Address by Deputy President Jacob Zuma to Members of the Polish Chamber of Commerce and of the African Diplomatic Community, Warsaw, Poland, 13 September 2004

The Chairperson of the Polish Chamber of Commerce,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
South African Ambassador to Poland, Ms Mji,
Members of the Polish Business Community,
Members of the African Diplomatic Group,
Distinguished Guests,

We are delighted to have this opportunity to interact with you, on my very first visit to this beautiful country as Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa.

We are heartened by the warmth and friendliness of the Poles. It has made us feel at home indeed.

Allow me to begin by thanking the Polish Chamber of Commerce for co-hosting this discussion with the business leadership in Warsaw. We already have a good foundation of sound economic relations between our two countries, and we trust that our visit and interaction today will assist to further consolidate and promote our bilateral economic co-operation.

I must emphasise that we are encouraged by the volume of trade between our two countries, which at the moment accounts for over 100 million US dollars worth of goods and services, and which is recording a steady increase.

We commend the several South African and Polish enterprises that are already playing an important role in the promotion of economic relations between the two countries, through trade and investments.

South African companies have invested in Poland in the beverage, pulp, paper and furniture manufacturing industries. Polish companies on the other hand are involved in South Africa in the hospitality industry, the production of aircraft, heavy industrial equipment; mine rescue systems, pharmaceuticals and glassware.

While welcoming the current economic activity, we believe there is still a lot more that can be done to increase trade and investments in a number of areas, for example in science and technology.

Co-operation in the field of science and technology between our two countries is excellent, on a government-to-government level, and our respective business sectors could find areas of engagement in this field.

I would like to also emphasise, ladies and gentlemen, that the economic relations between our two countries occur within the overall framework and vision of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

In light of that, I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate Poland on this country's accession to the European Union on May 1st, this year.

We have noted that as a new member of the EU, Poland has pledged readiness to become involved in the existing mechanism of the EU co-operation with Africa. We appreciate that commitment, given the challenges that the African continent faces, of poverty and underdevelopment.

Africa is ready and committed to working with development partners in Europe and elsewhere, to achieve sustainable development through NEPAD.

The programme is designed to marshal the resources of the continent, in partnership with both the developing and developed world, to respond to the challenge of poverty and underdevelopment in a manner that is holistic and comprehensive.

The NEPAD programme seeks to achieve the implementation of development projects in order for the continent to meet internationally agreed targets in the following fields to mention a few:

  • Agriculture and food security;
  • Health especially in dealing with diseases such as malaria, TB, HIV and Aids, polio,
  • Infrastructure - telecommunications, Information and communications technology, rail, air and sea transport
  • Energy;
  • Market access for African products.

A number of projects are in the implementation phase already in the various fields, and detailed information would be available through our embassy.

In our partnership with the developed world, a number of undertakings and initiatives have been made, which need to be translated into concrete actions. These include the EU/African Cairo Plan of Action, the Cotonou Agreement, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the Copenhagen Declaration, the Skagen Declaration, the G8 Okinawa Declaration, the UN Millennium Declaration and the TICAD II initiative.

There is within Africa a determination to make NEPAD succeed.

African leaders are also mindful of the need to create the right political and social environment for NEPAD to be implemented effectively and successfully. This includes paying maximum attention to the important issues of promoting democracy and human rights as well as the eradication of conflicts.

As a result of external influences mainly, Africa has experienced wars and conflicts, which have caused untold human suffering, and have diverted Africa away from the goal of development and prosperity for many decades.

Most importantly, pockets of conflicts have often created a stereotype of an Africa that is at war with itself, that it is a hopeless continent that will never prosper or succeed.

Fortunately, we now have a political leadership on the continent that has a clear and sound vision about the direction the continent should take, and they are changing the situation for the better.

A number of key developments have taken place already this year, through the operationalisation of the African Union, and these are setting Africa on the path that would enable it to reverse these negative stereotypes.

Among these is the launch of the African Peace and Security Council, and the adoption of the framework for the establishment of the African Standby Force, Early Warning Mechanism and the Panel of the Wise. These have provided a framework for conflict prevention, management and resolution and for peacekeeping and peace making.

You would be aware of the concerted efforts that are being made to end the conflicts in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, the Comoros, Liberia and Sudan, and we appreciate the assistance of the international community in dealing with these conflicts.

With regards to the promotion of good economic and political governance, the African Union's innovative programme, the African Peer Review Mechanism is gaining ground, and the numbers of African states that are prepared to subject themselves to the peer review process continues to grow.

Ladies and gentlemen, over the past ten years, since the advent of freedom and democracy in our country, South Africa's involvement in world affairs has been premised on the view that the strength of our nation depends on the strength of the African Continent.

We have therefore, since the liberation of our country in 1994, sought to work with sister nations in the continent, with the support of other development partners, to promote democracy, sustainable development, peace and stability, within the ambit of the Organisation for African Unity earlier, and now of the African Union.

The common thread in all endeavours towards the African Renaissance has always been unity, which we regard as of critical importance in the African struggle to defeat poverty and underdevelopment.

This unity of purpose and action is important for practical reasons as well. Many of our countries have very small populations and limited possibilities to develop on their own, if they rely solely on their resources. Our own experience also tells us that our development cannot be sustainable if it occurs in isolation to that of our neighbours.

Having chosen this route of seeking comprehensive development for the continent instead of focusing on one country only, we are convinced that our decision is correct, and that the continent is on the right track. There is a clear-cut plan of action to place Africa on the road to sustainable development, and to build an Africa that is peaceful, stable and prosperous.

We invite you to partner us as we work to achieve this noble goal.


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