Saudi Ban On S. Africa Beef Lifted

RIYADH, 1 January 2003 — The Kingdom has lifted the ban on South African beef following the conclusion of an extended bilateral discussion and the visit of a Saudi technical delegation to Pretoria.

The ban was lifted after Pretoria’s vehement denial of allegations for several months that its cattle were infected with mad cow disease or any other bovine disease.

“It is a welcome decision of the Saudi government”, said the newly-appointed South African Ambassador Abdulhamied Gabier yesterday.

The Kingdom banned import of South African beef in August 1999 after receiving information about a bovine epidemic in South Africa. Gabier said that Pretoria, with a strict monitoring system in place, has earned a reputation in the international veterinary community for its attempts to control animal diseases.

Referring to the trade relations between Riyadh and Pretoria, the ambassador said that a Saudi consortium Cell C, which has been awarded the multibillion riyal cellular telephone network contract, has started its operation in South Africa. Saudi Oger company holds 60 percent stake in Cell C and has assumed all the financial risk of the consortium for the first 26 months of its operations.

He said it was a prestigious contract for a Saudi company because it was hotly contested in South Africa, whose cellular market is expected to grow from the current $1.3 billion to $2.4 billion by 2003. South Africa also accounts for 70 percent of 9.4 million cellphone users in Africa and it is growing at 101 percent on a 12 month comparison, almost twice the global average.

The diplomat said that the two countries have forged closer relations with two-way trade reported to be in the region of $1.5 billion annually. Saudi Arabia is also the largest supplier of oil and petrochemicals to South Africa. The Kingdom caters for more than two-thirds of South Africa’s domestic requirements of oil.

The two countries are also negotiating to sign a major trade and investment protection agreement, said Gabier, adding that many Saudis are investing in tourism, agriculture, forestry and hospitality sectors in South Africa.

He said that South Africa has identified the mining sector for setting up joint ventures or for expanding cooperation since that country has some of the world’s deepest gold mines with expertise in the extraction and refining of minerals at great depths.

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