Speech by Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim I Ebrahim, on the occasion of a Public Lecture on “South Africa’s Foreign Policy : A Vision for South – South Cooperation”, University of the Philippines, 21 September 2012.
Dr. Ruth Lusterio-Rico, Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Political Science;
Dr. Maria Ela L. Atienza, Director, Third World Studies Center and
Associate Professor, Department of Political Science;
Prof. Ronald Molmisa Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science;
Staff and students of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy,
members of the media, distinguished guests
Let me take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Chancellor of the University of the Philippines, Dr. Ceasar Saloma whom I met earlier and also to the organisers of this lecture, namely The Third World Studies Center and The Department of Political Science. The UP and South Africa have a special bond. The visit of former President Nelson Mandela to Manila in 1997 to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of the Philippines solidified that bond, in recognition of our struggle for liberation by this institution. The on-going interaction between academia and cultural exchanges is commendable and I sincerely hope we can build on that!
South Africa is cognisant of the Philippines’ active support for our struggle against apartheid especially because of its role as a founding member of the United Nations “Special Committee Against Apartheid”. The latter was characterised by consistent rejection and condemnation of the policies of the apartheid regime. We look forward to more focused relations through a Bilateral Consultative Forum that is due for signature by our respective Foreign Ministers at the United Nations General Assembly this month.
Today I wish to share with you “South Africa’s Foreign Policy: A Vision for South – South Cooperation”.
I will also be giving you a brief overview of our own history – our struggle for liberation in South Africa – the only life we knew until 1994. This will give you a deeper sense of appreciation of where we come from, and the principles that continue underpinning all that we have desired for many years. Our foreign policy principles are rooted in the history of our struggle for liberation.
The South African transition since the unbanning of the ANC in 1990 has inspired many across the globe. We have shown that peace between adversaries can be achieved, and that reconciliation is possible. Our transition has contributed to our current stature in global affairs. We are recognized as an agent for peace and reconciliation; that we can speak to all sides in a conflict, and bring together adversaries. Our track record in peace keeping and peace building initiatives in Africa speaks for itself.
Our values of non-racialism and non-sexism have global appeal.
This long history of internationalism is reflected in the ANC's ideological outlook. From its small beginnings in 1912, the ANC has always stood for social justice and equity, an agenda shared with progressive movements around the world.
In South Africa, we have made the achievement of inclusive growth and prosperity our main goal as we move towards another phase of our transition, following the defeat of colonial oppression and apartheid.
President Zuma, during this year’s State of the Nation Address identified the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality as requiring our single-minded attention.
In our New Growth Path framework, launched in 2010, to help us achieve inclusive growth and create jobs, we identified six jobs drivers. These are infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism
This year marks the centenary celebrations of the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the African National Congress. The ANC celebrates this centenary, within the context of a world that has fundamentally changed from what prevailed in 1912 when our movement was formed. With the exception of Palestine and Western Sahara, most of the world has been decolonised through the struggle of those who were oppressed.
We also have a new state of South Sudan – making a total of 54 African states. South Africa’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has recently been elected as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and she is the first women to hold this important position as an international civil servant.
Unlike for the most part of the last five hundred years when the North commanded unquestionable hegemony over all; today the balance of forces is slowly tilting towards countries of the South.
Fifty-six years ago, on April 1955, a watershed conference in the history of developing countries, was convened in Bandung. The participating countries were mainly from Asia and Africa, including the Philippines, and this turning point in the international relations of the countries of the South is aptly known as the “Bandung Conference”.
Let me borrow from the words of an African-American poet turned anti-racialism author, Richard Nathaniel Wright, when he said that; (I quote):
“ the Bandung Conference had introduced something new, something beyond Left and Right. He added that there were extra-political, extra-social, and almost extra-human aspects to the Conference”.
It is the spirit of the Bandung Conference that brought the emergence of non-alignment to the First World led countries. It gave developing nations particular meaning – a strong sense of pride and belonging. This landmark conference remains to this day an icon in the history of many countries of the South – as for us, the Bandung Conference remains a pillar of strength!
Ladies and Gentlemen;
In the present context of international relations, cooperation between Asian and African countries remains critical, and even becomes more important than ever before. Inspired by the principles of the Bandung Conference, both Asia and Africa continue to experience economic developmental growth.
Geo-economically speaking, Asia has become more and more strategic, not only for Africa, but the entire world. With the rise of India and China, and emerging economies like the Philippines, and Indonesia –to mention but a few - Asia is in a position to contribute to global growth.
Indeed, Africa has a lot to offer to the world. But for now, it is important that we strengthen our investment partnerships with the emerging countries of the South.
Africa can only rise if its developmental aspirations are inextricably linked to those of Asia.
An overview of our foreign policy principles:
For the purposes of this address, I will focus only on one of our key foreign policy principle(s): Strengthening South-South Cooperation.
The historical contextualisation of South Africa’s foreign and domestic policy evolution since 1994 is essential in order to understand our response to the impact of global dynamics, challenges, and trends on its development and future direction. Now, South Africa has invested in strengthening this part of our foreign policy because this area holds potential future growth for the entire world.
Governments are faced with complex and ever rapidly occurring global inflection points and must make key strategic decisions that will determine a country’s future prosperity, standing and influence in the world.
In our case – based on our priorities – our foreign policy trajectory leans more towards the development of the South, and the promotion of multilateralism as the basis for dealing with all global issues.
Asia as a strategic region
We have firmly focused our attention on the promotion of South-South Cooperation as an important dimension for developing and strengthening interdependence among developing countries. Our strategic priority is to exchange technical, financial and institutional knowledge in support of finding solutions to development challenges.
Our partnership with countries of the South is critical to advancing the African Agenda. Enhanced South-South Cooperation is central to addressing challenges facing Africa. We also share a common interest with countries of the South of addressing challenges of underdevelopment as well as the economic and political marginalisation of our part of the world in the global system, including the need for the reform of the United Nations and the Bretton Woods Institutions.
In comparison to the United States of America, the European Union and the rest of the world, Asia's share of the world GDP is rising, thanks to the region’s economic dynamism. The region's economy, having fully recovered from the 1997–98 financial crises, is now the fastest growing economy in the world, contributing close to 50 percent of world growth.
We have made tremendous progress in our relations with Asia on all fronts – economically, politically and socially.
The thrust of our bilateral and multilateral engagement with countries of this Region is in the following areas, namely:
- Building strong political ties, especially with those countries that espouse our values and share our vision of a better world;
- Learning and sharing of experiences in nation-building, transformation of the state, tackling developmental challenges, and building a competitive economy;
- Strengthening people-to-people ties particularly in the areas of sports, culture and religion;
- Economic cooperation, including promoting trade and investment to the benefit of our country;
- Technical cooperation to promote exchanges in science and technology, among others;
- Cooperation to combat transnational crime;
- Building tactical and strategic alliances for the transformation of the international system, including that of key multilateral organisations.
Our relations with Asia allows for a bigger and more influential platform for the advancement of the African Agenda.
South Africa remains at the forefront of the activities of organisations of the South such as the NAM, and G77, and will continue to promote amongst others a coherent and integrated implementation of the UN development agenda, including SDGs; MDGs and other internationally agreed development goals (IDGs).
In particular, we will work closely with the Philippines for the realisation of priority areas we have identified in our bilateral relations. We should stimulate dialogue and identify projects to promote cross-border infrastructure projects entailed within the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) and the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative (PICI).
Ladies and gentlemen;
In conclusion, on behalf of the members of my delegation, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to the government of the Republic of the Philippines for hosting us here in this historic and beautiful Metro Manila.
South Africa would like to take this opportunity to reiterate its full-commitment to deepening the relationship between Africa and Asia, in particular, the Philippines.
I thank you.