Address by H.E. Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Deputy President of the Republic Of South Africa, at the South Africa-Nigeria Bi-National Commission (BNC), Nigeria, 23 May 2008

Master of Ceremonies,
Your Excellency, Vice-President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan,
Honourable Ministers of both countries,
Members of the two delegations,
Business representatives from South Africa and Nigeria,
Honoured guests, friends
Ladies and gentlemen

Introduction

I thank you for your warm hospitality and wish to convey cordial greetings from President Thabo Mbeki to the government and the people of Nigeria.

It is indeed an honour to address this gathering of the seventh South Africa-Nigeria Bi-National Commission (BNC). Our relationship as partners has come a long way since the inaugural BNC in October 1999.

Since that historic establishment of relations between our countries and people, nearly a decade ago, we have seen a qualitative change in our relationship and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the respective leaders of our countries for recognising a need for mutually beneficial co-operation and bringing our countries closer together.

Of course, our strong ties were cemented during South Africa's dark days when you actively joined us to campaign against apartheid. We thank you for standing with us then as now.

Context of seventh BNC

We meet today four years after the sixth BNC took place in South Africa, coming together to review the status of our political, economic and trade relations plus share experiences on our collective action plans.

Our task

What the people expect of us based on the social contract we signed with them is that we have to move beyond strategising to concrete action plans and policy to action programmes. This is a guiding principle of the African developmental agenda which is to focus on challenges of poverty alleviation, peace and security, employment creation and sustainable development.

I am pleased to say, in terms of meeting most of these challenges, there is notable progress. We are making positive advancements with regards to economic growth, entrenching democracy and conflict resolution. As you would agree with me, our successful implementation of creating a better life for all of our people is largely dependable on peace, education, decreasing environmental degradation, minimise the impact of climate change and protecting both our natural and human resources.

Africa Day and BNC

Our meeting today is all the more significant given that on May 25 we will be commemorating Africa Day. I am informed that in celebrating Africa Day this year, we are all compelled to "recommit ourselves to addressing persisting and emerging social issues in the context of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa."

Your Excellency, fortunately for us, we have the institutional means to give practical meaning to improving and enhancing the quality of life of our citizens, more especially women and the youth and those in rural areas who make-up Africa's greatest resources and future.

Institutional means of development

These institutional means include bilateral agreements such as the one today, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) which give an economical foundation to building our continent and thus helping us to fight poverty and hunger, especially as we wait for the conclusion of Doha agreements because otherwise we face exposing our women and young people to untold hardships and for us to do much more to correct the market trends that are ultimately unfriendly to sustainable development.

Challenges - xenophobia

Our challenges, which now sadly and regrettably include barbaric attacks on poor in the main, are assisting us in building the country and we have gained from the skills and education they have imparted to our economy. Let me say here loud and clear: South Africa welcomes all who irrespective of race, ethnicity or country of belonging!

Working as partners

How do we work as equal partners and friends to deepen and broaden our relations based on values of mutual respect and tolerance? We live in a globalised world where there is significant competition for resources, and as such, our partnership and joint ventures can only be strengthened by such forums as our bilateral commissions and multilateral forums like the African Union (AU) whose architects were Presidents Mbeki, Obasanjo and Bouteflika of Algeria.

The fact is, despite the many challenges we face as a people, Africa is a continent of hope and a place where opportunities exceed the challenges. We have the leadership and mechanisms to make this hope a reality.

Indeed, Africa is taking its future into its own hands!

Review progress made since sixth BNC

I am glad that this seventh bi-national gives us a platform to re-examine ground we have covered and see where we are in terms of agreements in agriculture, water resources, minerals and energy, public enterprises, and foreign affairs collaboration.

Trade and industry

Since our last BNC, we have been able to build the necessary capacity and mobilise the resources. In terms of trade and industry, we have been able to establish a joint consultative forum to formulate the free trade agreement.

Agriculture and water resources

However, in areas like agriculture and water resources, we still have to step up efforts to accelerate the implementation process of our operation plan.

Energy

We also agreed to make follow ups with regards to building capacity in the area of power and electricity and regulatory matters. This meant co-operation in capacity-building between South Africa's Eskom enterprise and Nigeria's NEPA in electricity and communication matters.

Energy efficiency is one area where we have to be steadfast in terms of implementation. To sustain the levels of our countries' economic growth, employment creation and poverty alleviation, efficient use of energy has to be high on the agenda.

I fully support the statement released by the AU on the occasion of the commemoration of Africa Day. It says and reminds all of us, "the search for sustainable and alternative energy sources to lessen our dependency on the biotic resources and unaffordable oil prices remains ever urgent".

Practical interventions

This is all the more important given that our resolves as strategic partners have to be practical and therefore we are tasked to bring about a harmonisation in our co-operative agreements on immigration, water resources and the environment, minerals and energy, public enterprises and infrastructure.

When all is said and done, when the agreements for the consolidation of the seventh BNC are signed, "the major challenge that remains is the implementation of the agreements and projects within the different working groups."

In the face of delivering on our mandate, we have to make real and tangible these projects and agreements because our people desire to see the full implementation of mutually beneficial projects so that they can say their conditions in life has improved, the quality of their children's education has become better, and that finally they have access to good healthcare in order to fight HIV and AIDS, malaria and other opportunistic diseases.

Conclusion

Yes, there are financial constraints. Nevertheless, this should not hold us back since we can invite and rope in the private sector for public-private partnerships.

In closing, allow me Your Excellency, to say on behalf of the delegation and people of South Africa, thank you for honouring our longstanding friendship and partnership by extending this invitation to us to come to the Federal Republic of Nigeria for this seventh BNC.

We look forward to the official visit by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in June this year.

Thank you and May God grant Africa and her children peace.

Issued by: The Presidency
23 May 2008

Source: The Presidency (http://thepresidency.gov.za)

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