In the Indian Ocean, the archipelago state of the Republic of the Seychelles is embracing relations with the United Arab Emirates as never before. The UAE has funded the construction of a new Coast Guard headquarters and vessels to aid the Seychelles in its fight against Somali piracy. On land, the Seychelles is looking to wind power to boost its energy security and has enlisted the Abu Dhabi Government-owned Masdar Power to construct a wind farm. The Seychelles’ interest in maritime security and renewable energy are just the latest in a growing number of links with the United Arab Emirates.
Having its fishing and tourism industries negatively affected by the expanding reach of Somali pirates and their presence in Seychellois waters, the assistance of the UAE in combating piracy has been welcomed by the Seychelles Government. The UAE has recently donated the construction and fitting out of a new US$15 million Coast Guard headquarters, complete with a state-of-the-art radar system. Also donated were five gunboats to boost Seychellois patrol and surveillance capabilities.
In the energy sector, the Seychelles is focussing on wind to reduce its reliance on imported diesel and heavy oil for electricity generation. In another example of deepening intra-regional links, the Seychellois Government has partnered with the emirate of Abu Dhabi to bring clean energy technology to the country.
Masdar is the developer of the environmentally friendly Masdar City complex near Abu Dhabi is a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company – itself a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Government-owned Mubadala Development Company. The company is nearing completion of the initial six megawatt (MW) phase of a series of wind farms in the Indian Ocean archipelago. Located on the main island of Mahé, adjacent to the capital, Victoria, the first stage will later be expanded to 18MW, at which point it will be capable of generating 10-15 per cent of Mahé’s electricity needs. The wind farm was described by Seychelles President, James Michel, as being ‘the most effective renewable energy solution … with the least environmental and visual impact.’
Seychelles-Abu Dhabi links are not confined to piracy and the Mahé wind farm, however, and have been growing steadily in other fields. In an effort to solve the capital’s problems of traffic, housing standards, clean water, electricity and reliability of public services, the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development and the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council have been charged with redesigning and, eventually, possibly rebuilding Victoria.
In other recent developments, the Seychelles opened its first embassy in the Middle East, in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, on 25 November 2011. Visa-free access to the UAE for Seychelles nationals is currently being negotiated and the Abu Dhabi-based airline Etihad Airways began flights to the Seychelles on 2 November, citing its appeal to investment and tourism interests.
For the UAE, and Abu Dhabi in particular, the Seychelles offers a combination of high-technology soft power initiatives and business investment. The Seychelles sees the UAE links in light of a foreign policy that, according to Seychellois Foreign Minister Jean-Paul Adam, ‘… has grown and evolved into an active economic diplomacy that recognises that we cannot just wait for the world to come to us. We must reach out to the world.… And we believe there is no better place to start than in Abu Dhabi.’ Given the seemingly mutually beneficial nature of the relationship, the UAE’s deep pockets and access to technology, and the marine resources of the Seychelles, such links can be expected to continue. The UAE is indeed moving into the Indian Ocean.
Leighton G. Luke
Indian Ocean Research Programme
 Press Release: ‘Seychelles Steps up Bilateral relations with UAE’, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Seychelles: Victoria, 30 November 2011. <https://www.mfa.gov.sc/news.php?content_id=29&news_id=102>.