President Thabo Mbeki Arrives in the Democratic Republic of Congo Ahead of State Visit 13 - 14 January 2004

President and Mrs Thabo Mbeki have arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) ahead of the first ever State Visit by a South African President. President Mbeki is accompanied by Ministers Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Alec Erwin, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Sydney Mufamadi, Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, Charles Nqakula, Stella Sigcau, senior government officials and a private sector delegation.

South Africa has, together with the UN and the Office of the Facilitator and former President of Botswana, Sir Keitumile Masire, played a catalyst role that helped the people of the DRC to reach an amicable resolution of the political challenges that had plagued DRC for many years.

Consequently, today the DRC boosts of an inclusive government ready to assist the country take its rightful place, as an equal and partner in the process of Africa’s Renewal and efforts to turn the tide against poverty and under-development in the continent.

The visit by President Mbeki and his delegation is aimed at strengthening political and economic bilateral relations between South Africa and the DRC. In this context, President Mbeki and his DRC counterpart, President Josef Kabila are expected to sign a Co-operation Agreement laying a legal foundation for the establishment of the Joint Bilateral Commission between the two countries.

The Joint Bilateral Commission (JBC) will create a mechanism through which the two governments can regulate political co-operation whilst simultaneously serving as a platform for the two governments to identify and implement joint co-operation projects in the following areas:

Defence and security;
Economic development with special emphasis on trade and the agricultural, mining and industrial sectors;
Financial relations;
Development of transportation and communications, inside and outside the borders of the two countries;
The exchange of relevant advisors, experts and professionals; and
Socio-cultural co-operation in the areas of information, youth, sport, public health and tourism.
Pursuant to this objective, the South African Ministerial corps will hold bilateral discussions with their DRC counterpart with a view to consolidating the mechanism for bilateral co-operation.

It is hoped that the visit will also afford the two governments an opportunity to assess the progress made thus far in consolidating peace in the DRC since the signing of an agreement between the main political parties in 2003.

In this regard, President Mbeki and his delegation are scheduled to hold further bilateral discussions with the four DRC Vice Presidents.

During the visit, President Mbeki and his delegation will also have an opportunity to inaugurate the new South African Chancery and diplomatic village in Kinshasa.

The DRC also holds enormous economic potential for the South African private sector generally and the mining sector in particular. The state visit will thus help create a political climate conducive for both the South African and DRC private sectors to interact in a mutually beneficial manner.

President Mbeki and his delegation is expected to return to South Africa on Wednesday 14 January 2004.

Relations with South Africa

A South African Liaison Office was opened in Kinshasa in July 1989. Following the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries on 30 September 1992, the liaison office was upgraded to an Embassy. Since the appointment of President Joseph Kabila, bilateral relations between South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have improved tremendously.

South Africa’s bilateral trade with the DRC:

Year: SA Exports: SA Imports:
1998 R 1 048 465 000 R 25 042 000
1999 R 807 365 000 R 18 128 000
2000 R 875 667 000 R 9 579 000
2001 R 940 274 000 R 20 669
2002 R 1 631 139 000 R 17 738
2003 (June) R 635 359 000 R 15 660

Issued by Ronnie Mamoepa on 082 990 4853.

? Department of Foreign Affairs

Private Bag X152



13 January 2004

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa