Media Statement by President Jacob Zuma at the conclusion of Official Talks with President Pierre Nkurunziza during the State Visit to the Republic of Burundi, 11 August 2011

Your Excellency, President Nkurunziza;
Honourable Ministers;
Members of the Media;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by extending, once more, my appreciation for the very warm welcome we have received from my brother, President Pierre Nkurunziza, and the people of Burundi.

It is my singular honour and privilege to thank you, Mr President, for hosting this State Visit to your beautiful country, Burundi.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

South Africa and Burundi have, especially since 1994, enjoyed close bilateral relations, underpinned by South Africa’s role in Burundi over the last decade to ensure the successful facilitation of the Peace Process, which ended in December 2009.

The withdrawal of South African troops from Burundi by no means signalled disengagement, but the dawn of a new era of peace and stability in Burundi.

I recall with great affection, the jubilation felt by the Burundian people during the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement in Dar es Salaam in October 2003. This signified an indication of the genuine desire for peace by the people of Burundi.

It is our hope that this same spirit continues as we enter into historic bilateral relations and continue to see Burundi grow and prosper as a bread basket for its nation.

South Africa now stands ready to assist Burundi in its assessment of what is urgently needed for Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Burundi stands on the threshold of a glorious and prosperous future.

South Africa is committed to consolidating the peaceful settlement that Burundi achieved.

We are ready to assist in further engagements politically to secure the opening up of the political space in Burundi, to facilitate post-conflict capacity-building efforts and ensuring mutual benefit in the economic development of the region.

We have identified various areas of cooperation with Burundi, and in particular on economic cooperation.

The identified areas are infrastructure development, agriculture and agro-processing, higher education, defence, mining, tourism, and private sector development.

Additional instruments have been added to the list of agreements and memoranda of understanding signed between our two countries.

We are keen to partner with Burundi on agriculture. The sector in Burundi employs 80% of the economically active people and contributes more than any other sector to the country’s GDP. We are therefore keen to cooperate on crop production as well as food security.

South Africa also wants to work with Burundi to provide higher education support. This includes enhanced technical cooperation on Capacity Building in Higher Education Management Information Systems (HEMIS), Teacher Education, as well as Higher Education Planning.

We also envisage cooperation amongst our universities on joint research projects, student and academic exchange programmes.

This visit serves to also kick-start improved economic cooperation. South Africa would like to see increased volumes of trade and investment between the two countries.

Our Department of Trade and Industry in South Africa and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism in Burundi will jointly develop a programme of action to raise awareness of trade opportunities that are available in their respective countries.

This State Visit takes place at an opportune moment when Burundi chairs the East African Community (EAC), and the negotiations for the Tripartite Free Trade Area have been launched.

This will, in the short-term, create an avenue for South Africa to engage on substantive issues of importance within the envisaged negotiation process.

We also look forward to cooperation on defence matters, especially on capacity building and training. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

The talks and agreements signed are a clear indication of our collective determination to take our relations to higher levels for the mutual benefit of our respective countries. 

In our discussions, we also reflected on developments relating to the East African Region as well as global and multilateral matters of interest and concern. 

Of course, we also exchanged views on the latest political developments on the continent and reiterated South Africa’s commitment and support for Burundi’s work under the auspices of the African Union Peace Keeping Mission (AMISOM).

The conflict in Somalia threatens to destabilise the East Africa Community and the efforts by AMISOM are paramount to the peace and stability of the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I conclude by once again expressing our gratitude and heartfelt appreciation for the warm and inviting reception we have received in Burundi.

This State Visit has reaffirmed our continued support and unwavering determination to the strengthening of our bilateral cooperation.

Our relations can only grow from strength to strength after this State Visit. 

I thank you.

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