Organization: South Africa is interested in developing relations with Azerbaijan

Organization: South Africa is interested in developing relations with Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan, Baku, Sept. 24 / Trend E. Tariverdiyeva /

Much of "Friends of Azerbaijan" organization's work has been establishing the credibility of the organization through events and media exposure, founder of the organization, entrepreneur James Dey told Trend.

"Our organisation is called "Friends of Azerbaijan" and was established in 2012 in South Africa following joint collaboration by Michelle Knupfer, James Dey, Thomas Wheeler and Jamil Mammadalizade," he said.

A summary of our notable efforts over the past year have included highlights here -the feature being the latest item which is the First Heydar Aliyev International Kickboxing Tournament held between South Africa and Azerbaijan, in South Africa on August 29, 2013, he added.

Organised by the Turkish community in South Africa on September 30, 2012, the Turkish Festival is the largest Turkish event in South Africa.

"An Azerbaijani cultural showcase Land of Fire on African Soil Event was held at the University of Pretoria on October 27, 2013 and included guests from the Diplomatic Corps, business, media, friends and family. The event showcased Azerbaijani dance, music and presentations from members of Friends of Azerbaijan," he added.

"Friends of Azerbaijan spent a week at the University of Pretoria showcasing items relating to the Spring Celebration of Novruz and 9 young South African essay writers won an almost two week trip to Azerbaijan in June where the country was presented to them through culture. The trip included tours in the northern parts of the country including the cities of Sheki and Ganja, as well as tours in and around the capital, Baku. The trip was fully sponsored by the Ministry of Youth and Sport of the Republic of Azerbaijan," Dey said.

James Dey, a founding member of FOA, attended the Baku Summer Energy School which was held in July 2013. The School is a certificate program jointly run by the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy (ADA) and the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) which aims to promote a more developed understanding of global energy and environmental issues.

"Friends of Azerbaijan wrote to the South African Human Rights Commission as well as the South African public expressing severe concern about the treatment of the Ombudsman of Moldova, Ms Aurelia Grigoriu in Armenia following talks in Yerevan. After expressing her concerns about the Khojaly Genocide in Azerbaijan by Armenia and its continued occupation of Azerbaijani territory, she was forbidden to leave the country, verbally abused and even threatened with her life while Armenian Security Forces made no effort to ensure her safety," he said.

Friends of Azerbaijan's agenda consists of:

- Promotion of tourism from South Africa to Azerbaijan
- Academic linkages between South African and Azerbaijani Institutions
- Incubation of economic relations in terms of imports to South Africa and investments from South Africa into Azerbaijan
- Promotion of culture and sport

"Personally I became interested in Azerbaijan after some initial dealings in 2011, which coincided with the establishment of Azerbaijan's first embassy in South Africa in 2012," Dey said.

What was initially a completely new and unknown territory became demystified by the local embassy staff who helped a group of us arrange our first visit to Azerbaijan in 2012.

"We instantly fell in love with the country, its beauty, its people and most of all its potential and utter desire for growth. While South Africa and Azerbaijan may be very different countries, they share very similar history and experiences," Dey said.

"Both countries are regional powers in their respective areas, and there are many lessons to be shared around education, economic development, technology, and the management of natural resources," he said.

"I believe that South Africa and Azerbaijan have the opportunity to become very important to each other in a number of spheres such as technology (specifically chemical beneficiation), investment, trade and energy security," he said.

"In terms of technology, South Africa has some of the most advanced chemical industries in the world led by giants like Sasol and PetroSA," he stressed.

"South Africa has a dire need for energy supply. Azerbaijan through organizations such as SOCAR can here add tremendous value to South Africa through its technology and investment," he added.

"First and foremost the most important thing is for each of our countries to build their credibility in each other - very few people know about Azerbaijan in South Africa and visa versa. Once this credibility is built, then a platform can be created for cooperation," Dey said.

"Then, a focus of FOA is to create communication channels between stakeholders in Azerbaijan and South Africa in order to foster trust and openness that will create the foundation for cooperation," he said. "Of course, there are always opportunities that exist for cooperation and there are already South African companies working in Azerbaijan, and this is a very positive step forward."

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