Bulembu Airport Gets R20 Million Upgrade for UAE President’s Private Visit

The President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, arrived in the Eastern Cape of South Africa with his family, along with a large entourage of 500 people, including other members of the UAE royal family, staff, and top artists who are expected to perform for the family. They are in the country to mark the end of Ramadaan. The Sheikh and his family are reported to have brought their own furniture, cars, and gym equipment for their two-week stay in the Eastern Cape.


To accommodate the Sheikh’s private jet and other aircraft, he reportedly built a runway at Bulembu Airport near Bhisho with his own money, which cost R20 million. This airport was decommissioned for passenger travel decades ago and is currently occupied by the South African military’s airborne infantry unit and the SAPS Airwing. The Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane applied to the Department of Home Affairs to declare Bulembu Airport a port of entry for the UAE visitors to land directly from their country.


The Sheikh is expected to spend two weeks at a private game resort he built from scratch earlier this year after buying a big piece of land in the province two years ago. According to sources, the UAE ruler’s private jet, cargo jet, and UAE airlines used the Bulembu Airport because the size of the aircrafts are too big for the runway and turning circle at Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport in Gqeberha, which is the Eastern Cape’s only international port of entry by air.


The report states that the interest from the UAE follows Mabuyane’s visit to the oil-rich country in March, where he met with Mubadala Investment Group and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company to explore trade and investment opportunities, as well as potential cooperation in sectors of mutual interest, such as renewable and green energy, oil and gas, manufacturing, agro-processing, and industrialisation.


A government official said that the UAE president is on a private holiday and the provincial government has pulled out all the stops to make this visit happen. The official also said that the UAE’s interest in South Africa was sparked by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2018 visit to that country and Saudi Arabia, where he triggered financial commitments worth $20 billion from the two countries.


the visit of the UAE president and his family to South Africa has caused quite a stir, with many questioning the use of a decommissioned airport and the significant financial investment made by the ruler for the runway extension. However, it also highlights the growing interest of foreign investors in South Africa, particularly in sectors such as renewable energy, oil and gas, and manufacturing. It remains to be seen whether this visit will lead to further trade and investment opportunities between the UAE and South Africa, but it is clear that the Eastern Cape province is keen to build relations with the UAE and attract more foreign investment in the future.


It is worth noting that this visit is not the first time that South Africa has attracted the attention of foreign investors. The country has a rich natural resource base, a well-developed infrastructure, and a strategic location that makes it an attractive destination for foreign businesses. However, despite its potential, South Africa has struggled to attract significant foreign investment in recent years, with many investors citing concerns about corruption, crime, and political instability.


The visit of the UAE president and his family may help to change this perception and signal to other potential investors that South Africa is a safe and stable destination for their capital. It is also an opportunity for South Africa to strengthen its diplomatic and economic ties with the UAE and other Gulf countries.


However, it is important to remember that foreign investment is not a panacea for all of South Africa’s economic problems. The country still faces significant challenges, such as high levels of unemployment, inequality, and poverty. To truly benefit from foreign investment, South Africa needs to create an environment that is conducive to business growth, with transparent regulations, a skilled workforce, and an efficient infrastructure.


In conclusion, the visit of the UAE president and his family to South Africa is a significant event that highlights the potential for increased trade and investment between the two countries. However, it also serves as a reminder of the challenges that South Africa faces in attracting foreign investment and the need for continued efforts to create an enabling environment for business growth.

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