Address by Deputy President Zuma at the Opening Ceremony of the 4th Session of the South Africa-Nigeria Bi-National Commission

Your Excellency, My Dear Brother, The Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
Government Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Ministers of State present,
Premiers and Governors present,
Representatives of local government,
Captains of industry,
Members of the diplomatic corp,
Distinguished guests,
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is always a great pleasure to welcome you, My Brother, and your delegation, to South Africa, given the warm relations that exist between our two countries.

It is therefore my honour and privilege to welcome you to the Fourth Session of the South African-Nigerian Binational Commission.

Before dealing with the business at hand, allow me, Your Excellency, to express our most sincere condolences following the tragic loss of life during the unfortunate incident at the Ikeja Military Cantonment in Lagos in January this year. Our thoughts were and still are with the Nigerian people.

Let me dwell briefly on progress we have made so far in this BNC.

During the inaugural session in Abuja in October 1999, we identified potential strategic sectors of co-operation. These were formalised during the Second Session held in South Africa in April 2000, through the establishment of six Working Groups and the conclusion of six co-operation agreements.

Last year in Abuja, the progress made within the various existing sectors of co-operation was consolidated, and new areas of co-operation were included, through the conclusion of a further five bilateral agreements, two Memoranda of Understanding and a Declaration of Intent.

Mr Vice-President, I am confident that the Fourth Session will see a further consolidation of existing co-operation, as well as the formalisation of yet unexplored areas of co-operation.

Let me also allude to the fact that the enabling environment created by the Commission has contributed to increased engagement between the private sectors of our two countries, and growing business-to-business linkages.

South Africa particularly welcomes the establishment of joint ventures between South African and Nigerian parastatals and other institutions in this regard, such as the recent joint venture concluded between South Africa's ESKOM and the Nigerian Energy and Power Authority.

In addition, the trade data indicates substantial increases in trade between our two countries, between 1993 and 2000. During that period, exports have grown by more than 200% and imports by 400%.

Colleagues, we are meeting amidst a rising urgency for accelerating the improvement of the quality of life of our peoples. As we speak, President Mbeki and President Obasanjo are meeting in Abuja, together with thirteen co-members of the Heads of State Implementation Committee of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

Our Heads of State are showing the way by being hands-on in their approach to solving the problems of our continent. It is our duty to assist them in this endeavour by making the priorities and objectives of NEPAD come alive, within the context of this BNC.

The NEPAD sectoral priorities have been defined as bridging the infrastructure gap (which covers sectors such as information and communication technology, energy, transport, water and sanitation); human resource development (with specific reference to reversing the brain drain, reducing poverty, bridging the education gap and improving the health of our peoples); agriculture; the environment; culture, science and technology.

Considering the progress made since last year's third session of the Commission, I am glad to note that most of these NEPAD priority sectors are indeed covered by the six BNC Working Groups.

We therefore welcome the work already being done in the sectors of energy, transport, education, health, agriculture, culture, science and technology.

We are also pleased with the inclusion in the agenda of this session, of discussions on co-operation in the information communications technology, water and environmental sectors.

I must also add that the BNC has already proven its potential as a vehicle for promoting sub-regional and continental political and economic integration. It is up to us to make optimal use of this potential.

In this regard, My Dear Brother, I am sure you share my satisfaction with the progress made since the formalisation of regular consultations between our two governments on multilateral issues of mutual concern.

The immense value of this co-operation has been especially clear so far, within the context of the OAU/African Union and the United Nations, where our respective delegations have successfully adopted joint approaches to key questions.

We are convinced that this kind of cooperation and consultation is the only way to ensure that Africa's interests are taken into account in the international political and economic arena.

In light of this, Mr Vice President, allow me to congratulate our two Presidents for the role they have played in ensuring that the Commonwealth addresses the most critical issues currently facing our sister country, Zimbabwe.

We are confident that the initiative to assist Zimbabweans to unite in pursuit of peace, stability and economic recovery will bear fruit. We also believe that the suspension of the country from the Commonwealth should serve as an incentive for Zimbabweans to unite and work together to rebuild their country.

The most critical challenge in this period is to assist the people of Zimbabwe to reconstruct their economy, deal with food shortages, handle land reform in a law-governed manner, and to bring about political and social stability.

In pursuit of our objectives and those of the Commonwealth, we will continue discussions with the Government of Zimbabwe, as the elected government of that country.

Having said all this, our view Your Excellency, is that we need to vigorously challenge the doctrine of "collective punishment" that is emerging in relationships between Africa and the developed North.

This is the doctrine that any significant project initiated by our continent, particularly NEPAD, will not be supported if a particular leader or country behaves in a manner that is unacceptable.

Colleagues, we meet just a few days after the Financing for Development Conference, which took place in Mexico last week.

The conference served as a reminder of the need for the restructuring of the world economic order, to increase the voice and participation of developing countries. This also includes participation in the making of the rules and setting of standards and codes within the international financial system.

Distinguished guests, let us also note that since our last gathering in Abuja, the tragedy of September 11 took place in the United States, and brought about a fundamental change in the world environment.

Terrorism issues have since then gained prominence in the international arena, and this will continue for some time to come. Let me reiterate that South Africa fully supports the global campaign against terrorism, within the framework of the United Nations, and contributes to the efforts of regional and other multilateral organisations in this regard.

We believe that the campaign against terrorism should focus on the root causes of terrorism, and to develop appropriate strategies to address them, which will not impair the objectives with regard to the renewal of Africa.

The attack on the United States has also raised very sharply, the need for an international discussion on terrorism, within the umbrella of the United Nations, so that the world can arrive at a collective agreement on the definition, and the strategies of combating this scourge.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am saying this in this gathering because our two countries are dedicated to the ideal of nurturing peace, democracy, good governance and the respect for human rights. We need to work even harder to ensure the promotion of these ideals in the continent, including the proposed peer review mechanism to ensure adherence to common good practice by all countries.

As active participants in international efforts to resolve conflicts in the continent, South Africa and Nigeria also need to encourage dialogue among the warring factions.

We also need to encourage and assist in post-conflict peace-building initiatives and programmes. It is in this context that South Africa is currently hosting the Inter-Congolese Dialogue.

We are also looking forward to consolidating the gains made in transforming the OAU into a dynamic new African Union at the 39th Summit of the organisation to be held in South Africa in July this year. The AU will be critical in the drive for peace and stability in the continent.

Distinguished guests and colleagues, in our quest for sustainable development and a better life, it is important that as governments we form partnerships with organs of civil society in the continent. Such partnerships are crucial in making a success of the new vision and direction being given by our political leaders in the continent.

For this reason, we hope to see business communities, the intelligentsia and other civil society structures in the continent participating actively in deliberations in the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in this country in August this year.

The Summit is another area this session of the BNC will need to seriously consider.

In conclusion, My Dear Brother, let me reiterate our pleasure at having you in our midst.

I wish all delegates fruitful discussions and trust that working groups will work tirelessly during the next few days, to ensure an outcome that will consolidate the partnership between our two countries, not only to our mutual benefit, but also to that of our continent as a whole.

I thank you.

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