Photo: @RoyalFamily. Photo taken 16 Nov at Buckingham Palace.

History is being made this week as South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa becomes the world’s first Head of State to be hosted in the UK for a State Visit by His Majesty Charles III.

The State Visit begins on Tuesday 22 November. President Ramaphosa will arrive in London on Monday, accompanied by his wife, Dr Tshepo Motsepe, ready for the official programme to commence the following day. The King and The Queen Consort (Camilla) will host the State Visit at Buckingham Palace.

During their visit, the South African couple will be meeting several senior royals including Prince William and his wife Kate (Princess of Wales), who will take them to join the King for a ceremonial military welcome. Prince Edward is scheduled to show them around London’s Kew Gardens, as well as a biomedical research centre.

During the visit, President Ramaphosa will also hold official talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to review a range of issues of a bilateral, continental and global nature.

SA’s President accepted the invitation from King Charles – to visit the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) – in October. It was the first invitation the King extended after succeeding his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in September.

Royal State Visits are the highest honour bestowed on a country by the UK to further bilateral relations and as a symbol of respect and of the important the UK ascribes to the country. Since 1994, bilateral relations between South Africa and the UK have grown into a strategic developmental partnership, as reflected in substantial bilateral trade.

The last state visit to the UK was undertaken by President Donald Trump from the US. He and wife Melania were hosted by Queen Elizabeth II in June 2019.

The last SA state visit was undertaken by President Jacob Zuma in 2010.

The King (before he was King) has visited South Africa, a member of the Commonwealth, on a number of occasions – his first visit was in 1997, followed by a visit in 2011 with the Queen Consort, and again in 2013 for former President Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

Back in the UK, the King also attended a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace in 1996 during President Mandela’s State Visit. He received President Thabo Mbeki during his State Visit in 2001, and he and The Queen Consort welcomed President Jacob Zuma and Mrs Zuma in March, 2010.

This is the first meeting at this level since Brexit and comes at a time when both countries are affected by the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and by the consequences of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, said the Presidency.

Key sectors under consideration for mutual benefit and to support economic growth and development in South Africa include infrastructure development, mining, energy, manufacturing, agro-processing, business process outsourcing and tourism.

In 2021, the UK was the 13th most important supplier of South Africa’s imports and the 5th largest exports destination of South Africa’s products globally after China, USA, Germany and Japan. In 2021, South Africa was the 17th largest supplier of United Kingdom’s imports globally and the first largest supplier of United Kingdom’s imports from Africa.

In 2021, South Africa was the 34th exports destination for United Kingdom’s exports globally and the 1st exports destination for United Kingdom’s exports to Africa.
Bilateral trade reached the highest peak in 2021 for the ten-year period under review, at R148.4 billion, after falling from R138.6 billion in 2018 to R79.2 billion in 2019.

Bilateral trade recovered by 21.8% to R96.5 billion in 2020 from 2019 amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Bilateral Trade between South Africa and the United Kingdom increased during the two years of 2020 and 2021.

The overall objective of the visit for both South Africa and the United Kingdom is to create new impetus in the strengthening of the historically deep and strong bilateral relationship, by elaborating on existing cooperation projects and identifying new areas of cooperation.

Memorandums of Understanding on Cooperation in Science and Innovation and also on Health Cooperation will be signed during the State Visit.

The UK is South Africa’s number one source of long-haul tourism in the world, a position it has not relinquished for the past 19 years. UK tourists to South Africa have a very high repeat visitor rate and 67% of visitors who have been to South Africa return for a second visit.

Bilateral relations between South Africa and the UK remain strong covering a range of areas of cooperation linked to both Governments’ priorities, said the Presidency.

President Ramaphosa will be accompanied by the Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation, Trade and Industry and Competition, Health and Higher Education, Science and Innovation.