Reply by the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, to the toast remarks by his Excellency, the President of the Republic of Niger, Mamadou Tandja, on the occasion of the State Banquet, Niamey, Republic of Niger

4 July 2006

Your Excellency, President Mamadou Tandja
First Ladies
Honourable Prime Minister, Madame Hamadou
Honourable Deputy Speaker
Honourable Presidents of National Institutions
Honourable Ministers
Your Excellencies
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

My delegation and I are delighted to be able to visit the beautiful Republic of Niger. We thank you for your warm hospitality and the cordial manner in which we have been received by the people of this country.

I am very pleased to convey the warmest greetings of the Government and people of the Republic of South Africa to Your Excellency, the Government and wonderful people of the Republic of Niger.

You have shown a particular face of the continent today. Many times we talk about hunger and development but we forget the part that deals with the inner soul of the continent. We therefore say thank you to the artists.

This is a very historic visit, as it is the first time that we have had an honour to pay a State visit to the Republic of Niger. However, the relations between our two countries go back a long way to the days before South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.

We are also here to thank you, Your Excellency, and the people of the Republic of Niger, for your steadfast and unwavering solidarity with the masses of the people of South Africa, which enabled us to gain our liberation.

Clearly, your continued support and solidarity with your brothers and sisters in South Africa enriches our efforts to accelerate the process of building a truly democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.

Equally, we would like to assure you of the full support of the people of South Africa as you engage in a continued effort to overcome poverty and underdevelopment and the difficulties posed by both climate and nature.

We stand ready to do whatever is necessary, within our limited capacity, to work with Niger to overcome the shared challenges and to consolidate your achievements. Your Excellency, we were very happy when our Minister of Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was able to visit Niger in April 2005 and again in March 2006.

Both times she had the pleasure of meeting with Foreign Minister Mindaoudou and on the second occasion they were able to sign a General Cooperation Agreement.

This is an important step forward in the process of formalising our relations. It created a legal framework for further cooperation and provides the basis for the establishment of a Joint Cooperation Commission between our two countries. We look forward to the time when we are able to open our diplomatic mission in Niamey which we are planning for 2007.

Your Excellency, my government had tasked the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) to identify ways in which it could participate in the economic development of your country in collaboration with institutions in Niger. We are delighted that the first step in this direction has been taken and the IDC reported that it has identified immediate projects.

The IDC is also currently engaged with other institutions in working out ways in which it can participate in the River Niger – Kandadji Dam project.

I am pleased to inform you your Excellency that, the Industrial Development Corporation has found partners in South Africa who are keen to become involved in the first projects.

Your Excellency, we would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to work with you, your Government and people to confront the common challenges of underdevelopment and poverty coupled with the challenges of Nature in a partnership based on mutually-beneficial cooperation.

We believe there are many areas in which we must cooperate, including agriculture, mining, energy, communication and infrastructural development. Your country is endowed with abundant deposits of mineral resources and we believe that together with other African countries it should develop partnerships for the optimal exploitation of these resources.

We hope that this partnership will demonstrate what we, as Africans, can achieve to provide a better life for our peoples, relying on our own resources, in keeping with the vision contained in the Constitutive Act of the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Your Excellency, I would like to use this opportunity to commend you for the role you are playing as Chairman of Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) trying to promote the development of the region as well as peace in West Africa, including Cote d’Ivoire.

Africa needs to find solutions to ensure lasting peace and security. This is vital for reconstruction and development. And we need partnerships, as Africans, to ensure that the programmes of the African Union, the NEPAD, succeed.

We need to do everything possible to realise the common dream of turning the 21st into an African century. In this regard, I would like to assure you, Your Excellency, that South Africa is ready and willing to work together with the Republic of Niger and other sister countries on our continent to turn their dream into a reality.

Mr President, I wish to thank you once again very much for the warm reception and kind hospitality accorded to me and my delegation. South Africans look forward to your visit to South Africa.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Please rise and join me in a toast to the good health and prosperity of His Excellency, President Mamadou Tandja and Mesmedames First Ladies to the prosperity of the citizens of this country and to the eternal bond of friendship between the people of the Republic of Niger and South Africa. To good friendship!

Thank you

Brenda Nkosi
Cell: 082 770 2369

Ronnie Mamoepa
Cell: 082 990 4853

Issued by: The Presidency

4 July 2006


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