Opening Statement for Minister Dlamini Zuma at the Asian-African Ministerial Meeting of 20 April 2005 in Jakarta, Indonesia

Honourable Ministers
Your Excellencies
Heads and Representatives of Regional and Sub-regional organisations
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Government and people of South Africa and as co-host, allow me to welcome you all to the Asia-Africa Ministerial and to express our thanks for the role that Indonesia has played in preparing for these Summit meetings.

Before proceeding, I would like to express my deepest condolences and that of the people of South Africa to the victims and survivors of the Tsunami that took place on 26 December 2004 and the earthquake at the end of March. These tragic events bear testament to the vulnerability of all human life, but we must find a way to support and secure a better life for all the peoples of our nations.

The purpose of our meeting here today is to launch a new strategic partnership that aims to enhance and improve the quality of life for our peoples. Our collective effort is born of the necessity and the reality that our people continue to struggle and suffer on a daily basis. The most marginalised groups are often the most affected by poverty, disaster, underdevelopment and disease. For this reason, it is imperative that our two continents work together to ensure a better life for all.

Distinguished Delegates,

This Summit also marks the 50th Anniversary of the first Asia-Africa Conference of 1955. In our commemoration of the Golden Jubilee, we must acknowledge and remember those leaders whose great foresight paved the way for Asian-African co-operation into the new Millennium. It is also important to recall that these leaders put forward a vision of an equitable human society during an era of great economic and political hardship. If one examines the Ten Principles of Bandung, we truly see how visionary they were and how relevant their vision still is today.

Former President Soekarno of Indonesia noted, "And, I beg of you do not think of colonialism only in the classic form which we of Indonesia, and our brothers in different parts of Asia and Africa, knew. Colonialism has its modern dress, in the form of economic control, intellectual control, actual physical control by a small but alien community within a nation." He furthermore expressed that, "No task is more urgent than that of preserving peace. Without peace our independence means little. The rehabilitation and upbuilding of our countries will have little meaning".

The world of 1955 is vastly different from the world today. Six African countries attended the 1955 Conference of which Ghana, known then as the Gold Coast, and Sudan were not independent states, while the African National Congress represented South Africa, which could not participate as a sovereign state because of apartheid. Oliver Tambo, the President of the ANC at the time described the Conference as, "a step in the direction of meeting the aspirations of the vast majority of mankind, particularly the oppressed peoples of Asia and Africa." He furthermore stated that the various delegates and the people who met were themselves for centuries, "the subjects of exploitation and foreign domination by Western colonial powers, and have now decided to take the destiny of their people and their countries unto themselves. It is logical to expect people who themselves have so long been persecuted, oppressed and humiliated, to be strongly conscious of these evils and more realistic in their approach to them since they have no other designs, save to see the end of exploitation, colonialism and racial domination. They want to see permanent independence of their newly-founded democracies and the freeing of those who are still under the yoke of foreign domination and racial oppression."
Fifty years later, however, almost all the countries of Asia and Africa have thrown off the shackles of colonialism and South Africa is able to participate as a sovereign state with a government elected by the people.

Great strides have been made globally in terms of promoting a culture of respect for human rights and democracy, altering the status quo of women in the world, and working towards the eradication of racial and ethnic discrimination. The advances since 1955 would not have been possible without the vision of those leaders. Despite these advances, however, we still live in a world where the chasm between rich and poor is widening rather than narrowing.

As Asians and Africans we have had a long tradition of working and living together. We recognise in each other a common humanity and common destiny, as we have suffered the same afflictions and humiliations imposed by colonialism and face similar challenges in terms of an unequal international world order, poverty and underdevelopment. As countries of the South, we have to continue championing the cause of ensuring a more balanced and equitable global order where the development and advancement of the peoples of both our continents are prioritised.

I am certain that in this partnership we will find enduring ways of jointly addressing the challenges that face our continents. I would like to emphasise the importance of bringing our regions closer together by using both our similarities and strengths to encourage development. The responsibility of making this partnership successful and effective is shared by our collective and all other stakeholders to ensure that we find innovative and concrete ways and means to strengthen co-operation between these two continents that have bequeathed to humanity such a rich, ancient enduring civilisation.

The New Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership (NAASP) is aimed at improving the welfare of both Asians and Africans and is underpinned by principles that recognise the equality of all nations, and promote respect for sovereignty and the right to self-determination. The NAASP centres on Asian and African ownership based on a common vision, an equal partnership, mutual respect and benefit. We have agreed that our co-operation should be practical and based on comparative advantage and mutual strength.

It should focus on three main areas of cooperation: political solidarity, increased economic interaction and socio-cultural relations. In this regard, in order to better understand the opportunities arising as a result of our partnership, the Ministerial Working Group that we held in March 2004 commissioned a number of studies. These were then presented at AASROC II in Durban in August 2004 and include the following:

  • Ghana led a study on commodities and their role in trade and subsequent development patterns.
  • Morocco provided a study on African-Asian co-operation in Trade and Investment.
  • The World Bank presented research on Africa-Asia Trade and Investment Relations.
  • Mozambique, China, Japan and India provided information regarding existing initiatives, i.e. on EU-Africa relations, the Sino-Africa process, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development and India-Africa co-operation respectively.
  • Lastly, the ASEAN Secretariat provided a study on the Asian development experience as a way of sharing experiences/information to assist African countries in their efforts to fast-track the process of economic growth.

Having done this, AASROC II then commissioned further studies, namely:

  1. What can be done to improve product quality and competitiveness and what can be done to ensure that producers have greater influence on the process of commodity pricing? (World Bank and Ghana)
  2. What can be done to facilitate direct trade between Africa and Asia, i.e. selling directly from producer to consumer? (ASEAN Secretariat)
  3. What can be done to facilitate increased tourism between Africa and Asia? (Tanzania, Zambia)
  4. What can be done in terms of putting in place regulatory frameworks that would be attractive to investors? (China)

We would like to thank those countries and institutions that completed these studies most sincerely. Furthermore, I would like to thank Indonesia who commissioned the South Centre and UNCTAD to produce two further studies relating to strengthening economic cooperation between us. It gives me great pleasure therefore to submit all the completed studies to you for your information and to present a Summary Report for attachment as an Annexure to the Report on the outcomes of this meeting.

The studies will certainly assist in the practical application of the opportunity dividend that presents itself to Asia and Africa through the new partnership. In this regard we need to discuss the matter of what we do with these studies in order that they do not remain as an academic exercise but translate into practical actions and outcomes. For example, how do we operationalise the establishment of a database for storing information to facilitate the identification of opportunities and to match interested partners, as decided in Durban at AASROC II?

Ladies and Gentlemen

Given the enormous potential and the abundance of resources on both our continents and the fact that Asia and Africa make up 72 percent of the world's population we should and must play a defining role in the re-shaping of the international world political and economic order. We must ensure that globalisation works to our advantage. For the countries of Asia and Africa to succeed in their quest to overcome the imbalance between developed and developing countries, we have to act in solidarity in all areas using our combined strength to make our voices heard.

We have come a long way since 1955 and we have much work to do to ensure that the vision of leaders before us and the hopes of today's and future generations are brought to full fruition. In particular, let us finalise the good work that we have done since July 2003 through AASROC I and II and the Working Group Meeting in March 2004, to ensure an outcome that our leaders will be satisfied with and our people proud of.

The visionary founders were able to free us from colonialism in its classical sense therefore it is the responsibility of this generation to free Asia and Africa from poverty and underdevelopment and if we fail history will judge us rather harshly.

We must also be able to mobilise resources among ourselves and not rely on donor country aid. If our destinies are in our hands our resources cannot be in the hands of others, we must find the resources to advance progress and develop ourselves.

I would like to conclude by quoting Kojo Botsio former Minister of State of Ghana who succinctly captured the spirit of commitment and co-operation demonstrated at the Asia-Africa Conference of 1955; "A new spirit stirs Africa to activity and the Continent is shaking itself like a giant from sleep, fresh with the strength that follows rest. Let us all therefore work together for a newer and happier world in which all of us shall be free to live as men (and women). It is our hope that this Conference will succeed in advancing the cause of world peace, progress and prosperity". This still remains our hope today.

I thank You.

(Speech presented by the South African Minister of Foreign Affairs at the Ministerial Meeting of the Asian-African Summit, April 2005, Jakarta, Indonesia)

Issued by Ronnie Mamoepa on 082 990 4853.

Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

20 April 2005

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