Speech by Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane at the Ambassadors Dinner Banquet hosted by the Standard Bank, Johannesburg, May 20th 2010
CEO of Standard Bank, Mr Maree
Dean of the African Diplomatic Corps
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners
The staff of Standard Bank
Ladies and gentlemen
I must start by thanking and congratulating the Standard Bank for reading my thoughts so well, because I have always been of the view that our corporate sector should work with us (Government) in our international relations, including reaching out to members of the diplomatic community that is so well represented in our country.
I am pleased that this is happening, and it is happening tonight! I am also pleased that the Standard Bank has taken leadership in this area with the same vigour that has inspired its work across our borders on our continent, and in other parts of the world.
I am also humbled by the invitation extended to me and colleagues in Government by Standard Bank to be part of this gathering. We see this gesture on the part of Standard Bank as an attempt to put into action our belief as Government that “Working Together We Can Do More”!
This year, 2010, is a year of action. President Jacob Zuma’s Administration has been in office for a year now, a period in which South Africa experienced a biting recession that led to the loss of nearly 1-million jobs.
To cushion this blow, the government has ushered in new ways that are designed to improve the work of government, speed up service delivery, and set South Africa on a decisive development path. Working together, we will have to continue to improve our understanding of where our people live, what their needs are, and find mechanisms to respond faster, harder and smarter to those needs.
Within this vision, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation is committed to the five priorities as determined by our Government- namely, job creation, education, health, crime prevention, rural and land reform. Our responsibility is to constantly ensure that these national priorities find expression in our work at the regional, continental and international level.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation is entrusted with the formulation, promotion and execution of South Africa’s foreign policy, including the daily conduct of international relations. Our work in essence is to ensure that our foreign policy objectives are realized.
This mammoth challenge we seek to ensure by, amongst others, monitoring and interpreting developments in the international environment and by communicating government’s policy positions in this regard.
As a department that is active in the international arena, we appreciate the fact that the time has come for government, business, organized labour, think-tanks and other civil society formations, to cooperate.
Today, non-state actors are increasingly claiming a stake in the international arena, including the global political economy. Many companies have also developed complex commercial diplomacy instruments and mechanism to maximize objectives of their corporate strategies, including growth and market expansion. As a result, commercial enterprises have become important actors at both the local and international level.
As government and the private sector we face common challenges. Together we have to tackle poverty, unemployment, poor health, crime and environmental degradation. Interestingly, these challenges create endless synergies between us. The ties between business and government must be strengthened if we are to address South Africa’s socioeconomic challenges in a sustainable manner.
To this end, we as government see the role of business as that of creating decent jobs and establishing industries that will lead to a better life for all. We regard business as an important cornerstone of social and economic prosperity in society. Companies create the resources that permit social development and welfare. Through their commercial operations, companies contribute to social and economic progress in society.
By the role of government is not to stand-by, and watch passively, and with admiration, as business creates jobs for our country. We believe in a developmental state that is an active player in the economy – that facilitates but also takes bold steps to take our country in a desired direction.
The economic crisis that we are still slowly recovering from has emphasized to us why it is important for governments to remain engaged in the economy, and not leave everything entirely in the hands of the private sector.
We particularly want to encourage the growth of beneficial relationships between South African businesses and their peers in other parts of the world, particularly those in emerging nations.
With the support of development partners, African civil society and the private sector, the region and Continent will succeed in raising the standard of living, meeting the Millennium Development Goals, while at the same time forging a more integrated, efficient and sustainable economic base in Africa.
We have to work with our business community through our 124 Missions in 107 countries abroad to strengthen our bilateral relations with countries in the world - in Africa, through our South-South cooperation, and our framework of North-South dialogue. This active bilateral engagement of countries of the world should be informed not just by our national interest, but also by our vision of a better Africa and the world.
In the globalized world of today, governments and business are bound by necessity to complement one another in tackling interrelated issues like food security, energy, sustainable development, finance and trade. As we traverse the world, we need to always keep in mind that our development framework has and will continue to guide our participation into the global economy and engagements in international relations broadly. In addition, we need to note that the conduct of our economic diplomacy should remain subordinated and true to South Africa’s values and strategic political interests.
Globalization of economies and the resultant increase in economic interdependence over the last four decades has in the process reduced the gap between what is domestic and what is international policy. Globalization has thus become characterized by a complex set of interdependencies and interconnectivities, with an increasing number of actors vying to influence the outcomes of relationships across a range of transnational activities.
As a Department, we appreciate the involvement of think-tanks, labour, civil society and individuals in economic diplomacy, as all these actors seek to influence government policies as independent actors.
But our non-state actors – including business – have the obligation in this partnership to live up to expectations and conduct themselves as responsible corporate citizens.
The democracy and transparency that they expect of their governments – they must also practice in how they conduct their corporate affairs. The human rights that they treasure and expect their governments to respect – they must also promote and practice in their corporate environment, including in their relations with their employees and other stakeholders across our borders. The protection of our planet (our environment) that they expect our governments to promote – they must also reflect in their corporate practice and values.
In a word, the values and system of beliefs and conviction underpinning our Constitution have to be respected, promoted and practiced by all of us here at home and abroad, wherever we are.
Whatever we do abroad – let us not forget that we a carrying our national flag as high - and sometimes even higher than Bafana Bafana!
Our host, Standard Bank, is a stellar example of an astute company that has not let the artificial borders of Africa hinder its growth and continue to fly our flag higher and higher. I have learnt tonight that the company has a footprint in 17 African countries.
This international vision is to be applauded. An important role of business is to work with us to break down artificial barriers between our countries and help foster economic integration in Africa.
With the good work being done by corporate citizens like Standard Bank, I am confident that one day a united Africa that Kwame Nkrumah dreamt of will become a reality.
We need to trade more among ourselves as Africans. We need to do more business among ourselves. We need to invest more and more from our own resources in our own countries. This is the route to a better life for our continent and its people.
On behalf of the government I want to thank Standard Bank for its undiminished vigour in improving the communities of South Africa, Africa and the world in general.
For our Excellencies who are here tonight, I know how all of you are committed to this country. You continue to share our joy with us when we are doing well, and you are always on our side during difficult times. Some of you are even out there in remote parts of our country, working with our communities for a better life.
Your presence here tonight, at the invitation of Standard Bank, is another demonstration of the seriousness with which you take your diplomatic assignment to our country. We encourage you to continue the good work you are doing with our corporate sector to promote trade, investment and other economic relations with our country to the benefit of our people.
Tonight, we should not be making speeches but celebrate our partnership – government, business, and the diplomatic community represented in this country – working together for a better Africa and the world!
I thank you!