Opening Remarks by His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, on the occasion of the South Africa –Namibia Heads of State Economic Bilateral Forum, Presidential Guest House, Pretoria, 3 November 2009
Your Excellency President Pohamba
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors,
I am honoured to chair alongside you, Your Excellency, this important economic bilateral meeting between our two countries.
Let me extend a warm welcome to you and your delegation. It is always a wonderful occasion when we meet, for we are comrades and friends.
Today’s meeting represents the coming together of two countries that are not only neighbours, but that share very deep historical ties, and which look forward to a very prosperous future as development partners.
Namibia and South Africa share an incredible bond that was forged during the internecine struggle against oppression and repression. Our destinies have always been intertwined.
Back then, during our liberation struggle, our people understood that a free and independent Namibia would spell South Africa’s own freedom and democracy.
The Namibian independence on 21 March 1990 left no doubt in our minds that the people of South Africa were going to be the next and the last people to liberate themselves from the yoke of colonial occupation and oppression on the African continent.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Indeed both our countries have come a long way since then.
With the advent of independence, freedom and democracy, Namibia and South Africa both had to move swiftly to address the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment wrought by many years of colonial and apartheid rule.
Today, we come together not only as neighbours, but as brothers and sisters who share deep historical ties.
Together we fought against colonialism and apartheid.
Together we brought freedom and democracy to our two countries.
Now we meet together, as development partners, to bring about a better life for our people.
Our meeting today confirms our view that we can use our strong and mutually-beneficial relations to further deepen regional integration and development and contribute to the regeneration of economies on the African continent.
We can never understate the need and importance of our duty to improve the lives of our peoples.
Our areas of cooperation span a full range of fields, including trade and investment, science and technology, energy and mineral resources, transport, tourism and cross-border infrastructure development.
We also stand to jointly benefit from the forthcoming 2010 Soccer World Cup, the first to be held on African soil.
Our country is strongly committed to contributing to the development of our region and the continent.
We are cognisant of the fact that our economy is inextricably linked to those of our neighbours and the rest of the continent.
We are also acutely aware that as a larger economy, we have a greater responsibility in the quest to eradicate poverty and improve the lives of our people.
There has been a steady and solid growth in trade and investment between our two countries over the years.
The potential to grow further remains substantial.
Our countries are endowed with significant natural resources and human capital.
This provides us with a distinct comparative advantage to further develop and industrialise, and to compete on the world stage with other developed and newly industrialised nations.
To achieve this goal, we need to ensure that we extract greater benefit from our natural resources.
We must invest not only in extractive sectors, but also in processing and manufacturing.
The recent global economic crisis has underscored the vulnerability of countries that rely too heavily on commodity exports.
Our two countries can work together to diversify our economies, leveraging the value of our significant natural wealth.
As we work to strengthen bilateral economic ties, there are also significant opportunities to cooperate in advancing regional and continental development.
We share a vision of a united, stable and integrated Southern African region.
There is much common ground on the means we should use to achieve these goals.
As members of SADC, the Southern African Customs Union and the Common Monetary Union, South Africa and Namibia have a solid platform for advancing regional economic integration and development.
By pursuing greater synergy in our relations, we will be contributing to greater cooperation within the region.
Through our participation in SACU and SADC, we should also endeavour to strengthen South-South cooperation.
We should seek to develop common approaches to improved relations with the countries of the North, based on the principles of mutual respect and mutual benefit.
We should continue to work together towards a developmental outcome to the Doha Round of trade negotiations.
Our geographical proximity provides an opportunity to further strengthen cooperation on the development of cross-border physical infrastructure.
Initiatives like the Transfrontier Conservation Areas, and development corridors such as Walvis Bay and the Trans-Kunene, hold great potential for stimulating economic activity, job creation and development.
Benefits are not limited to South Africa and Namibia.
For instance, the Walvis Bay-Botswana-Gauteng-Maputo route – of which the Trans-Kalahari Highway forms part – will enhance regional cooperation, stimulate economic development and promote tourism across several countries.
There are many opportunities to exchange information, expertise and technology that we will explore today, from agriculture to astronomy.
This meeting provides an opportunity to further strengthen our bilateral economic relations in line with the strong bond that our countries share.
The agreements that are to be signed today are an indication of that will and commitment.
I look forward to the reports on progress made so far by our Ministers, and beyond that to implementation in these crucial areas of cooperation.
I thank you
Issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
03 November 2009