Keynote Address by Deputy Minister Sue Van Der Merwe, South Africa – European Union Academic Seminar, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Belville Campus, 10 September 2009

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and thank you Prof Mazwi-Tanga for your kind introduction.  Thank you for hosting this event.  We appreciate your support and your leadership in this regard very much.  Also a special welcome to Mr Karel De Gucht, the EU Commissioner-designate for Development and Humanitarian Aid

I am delighted to be here today to open this important seminar which forms part of the preparations for the second South Africa – European Union Summit to be held tomorrow in Kleinmond. The academic and research community plays a crucial role in support of South Africa’s strategic international partnerships. They do so through such engagements and exchange of information on domestic, regional, continental and global issues.

Today’s seminar affords us an opportunity to harness our collective knowledge as a critical asset, to interrogate strategies for achieving more synergy in the relationship between South Africa and the European Union, especially in the important areas of science and environment; and African peace, security and stability – the two themes for today. I am sure that these deliberations will add value to our Strategic Partnership with the European Union and especially to the outcomes of tomorrow’s Summit. 

First I think it is important for us to underscore the value that South Africa places on our relationship with Europe.  Trade and investment figures tell an important side of the story.

Trade and Investment

Since the implementation of the trade provisions under the SA-EU Trade and Development Cooperation Agreement’s (TDCA) in 2000, aimed at establishing a Free Trade Area (FTA) between South Africa and the EU by 2012, total trade has increased over five-fold, from some R50 billion in 1994 to more than R300 billion in 2007. The EU therefore remains, by far, our number one export market. 

Europe also remains the principal source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in South Africa, accounting for around 80% of total FDI in 2005.   Furthermore, it is South Africa’s largest development partner representing approximately 70% of all Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), with South Africa earmarked to receive almost €1 billion for 2007-2013. The European Investment Bank has also approved a loan mandate of € 900 million for South Africa.

This has been remarkable progress in our relationship with a continent whose member countries contributed so meaningfully to our liberation from apartheid. The many countries of that continent and indeed ordinary citizens of Europe who mobilised in their communities in the anti-apartheid movement will never be forgotten by us.

Since we are here on this lovely spring day in the gorgeous Cape the wine growing area of the country, it is interesting to note that the top four (4) destinations for our wines are all from the EU, with just these 4 countries (UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden) representing a massive 65% of our total wine exports to the world. (It would seem that all those anti-apartheid activists also have good taste!!)

So whilst all this progress in trade and investment is crucial in strengthening this strategic relationship, it is significant that this Partnership has transcended its initial focus on trade and development cooperation, to one that is now truly strategic in nature.

We are very honoured that this partnership is the only one of its kind between the EU and an African country. It is composed of strategic dialogues and cooperative arrangements in almost every conceivable area of cooperation.  In fact, the number of strategic policy dialogues in critical areas has more than doubled since the first SA-EU Summit in France last year.  Dialogues on Education, Migration, Health, Space, Energy, ICT and Maritime Transport have been added to the existing dialogues on Science and Technology, Trade, Development, Environment and Sustainable Development, as well as on Political and Security issues.

Our government has as you know received a new mandate in April this year.  This mandate focuses on 5 priority areas: Health, Education, Rural Development, Combating Crime and Decent Jobs…. Our mantra has been ‘A BETTER LIFE FOR ALL”.
As Minister Nkoana-Mashabane recently pointed out, and I quote:

“Our foreign policy – our engagement with our partners all over the world – has to respond to these priorities.  As practitioners of foreign policy, we have a duty to make our contribution to the attainment of these priorities by using economic and political cooperation with other countries and international organisations towards a better life for all, and a better Africa and the world.

In our efforts to address these priorities and to break the desperate poverty cycle of millions of our people, we recognise that education is one of our key challenges.  We know that we need to invest heavily in our human capital, the skills and human resource base of the country, to ensure that all of our people are able to participate in the country we are building, a country that is modern and internationally competitive, one that is both people centred and responsive to a changing global reality. This education challenge we are confronting on many levels; by increasing enrolment rates in secondary schools, supporting the Further Education and Training sector in the context of lifelong learning, improving access to higher education, and ensuring sustainable funding structures for our universities, amongst others.

Given the historical backlogs in the education sector for the majority of our population, South Africa has to address this key priority, not only with all the combined forces of our people and our economy, but also in partnership with the international community.  The Education and Training Policy Dialogue with the EU is therefore timeous and indeed strategic. This dialogue should enhance our existing cooperation in this important sector. Among others, it should foster the mobility of students, researchers and academic staff, develop and strengthens links between institutions and organisations in the fields of education and training, strengthen vocational education and training, and increase non-formal learning opportunities, especially for the youth and vulnerable groups. Once again Europe has been a key player for us in this challenge with the combined programmes of the European Commission for theeducation sector in South Africa amounting to €127 million so far this year.

Cooperation in science and technology represents a crucial aspect in the overall strengthening of the human resource and skills base in South Africa.  Since we achieved our freedom 15 years ago, South Africa has made significant progress in the area of science and technology. According to The Africa Competitiveness Report 2009, produced by the World Economic Forum, the African Development Bank and the World Bank, South Africa’s scientific capacity is on a par with such innovative countries as Brazil and India.  The report states that "South Africa has high-quality scientific research institutions, invests strongly in research and development, and is characterised by a significant level of collaboration between business and universities in research".

To support this, South Africa has been one of the most successful participants from outside Europe in the EU’s Framework Programmes for Research. Under the current 7th Framework Programme alone, €13 million have so far been awarded to South African organisations for work on projects covering for example health, food and agriculture, environment, information and communication technology, space as well science and humanities research. In addition new S&T cooperation instruments like the COST programme for short-term scientific exchanges between South Africa and Europe are also being launched.  On the role of Science and Technology for poverty alleviation, South Africa and the EU are currently implementing a €30 million budget sector support programme. 

Another cutting edge project which has the support of the EU is South Africa’s bid for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project, a project with enormous potential to shift the frontiers of global knowledge.  Already 19 countries and 55 scientific institutions are involved in the SKA project, and the collaboration and contribution from both the EU and its member states to this globally important project are significant.

As significant as this progress has been, however, we cannot be complacent.  We need to ensure that this Partnership remains dynamic and responsive to our domestic, regional and global environments and challenges. This is also now more important in the context of the current global recession and assisting to address our collective socio-economic challenges. 

Mr Chairman

We believe that the full implementation of the Joint Action Plan under our Strategic Partnership will make a real difference to the lives of all South Africans.

Regional Integration

The strength and dynamism of the SA-EU Strategic Partnership has enabled us to explore new areas of cooperation which complement our national and regional priorities directly, as well as in Africa generally. 

South Africa and the European Union both recognise that deeper regional integration is one of the essential contributors to development, economic growth and employment, and ultimately the eradication of poverty. Africa has adopted socio-economic and political integration as a key development strategy. The EU has undergone a successful process of integration and can usefully share its experience with Africa. In the SADC context - we are looking to share experiences that the EU has gained in addressing regional inequalities, in particular through in the implementation of the Structural and Cohesion Funds.  

South Africa, as a key economy in our region, is committed to regional economic integration.  We see this process as central to the realisation of our domestic goals, and indeed to our broader vision of a united and prosperous African continent.  We know that Africa is our soil, our motherland, we cannot be divided from it, we are part of it and we can only fully reach our potential if our continent is peaceful and prosperous.  Much work has to be done to achieve this.

Our continental leaders have committed themselves to 5 Regional blocks, to be developed as the basis for future African union.  Therefore from a SADC regional perspective, we continue to pay close attention to the regional integration imperatives, the framework of which is set out in SADC Protocols.  While South Africa negotiated its own specific relationship with the EU (the TDCA), our neighbouring countries were all part of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. In pursuit of a more harmonised relationship between us, our neighbours and the EU, South Africa became part of the SADC configurations negotiation of the Economic Partnership Agreements. Unfortunately, for various reasons SADC countries have been divided into no less than four different EPA configurations, with the result that many contradictions have arisen in the process. And so the already complicated overlapping customs union and trade arrangements in our region have been further complicated by the SADC-EPA negotiations. It is our view that there are solutions to these problems, and indeed our Minister of Trade and Industry has been very engaged with these issues in a real attempt to find common ground between the EU and SADC. I am convinced that a positive outcome is in our mutual interest for enhanced relations between the EU and SADC, as well as the EU and Africa. 

Allow me to make a few remarks on some of the issues to be addressed in your workshops today.

Climate Change

The European Union-South Africa Joint Cooperation Council of senior officials at its 10th meeting in July in Brussels underlined the overall importance of climate change and the need for intensified policy dialogue and cooperation in this area, especially in the run-up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen (COP15). The meeting agreed that a dedicated climate change programme in the context of EU development assistance to South Africa be considered; as well as holding a climate change workshop in South Africa before December. This illustrates the importance of climate change and adaptation in the science and environment arena.

The ability of communities to adapt to climate change is determined by their level of development, their access to resources and their scientific and technical capacity. The impacts of climate variability pose serious challenges for Africa as a continent, where the livelihoods of some of the world's poorest communities are the most sensitive to climate change. Adaptation can be in a variety of forms, such as better education, training and awareness of climate change, as well as more technical measures, such as drought-resistant seeds and better coastal protection. For many communities, the direction of climate change remains uncertain, so focus should also be placed on increasing their adaptive capacity in relation to key sectors, such as agriculture, food security, and health.

South Africa and the European Union, with our existing capacities, can together make a significant contribution in this regard, also in the context of tri-lateral cooperation with third parties or countries.

With its tremendous natural resources and remarkable social and ecological diversity, the Continent of Africa reflects a close dependency of people on natural resources. This dependency has in some ways contributed to some of the conflicts in the Continent; and may continue to do so in future. The agenda for your seminar today deals appropriately with both these issues.

However, the last decade has seen real and steady improvements in the peaceful resolution of conflicts, improved governance at all levels; and deepening democracy. Yet despite this progress, the adverse effects of climate change still present real threats to fragile and post-conflict states in Africa – which the Continent and her partners need to address in the spirit of global interdependence.

Peace and Stability in Africa

South Africa and the European Union share a common purpose in promoting peace, security, stability and good governance as prerequisites for sustainable development. EU assistance to the African Union in establishing the African Peace and Security Architecture, through their Africa Peace Facility, has made a significant contribution to strengthening Africa’s peace support operations and interventions. However, there are still funding and logistical challenges to be addressed. Funding needs to be more predictable and flexible. The AU Peace and Security Council acts on behalf of the UN in Africa and should be provided with adequate resources to do so. There is also the need for greater collaboration and coordination between relevant organs of the UN and the AU to promote collective security and stability. Former Italian Prime Minister Prodi has led a UN process in this regard which will assist greatly in dealing with this and associated problems.

A lot of work and effort is being undertaken in this regard. Key mechanisms under the African Peace and Security Architecture in the structural prevention of conflicts are the AU Border Management Programme and work on elections and conflict-prevention. The AU Panel of the Wise is also working on a report on elections and conflicts, which will be launched soon and will become a central instrument in the peace and security doctrine for the Continent. The AU Peace and Security Council is also in the process of elaborating a sanctions regime; and it has had a series of constructive engagements with civil society, think tanks and regional economic communities to achieve greater synergy. One example is the Livingstone Formula, which is the outcome of a joint Council and civil society retreat in Zambia last December. This Formula defines and maps areas for engagement and collaboration; and may be useful to consider in the context of EU support to the Continent. Greater effort and more resources are also needed in post-conflict reconstruction, to ensure adequate support to fragile and recovering states.

When considering bilateral and trilateral cooperation in peace building, conflict-resolution and post-conflict reconstruction, it is of crucial importance to mainstream the role and plight of women. Efforts to eradicate gender-based violence, to mitigate the differential burdens that women bear during conflict, and to facilitate women’s participation in peace building, need our collective and focused support. The AU Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, and its Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Framework, are key regional instruments intended to give effect to proper participation of women in ensuring peace, security and stability in the Continent. The proposed African Standby Force will play a key role to promote Africa’s collective security.

The constructive roles being played by the European Union working together with South Africa in this area will be further enhanced through our Strategic Partnership.

South African Development Partnership Agency

South Africa regards this work on conflict prevention and post conflict reconstruction on the African continent as a critical part of our international engagement. Over the past 15 years this work has expanded exponentionally and in many ways defines our African agenda. We have therefore taken a decision to consolidate this work and the financing of it into an Agency which will be called the South African Development Partnership Agency. The Agency will allow us to coordinate our work on the continent in development in the broad sense, and we believe will allow us to work with both our continental and international partners to the greatest effect.

Work on the establishment of the Agency has already begun. The proposed Agency will be responsible for our international development cooperation and partnerships. We are currently elaborating an integrated policy framework and organisational structure for the establishment of the Agency early next year. The policy framework will also articulate South Africa’s objectives and mechanisms for enhanced trilateral cooperation and collaboration with developed country partners and multilateral development institutions – an area in which South Africa has gained considerable experience and expertise. This process will further enhance and strengthen our Strategic Partnership with the European Union, also in the areas to be elaborated in today’s seminar.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your presence here today signifies a critical dimension to this partnership in fostering a better understanding of each other’s points of view on matters of mutual interest, and each other’s democratic systems and areas of responsibility. It is also for this reason that we have, under the Joint Action Plan, recognized the importance of regular and institutionalised parliamentary interaction and so we have established an inter-parliamentary dialogue that now meets twice per year. 

I would like to thank Higher Education South Africa for taking up our request to begin a dialogue with your European colleagues on some of the areas that drive the SA-EU Partnership. As Government, we strongly encourage you to see this event as the beginning of a more institutionalised and regular engagement between South African and European academics and researchers in support of the wide range of policy dialogues and cooperation areas under the Strategic Partnership. I do realise that this is a significant undertaking in terms of commitment and resources from you all to be here, but I believe it is a worthwhile investment. Just as European institutions and individuals took us in during the apartheid years and invested in the cadre of leadership that we see here today, we could benefit greatly through a continued effort to provide education and training opportunities for our future leadership.

Thank you again for the invitation today, and I wish you all of the best with your deliberations.

Issued by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Private Bag X152
Pretoria, 0001

10 September 2009

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