the environment here.
Caring is one thing but using scientific and technological advancements to secure a better world for our future is of utmost importance for us.”
Asmal added: “South Africa also offers Qatar an opportunity to be part Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, which is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio astronomy observatory, designed to enable transformational science that will change our understanding of the universe.
One of the sites of the powerful SKA telescope that is able to detect very faint radio signals emitted by cosmic sources billions of light years away from earth is located in South Africa.”

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