Remarks by the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to a Media Conference on South Africa’s Participation in the Shanghai Expo in China

Honourable guests and members of the media

It is a great honour for me to extend a warm welcome to all present here this afternoon.  A very special word of welcome to our Chinese hosts, my South African compatriots and my other African sisters and brothers in attendance.

Today is another very special day in South Africa-China bilateral relations, as this marks the culmination of meticulous planning and hard-work – resulting in this magnificent designed and uniquely South African pavilion. There is no doubting that the interior design of this pavilion draws its inspiration, from, amongst others, the impressive innovative architectural designs of our stadiums - the venues for 2010 FIFA World Cup.

I should also hasten to comment that the features and designs of this Pavilion does not only resemble our rich cultural tapestry as a country, but extends and borrows from our rich African culture and history. It is our hope that this collective and all-encompassing presentation of our African tradition will reverberate throughout this Shanghai 2010 World Expo.  

Let me also take this opportunity to convey South Africa’s words of congratulation to the Government and People of China for their preparations and hosting of this unprecedented and spectacular World Expo.  We believe that this billion-dollar event has enabled our Chinese counterparts to bring back the lustre to the World Expos, as magnificently displayed by the Japanese during the Aichi World Expo.

A century from now people will look back at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo as one of the greatest events of the 21st Century, alongside Beijing’s hosting of the Olympic Games. 

Just as we now marvel at the Crystal Palace which was part of the first World Expo in London in 1851and the Eiffel Tower which was constructed as part of the Paris World Expo in 1900, people will look back in amazement at the Chinese Expo Pavilion as one of the greatest architectural accomplishments of this century.  Not only does the Chinese Expo Pavilion reflect traditional Chinese culture and architecture, but also the growing international stature of China.  China’s time has indeed arrived.

In the same vein, I am also confident that when future generations look back at the footage of this South African Expo Pavilion - its unique design, displays and exhibits - they will also marvel and embrace the connection between our Pavilion theme: South Africa: The Rise of a Modern Economy – Ke Nako! And the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

It is indeed proper to note that the Shanghai 2010 World Expo takes place at a fortuitous time - just some 34 days before the kick-off of the much-awaited 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.The good news is that this will not be a far-off event, but that visitors to the Shanghai Expo would be able to see some of the games live at the South African Expo Pavilion, courtesy of the South African media company MIH.  This company is deeply involved in China through joint ventures and is at the forefront of the latest media technology.   

Honourable guests and members of the media

History has it that trade links between Africa, particularly the SADC region, and China, and the greater Asia region, go back to the 11th century when the latter established contact with the ancient kingdom of Mapungugwe – a southern African region that centralised trade from Namibia in the west, to the Mozambican shores in the east; from today’s border between Zambia and Zimbabwe in the north, to the deeper south of South Africa. This legendary kingdom, whose ruins have been declared World Heritage Site by the United Nations’ Scientific and Cultural Council (UNESCO), lies in the most northern part of South Africa called Limpopo – my home province.  

The significance of these inter-trade voyages was that they had taken place long before Western colonialists’ claims to have ‘discovered’ Africa. 

It is therefore not surprising that after both China and Africa threw off the yoke of imperialism and colonialism (around the middle of the 20th Century) - that the historic links between China and Africa resumed and rapidly expanded.  Today, we can make the brave assertion that Sino-Africa political and economic relations are broadening, deepening and strengthening.

The socio-economic development of Africa is today inextricably linked to the economic development of China.  China has become not only one of the largest exporters to our continent, but equally one of the largest export destinations for African products in general.

Through the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC), China has become an indispensible development partner of Africa.  China has been become a key investor in Africa; a major provider of infrastructure; provider of assistance in debt relief; a creator of numerous training opportunities for thousands of people in key sectors;  and a provider of medical facilities, including the combating of pandemic and communicable diseases.

During the third quarter of this calendar year South Africa will be undertaking a state visit to China. The two countries will be elevating their relationship to a higher level by signing a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement.

It is thus befitting that Africa should be adequately represented at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo. We would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to the Chinese government and people for their invaluable support to have made the African presence here a reality.

As the Roman author and philosopher, Pliny the Elder, once commented in Latin “Semper aliquid novi Africa affert” – when translated into English it means, “Out of Africa, always something new”. This Latin phrase is also the motto of one of South Africa’s premier Museum. It is believed that this South African Pavilion will indeed demonstrate the truism of Pliny the Elder’s words, some two thousand years ago.

“Ke Nako!” It is indeed time to showcase the nation on the move, a nation that went through hardships and in 17 years rose to become one of the successful emerging economies, a nation that was led by one of the greatest leaders of our times, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. He led a nation that is on the rise. It is these great achievements of our country that will bury African pessimism.

I am very pleased to announce that this year is a very momentous year for us as a country as we will be hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We have also celebrated the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s release.

In conclusion, I would like to mention that South Africa’s time has come. It’s time to come and trade with South Africa. It’s time to come and visit South Africa to experience its modern infrastructure. And it also time to come to our beautiful country and come and see the Big 5 in our game parks.

I would like to invite all to the official opening of the South African pavilion during the early evening of tonight. Please do come and celebrate with us our achievements.

I thank you all!

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