Toast Remarks by Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe, during the Official Visit by Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen of the Republic of Finland, Cape Town, 18 March 2010

Your Excellency, Prime Minister of the Republic of Finland; Mr Matti Vanhanen;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Members of the Diplomatic Corp;
Business leaders;
Our friends from Finland and distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen:

Your Excellency, I am privileged to extend a very warm South African welcome to you and members of your delegation.

Our country attaches great importance to the close and cordial relations of friendship and mutually beneficial co-operation between our governments and peoples.

Finland is viewed as a true friend of South Africa and we will always remember with gratitude the solidarity and friendship received from Finland during our struggle against apartheid.

Our countries share common values of democracy, respect for human rights and social justice, and we continue to build our good relationship on these principles.

Bilateral trade between our countries has increased steadily and is at present expanding into new areas.

Science, technology and innovation are vital to the development of South Africa as well as the whole African continent. Bridging the digital divide is essential for the success of the African Agenda and Finland's support will be pivotal.  

This was underlined in both the Skagen and Molde Declarations. Subsequent ministerial visits and the joint consultations have ensured that our relations in the science and technology field and specifically the ICT have grown.  

One of the major decisions taken during the joint consultations was the deployment by Finland of an attaché at their Embassy in Pretoria to deal exclusively with science and technology and ICT matters both in South Africa and the region.

Recent bilateral projects, especially on information technology,  such as the Cooperation Framework on Innovation Systems VV (COFISA), the Provincial Information Society Strategy Programme (INSPIRE) and the South Africa - Finland Knowledge Partnership on ICT (SAFIPA) come to mind.

The main objective of these projects is to equip South African citizens with knowledge, capacity and skills to be able to successfully and economically participate in the global market.

Creation of decent jobs as well as education are among the five priority areas of our government.

The support of the Nordic countries for the African Agenda at the South Africa-Nordic Summits in 2000 in Skagen and 2002 in Molde were crucial for gaining international support and acceptance for NEPAD.  

As Finland’s major partner in economic cooperation in Africa, South Africa is keen to extend tripartite cooperation in the Southern African region.  

In this regard, we are pleased that Finland was one of the five Nordic countries that signed a Declaration of Intent on Partnerships in Africa with South Africa in June 2008.

This framework will guide future trilateral cooperation in Africa.  BioFISA (Southern Africa Network for Biosciences) is what South Africa and Finland envisage as an example of such trilateral cooperation.  

Mr Prime Minister and members of your delegation,

Thank you for this visit and please be assured that South Africa will always be ready to receive you as friends of its people.

Ladies and gentlemen, please rise and join me in a toast to the good health and prosperity of His Excellency, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, and to the friendship and solidarity between the people of the Republic of Finland and South Africa!

I thank you.

Issued by:

Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Private Bag X152

18 March 2010

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