Press comments made by South African Foreign Minster Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Co-operation and African Integration of Niger, Aichatou Mindaoudou, Presidential Guesthouse, Pretoria Wednesday 18 April 2007.

Minister Dlamini Zuma

Welcome remarks

Please don't think I am being disrespectful when I refer to my counterpart as Aicha. President Chissano once said to us in SADC that co-operation between countries will never be excellent until you are able to address each other on first name terms. As long as you refer to yourselves as Excellencies, it will not be possible to have excellent co-operation.

We are very happy to receive the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Co-operation and African Integration of Niger and her delegation especially because we have previously been received in Niger in a very warm and friendly manner. We always remember our visits to Niger with fondness.

We are really happy that we have had discussions that will continue between our delegations - i.e. Representatives from Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry, Transport, Minerals and Energy. We are also going to have meetings with all these sectors.

What is important is that political relations between both countries are very good. Both our Presidents work closely together, not just bilaterally but in multilateral fora including the African Union.

One of the things we will implement soonest is to establish Embassies in both countries. It is a bit difficult to conduct close bilateral co-operation work by remote control. We therefore hope that between now and next year, we will have Missions in both countries. South Africa will probably open its Mission in Niger by the end of the year and Niger will probably have one in South Africa by 2008. Nevertheless, work will continue.

The projects identified by our Presidents, is mainly in animal husbandry. Niger is very rich in cattle. Anyone who has been to Niger can attest to this. So, one of the projects is about developing an abattoir which will then be the beginning of a proper meat industry in Niger. Again related to the animal industry is that of milk processing and diary products. These are two of the projects we have prioritised.
We are also looking at trade issues - mineral exploration, mining, energy, building of dams.

We have quite a full plate in terms of what to do and it is now a process of taking forward the implementation of this work. We are very happy to be able to take one more step in strengthening our relations. We are very close to "taking off" in terms of the implementation of these projects.
Thank you Minister for visiting. We will be exchanging delegations very frequently in order to consolidate our co-operation.

Minister Mindaoudou

Thank you Nkosazana.

It is true that when we reach the positions of Minister, we do not use our first names anymore. You and I are, in this regard, very advanced.

We are here today, on the instructions of our Presidents, who have mandated we meet to reinforce co-operation between our two countries. Indeed, it is a very big pleasure for me to be here today as part of this official visit to your country.

Before I go on and respond to the media, I would like to express my profound gratitude towards South Africa for the friendship and hospital accorded to us.

The different fields of co-operation have been outlined by Minister Dlamini Zuma. South Africa has a lot of experience in these fields; Niger has a lot of potential and capacities in these fields, particularly in the area of livestock. South Africa is prepared to share this experience for the benefit of the people of Niger. I do hope this co-operation will be fruitful for both our countries.

I'd like to raise two additional points: the Framework Agreement on Co-operation that was signed in March 2006 in Niger initiated all co-operation between our two countries. We have now agreed to the establishment of a joint commission of co-operation between our two countries. This agreement will be finalised later this year when I return to South Africa for the African Union meeting. The first sitting of this joint commission will take place in 2008 although a meeting of experts will take place in 2007.

As the Minister has said, there has been an exchange of experts that will continue. We, as Ministers, meet today to give impetus to the implementation of projects identified by our two Presidents.
Co-operation will be built with the private sector in a number of fields - viz. trade and investment.
As I have said, Niger has a lot to learn from the South African experience for the wellbeing and betterment of our peoples.

Questions and answers

Question Minister Dlamini Zuma, in relation to the projects identified, when will they be implemented? Also, Madame Minister Mindaoudou, you are accompanied by a mining delegation. Do you have any specific projects in mind?

Answer (Dlamini Zuma) Some background work, i.e. feasibility study, has been completed regarding the abbatoir. From now on, we will focus on the implementation of this project.
Regarding the diary project, we are still looking at beginning the feasibility study. We will begin the next phase as soon as this is done.

We have not done work on the others. The discussions that will take place will begin to map out the way forward.

There will be a delegation from South Africa visiting Niger - i.e. officials from Trade and Industry and Minerals and Energy who might be accompanied by officials from our Science councils.
Work has started but as you know, the background work takes some time to complete.

(Minister Mindaoudou) Regarding the mining delegation, I would like to say that Niger has a lot of mineral riches. The most exploited is uranium that has been mined for the past 20 years. Other mining products have been sought and found. These include iron, coal, gold and oil. South Africa has a lot of experience in the exploration and extraction of such minerals. We need to co-operate with you so that we can find our mutual interests in these fields. The ministers of mining are in contact in order to develop co-operation in these fields.

Question Minister Dlamini Zuma, coming ahead of the Summit in Ghana, was there any discussion on the implementation of the United States of Africa. Zimbabwe today celebrates its independence day. This is a very important day in Zimbabwe's history. Does the South African government believe that Zimbabwe should have a lot more to celebrate?

Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) Regarding the United States of Africa, this is a longstanding matter and a historic debate that will not end until we reach the destination.

This was a very hot debate at the time of the founding of the OAU. Eventually, it was decided by the Founding Fathers to establish the OAU mainly to unite the African continent, for solidarity among us in Africa and also to free countries who were not free.

However, this debate has gone on. If you go back to the speeches, writings and debates of the past you will notice this is an ongoing issue.

Today, there is no one who disputes the need for a United Africa in whatever form. We all agree this is what we are working towards. Indeed, this is what will be discussed in Ghana - the matter of political and economic integration. How can this integration be strengthened? How can our unity be strengthened?

How can we work together?

Some of the areas of integration have already been implemented.
There is a Pan African Parliament (PAP). This will be consultative for five years although a decision has also been taken that after five years, we will revisit this matter and see whether there is a need to change the mandate or give it some legislative powers and maybe to change its composition. This is a process that has already started.

As you know, the judges for the Human Rights Court have been sworn in. These are elements of a united Africa.

There are also discussions that are ongoing regarding the merger of the Human Rights and Criminal Courts so that there is one court with different parts. With the presence of these courts, there will be aspects of the judiciary present at the continental level.

Integration is not an event but a process. These processes are already there. What we will look at in Ghana is what can be done in addition to what is already being done to get achieve this integration. We already have the peace and Security Council which is a very important continental instrument for conflict management.

I think we are getting there.

The building blocs, the regional economic communities are also following their own timetables. We are already going on a double track - there is integration at a regional level while there are elements of integration at a continental level.

As you know, all five regions of the AU are busy training their first brigades as part of the nucleus of the continental defence system. This will be a standby force that can be rapidly deployed should the need arise.

This is integration. It is an ongoing process at different levels - regionally and continentally. As you know, at the last SADC meeting, Zimbabwe was discussed quite exhaustively. It was agreed that President Mbeki will be the SADC representative who would be the facilitator on behalf of SADC. Some background work has begun. But of course, South Africa cannot use magic. There must be some link with the Zimbabweans themselves in terms of their will to accelerate the resolution of their problems - economic and political.

Of course, we cannot say they should not celebrate their independence because there is a problem. And when you celebrate your independence you take stock of your past and present and future. I am sure they will do this as well.

If you look at the DRC as an example: how long did it take us to get the DRC where it is today? If you recall, it was as early as 1997 when former President Mandela first began work on the DRC, when President Mobutu was still in power. You will recall them sitting on the Outeniqua in discussions. President Mbeki has been seized with this matter since he assumed office in 1999 until now. Fortunately we have had elections. Although the situation still needs to stabilised, we now have a democratically elected government.

Zimbabwe is still better than the DRC was. We are hopeful that this work that President Mbeki will undertake with the parties in Zimbabwe will bear fruit. From our side, we are already engaged in background work to try to get the discussions going.

Question Ministers, can you please elaborate on the diary and abattoir projects. Are we looking at opportunities for co-operation with South African companies?

Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) I should have said is that from the South African side, the lead agency on this project working with government is the IDC. Of course, government does not do abattoirs but we do facilitate IDC involvement and will bring in other players where necessary.

(Minister Mindaoudou) I think the question has been answered by Minister Dlamini Zuma. I would like to add that indeed the private sector will have to take the lead in this co-operation since they have a leading role to play in the economy. Both South African and Niger companies will be involved in such projects.

Question Minister the trade statistics show a trade imbalance in South Africa's favour. What is the government intending to do to address this?

Answer (Minister Dlamini Zuma) As you have heard, we are trying to increase our co-operation with Niger. Obviously, co-operation will include trade relations. As we increase our co-operation I am sure we will find things to buy and import from Niger and vice versa. Co-operation will include all aspects.

I had earlier said that a South African trade delegation will be visiting Niger. We will be looking at possibilities of mutual trade.

Issued by Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152
Pretoria
0001

18 April 2007


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