Sisulu: Africa is central to South Africa’s foreign policy imperatives

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South Africa’s trade with the rest of the African continent has ballooned from R 11.4 billion in 1994 to the current R 429 billion. And so, besides the natural political solidarity, it makes sense for South Africa to anchor its foreign policy on Africa focused outlook even as it rides the BRICS formation.

That’s a take out from the 2018 budget speech presented by South Africa’s new international relations and cooperation minister, Lindiwe Sisulu. She observed that “As we consolidated our political relations on the Continent by expanding our diplomatic footprint through 47 Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates General; South Africa has also rapidly advanced her economic relations in Africa, through the expansion of our trade volumes, investment portfolio and economic relations across the length and breadth of the Continent. In this regard, South Africa has grown her bilateral trade portfolio with countries on the Continent from R 11.4 billion in 1994 to the current R 429 billion.

“This has resulted in Africa becoming a prime destination of South African originated goods and services; especially value-added goods – which assists in contributing to the R 198 billion trade surplus, creating much needed jobs and opportunities for our people within the manufacturing, retail, fast moving consumer goods, financial services and transport/logistics sectors.”

Here follows extracts from the Sisulu speech which dealt with the African connections:

 Historic and fraternal context

The African Continent is and will remain central to South Africa’s foreign policy imperatives. Guided by the principles and vision of the National Development Plan (NDP) and South Africa’s National Interest, we are driven by a vision to create and achieve a Continent that is peaceful, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, united and prosperous, which contributes to a world that is just and equitable.

In pursuit of our National Interest and Strategic Objectives, our engagements and priorities on the African Continent remain focused and poised on the strengthening of bilateral relations, the promotion of peace, security and stability, economic cooperation and integration, and the enhancement of the African Agenda.

Bilateral relations between South Africa and countries on the Continent are grounded in a historic and fraternal context and narrative, which is rooted in the Continent’s support and solidarity in our fight against colonialism and apartheid, in order to achieve national liberation.

Economic fundamentals

As we consolidated our political relations on the Continent by expanding our diplomatic footprint through 47 Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates General; South Africa has also rapidly advanced her economic relations in Africa, through the expansion of our trade volumes, investment portfolio and economic relations across the length and breadth of the Continent. In this regard, South Africa has grown her bilateral trade portfolio with countries on the Continent from R 11.4 billion in 1994 to the current R 429 billion.

This has resulted in Africa becoming a prime destination of South African originated goods and services; especially value-added goods – which assists in contributing to the R 198 billion trade surplus, creating much needed jobs and opportunities for our people within the manufacturing, retail, fast moving consumer goods, financial services and transport/logistics sectors. It is also worth noting that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) accounts for approximately 80% of our total trade with the Continent.

Political stability is key

Despite the deepened levels of political stability and security on the African Continent, our region continues to be plagued by pockets of instability and conflict, which impedes the prospects of future stability, prosperity, integration and development.

In this regard, South Africa has actively participated, through both bilateral and multilateral efforts, to resolve some of the Continent’s pressing conflict areas; these countries include: Lesotho, the DRC, Madagascar, Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia, Central Africa Republic, Mali and Libya. South Africa also remains engaged in the peace and security dynamics of the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, the Great Lakes Region and the Lake Chad Basin.

South Africa will continue to play her part in conflict resolution in these countries and respective regions. In addition, South Africa reaffirms its continued solidarity to assist the people of Western Sahara in pursuit of their inalienable right to self-determination and decolonisation. South Africa remains steadfast in its rejection of all acts of terrorism and extremism that have increasingly affected countries on our Continent, contributing negatively on internal instability.

As a Continent we are doing quite well in holding regular and successful elections. We therefore take this opportunity to wish well all the countries that are scheduled to hold elections in 2018 and hope that they will do us proud in our efforts to entrench democracy, rule of law and good governance on the Continent. These countries include Zimbabwe, DRC, Madagascar, Cameroon and Mali.

One of the critical tenants of our foreign affairs policy is good governance and the adherence to democratic norms and ethos. This year a number of African countries will be holding elections. The people of these countries will be accorded their democratic right to elect the government of their choice. These countries are the DRC, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Madagascar to name a few. We wish all the contesting parties well.

Institutional Reform

We have played a leading and instructive role in formalising AU-UN peace and security cooperation at the institutional level, an initiative which South Africa continues to champion at the behest of the AU. Membership of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AUPSC) would provide an enabling platform for further advancing cooperation between the AU and the UN to a strategic level.

Furthermore, South Africa together with its regional partners in SADC, welcome the Institutional Reform of the African Union and believe that it will result in a more dedicated, leaner and cost effective Continental organization that is committed to the core values of Pan-Africanism.  We are hence of the view that these reforms must be member state driven and in accord with the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

South Africa is still the facilitator in Lesotho, but we have agreed with the SADC Organ that President Ramaphosa would identify a Deputy to act as Facilitator and who would be easily accessible. The President will announce the Facilitator in due course. The situation remains stable, but unsatisfactory.

I am pleased to indicate that as Chairperson of SADC, we have been assured that elections will be held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2018. The necessary preparations have been put in place.

A global view

South Africa will continue to use its membership of the G20 to promote inclusive growth and development. In this regard, the country, as Co-Chair of the Development Working Group, will among others prioritise G20 support for addressing the scourge of illicit financial flows, Industrialisation in Africa and Least Developed Countries, the implementation of the G20 Africa Partnership and enhanced G20 support to developing countries by providing the means of implementation for achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. These initiatives are aimed at positively impacting the development trajectory of Africa and the developing world and contribute positively to achieving the global commitment of leaving no one behind.

We wish not to forget the African people in the diaspora and those in the Caribbean Islands in their many struggles for economic development and self-determination. Speaking at the Port Elizabeth rally of the ANC on the eve of the launch of the Defiance Campaign in 1952, Prof Z.K. Mathews said.

“Only the African people themselves will ever rid themselves of political subjugation, economic exploitation and social degradation”.

We take pride in the principle of solidarity with all the oppressed peoples of the world. We pledge solidarity and support for the people of Western Sahara in their struggle for self-determination and nation building. We accord unfettered solidarity to the people of Palestine and reiterate our call for a two-state solution.

The BRICS connections

This year South Africa will be hosting the 10th BRICS Summit from the 25th to 27th July at the Sandton Convention Centre. We have assumed the chairpersonship of BRICS from January to December 2018 and feel honoured by this call to duty.

South Africa has determined that an Outreach will again be held with African leaders to ensure both continuity from 2013 and BRICS support for African industrialisation and infrastructure development. In this regard, based on the formula agreed with the AU in 2013, Rwanda as Chair of the African Union (AU), Senegal as Chair of the NEPAD HSGIC, Gabon as Chair of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Uganda as Chair of the East African Community (EAC), Ethiopia as Chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Togo as Chair of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), Burundi as incoming Chair of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Namibia as incoming Chair of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Angola as Chair of the SADC Organ, and the Chair of the African Union Commission have been invited.  The President of the African Development Bank, the Head of the NEPAD Agency and the Secretary-Generals of the six RECs, are also being invited to attend.

In the interest of ensuring maximum synergy between South Africa’s Chairship of BRICS and that of China in 2017, the BRICS Inter-Ministerial Committee determined that, as part of its BRICS Chairship in 2018, South Africa will also host the BRICS Plus Outreach on the margins of the 10th BRICS Summit. The countries invited in this regard are  Argentina (as Chair of the G20 and influential MERCOSUR member), Indonesia (as Co-Chair of the New Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership with South Africa and influential ASEAN member), Egypt (as Chair of the G77+China), Jamaica (as incoming Chair of CARICOM), and Turkey (as Chair of the OIC). The UN Secretary-General, Mr Antonio Guterres, is also being invited to attend the BRICS Plus dialogue session.

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