In my personal experience, it was the one place I did extreme sports. For some reason, I decided to jump out of a plane – 10,000ft in the air – in Malacca. It was the most exhilarating experience of my life, and I’ll never do it again!
Embassy Direct: High Commissioner Ab Rahman, thank you for being here with us today to share your views and experiences.
- E.DBAb Rahman: Thank you very much for inviting me, I am pleased to be here.
Your Excellency, as the Malaysian High Commissioner to South Africa, how would you define your diplomatic tour in the region thus far? What moments or events stand out?
I have been High Commissioner to South Africa since October 2015; I presented my credentials to President Zuma in November the same year. As with other diplomats, the role of our deployment, for the High Commissioner or Ambassador, is not only limited to politics, but has a far wider reach. In our case, we emphasize an economic diplomacy. My role is to find means and ways for Malaysia and South Africa to further strengthen bilateral cooperation – not limited to the political, but also the economical, including trade and investment. We would also like to see more people-to-people relations between the two countries.
How have you and your family adapted to living in South Africa? Have you enjoyed the experience of your job in this country?
I feel very much at home here. South Africa is very beautiful – climate-wise, it is very pleasant; the people are friendly; and from a political point of view, Africa and South Africa is a stable democracy. South Africa has become a martyr in terms of the fight against the apartheid regime and transforming into a country with reconciliation that nobody expected at the time. From an economic point of view, South Africa has tremendous resources. It serves as a gateway to many southern African nations. This is quite similar to Malaysia, in a sense. We could be the gateway to about ten other Asian countries, in our region.
What are the main fields of collaboration between Malaysia and South Africa and how successful have you been in pursuing new cooperation agreements between the two countries?
There has been tremendous economic cooperation in the past. We have bilateral agreements that cover trade and investment. We have quite a number of Malaysian companies operating here, about 16 of them. In the ‘90s, Malaysia used to be the second biggest investor in South Africa. Due to regional, financial and economic problems in the early 2000’s, many of them decided to leave South Africa, and we hope that in the future many of will return. In terms of housing development projects, in golf course development and hotel management, in food production, and in manufacturing, we would like to see more investment. Similarly, in terms of trade, the figure between Malaysia and South Africa is US$4 billion to our favour. More trade between the two countries could see more balance. Our main export to South Africa is palm oil, and palm oil related products, second is electronics. Our biggest import from South Africa is in agriculture, specifically citrus fruits, and in mining, specifically coal and stainless steel.
What would you say attracts Malaysian companies to invest in South Africa?
Many factors attract Malaysian companies to invest in South Africa. In terms of human resource, South Africa offers educated labour. This is what companies are looking for. South Africa can also serve as a gateway to the rest of the region. South Africa offers political stability, infrastructure, the connectivity whereby many flights come in and out, and in terms of language, English is internationally spoken.
Have any South African brands shown interest in the Malaysian market so far?
For many years, citrus and grapes have been very popular in Malaysia, among other agricultural products. South African beef is also of a very good quality, as is the lamb, so these are among other potential examples of products that could enter our market. I myself very much enjoy South African beef and lamb.
Cementing South-South cooperation, what has been achieved by the Malaysian-South African partnership thus far?
Within our bilateral context, we have what we call the Malaysian-South African Cooperation Program. Within this program, our government extends an offer of various training programs and study visits to many developing countries, including South Africa. Some of the programs include further studies, on the level of Masters and PhD. Hundreds of South Africans have undergone these various training programs. Another aspect I would like highlight is that we have similar experience, both having been under British colonial rule at a time. We therefore have similar economic problems and challenges including unemployment, and education. In our case, we are glad to see that South Africa was inspired by our economic development model, a model whereby certain targets and goals are set across all sectors.
Malaysia is one of the few countries that has waivered visa requirements to South Africans. What are the benefits of this in areas of trade and tourism?
South African citizens are allowed to enter our country and stay for a period of 30 days. It is similar for our citizens here. From a political point of view, this is an indicator that our two countries share a very good political relation. From an economic point of view, this facilitates the easy movement of people, for the purposes of business and tourism. This will directly and indirectly encourage further business between our countries, further tourism, and better people-to-people relations.
Excellency, any last words to our readers and viewers? Perhaps you would like to invite them to visit and enjoy your beautiful country.
I would like to say to our South African friends that we in Malaysia have a high regard of the South African people. Your struggle against apartheid has inspired many people in the world. We would like to see more people-to-people relations between our two countries, and we can do this through tourism and through education, to get a better understanding of the people. We have about 300 Malaysian students studying here, and this helps bring people together. We encourage our South African friends to visit Malaysia, because we have so much to offer. We are known as a shopping destination, and that is one of the reasons many people come visit Malaysia. We have good products at affordable prices.
Thank you so much for your time, Your Excellency.