Opening Remarks for Minister M Nkoana-Mashabane at the 14th Africa-Nordic Ministerial Dialogue, 9 April 2015

Honourable Ministers
The Honourable African Union Commissioner for Economic Affairs
Honourable Co-Facilitators
Your Excellencies
Distinguished Delegates

I wish to welcome you all to South Africa and hope that you have a memorable experience in our beautiful country, specifically here in the Limpopo Province.
 
The Africa-Nordic Ministerial Dialogue was initiated by the former Swedish Foreign Minister, Ms Anna Lindh, as a forum where less formal political dialogue can take place.  We pay tribute to her today for her foresight and initiative – she is sorely missed.

The first Africa-Nordic Meeting took place in Sweden in December 2000 and subsequently 13 meetings have taken place from 2000 to 2013.  The 13th Meeting was hosted in Finland in 2013. The meeting specifically discussed how to make economic growth inclusive, the role of regional and global actors in seeking solutions for African conflicts, and how macro-economic challenges affect the Nordic Welfare model. It was also during the 13th Ministerial Meeting that South Africa agreed to host this 14th Meeting.

The meetings are hosted annually, and are generally aimed at establishing new perspectives for the friendship, cooperation and solidarity that exist between Africa and the Nordic countries. The meetings focus primarily on pertinent development issues, particularly related to Africa. Due to the informal/retreat nature of the meetings it should be noted that no outcome documents or declarations are adopted.

At the inception of the Dialogue, 10 African States were invited, namely:  Benin, Botswana, Ghana, Lesotho, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa; and the five Nordic States, i.e.  Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. This format has been maintained ever since, while Zambia was also extended an invitation for the 13th Meeting.

As host of the 14th Meeting, South Africa decided to extend an invitation to an additional six African states - namely Algeria, Angola, Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya and Niger - so that we could benefit from the experiences of a wider set of states representing the regions of the African Union.

In keeping with the colloquial and informal nature of the meeting, I have invited the Honourable Ms Thoko Didiza, MP and South African National Assembly House Chairperson for Internal Arrangements, and Professor Maxi Schoeman of the University of Pretoria, to co-facilitate our proceedings.

Your Excellencies

This Dialogue is taking place at the time when Africa is taking its destiny in its own hands. Africa is on a new path of development and growth that will enable it to take its rightful place in global affairs.

In this regard, Africa envisages itself with a strong culture and shared values, contributing to the shared prosperity and wellbeing of its citizens, where the full potential of women and the youth are realised; where its citizens are free from fear, disease and want.

In order to achieve this, Africa is determined to eradicate poverty through strategies of inclusive growth, job creation, increasing agricultural production, increasing investments in science, technology, research and innovation, and effectively providing basic social services.

Furthermore, our aspiration is that the African people will have a high standard of living, be well educated, economies will be structurally transformed with world class infrastructure, and the rule of law, democracy, gender equality, respect for human rights, and good governance will be entrenched. Importantly, Africa will be people-centred, peaceful, secure, united, independent and strong.

Africa, as one of the largest regional groupings in the international arena, has become an important global role-player. Africa is being recognised increasingly as a new global growth pole for development and investment. Africa has consecutively registered some of the highest regional economic growth rates over the past decade. Various African countries continue to be some of the fastest growing economies in the world.

Sadly, however, Africa has also not always been able to translate these high economic performances into effective socio-economic development for its peoples and significant challenges of poverty, under-development, disease and conflict remain. 

Recognising this, Africa has been hard at work defining the vision and strategy, including core actions that will guide its development over the coming years, culminating in 2063. We have dedicated the African Continent to the implementation of a fifty-year, people-centered development plan, namely Agenda 2063 - “The Africa We Want”. 

In doing this, we have been given the historic opportunity and mandate to build on the past in order to address the present and future challenges and to reaffirm the vision of a united Africa.  Agenda 2063 is focused on facilitating, coordinating and strengthening the Continent’s development over the course of the next 50 years.  It is an endogenous, shared strategic framework for inclusive growth and sustainable development for Africa‘s transformation in order to, amongst others, galvanize and unite in action all Africans and the Diaspora around the common vision of a peaceful, integrated and prosperous Africa, driven by its citizens and taking its rightful place in the world.

It is for this reason that we have chosen Agenda 2063 as overarching theme for our Dialogue.  I must at this stage recognize and thank our brother, African Union Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Dr Anthony Mothae Maruping, for his presence.  We will have the benefit of his wisdom later when he makes his presentation on Agenda 2063.  The NEPAD Agency is also in attendance, and we also thank them for blessing us with their presence and look forward to their input during our discussions.

Excellencies

Much as Africa is taking its destiny in its own hands, we do not live in isolation from the global community and our strategic partners also have a role to play in this historical shift from dependency to self-reliance.  Africa continues to learn lessons and study the best practices from other global development experiences. This include lessons from other emerging countries, regions of the South, and also those of the North, including our partners from the Nordic countries who are with us today.

Although official donor assistance remains important, Africa is refocussing assistance away from traditional donor-recipient relationships to meaningful, mutually beneficial partnerships. Africa’s strategic partnerships should be aimed at addressing the challenges faced by the Continent and realizing transformational socio-economic development for Africa, its countries and its peoples.  This can be done by way of support for industrialization, technology transfers, infrastructure development and regional integration efforts, trade and investment, social investment, and supporting sustainable and inclusive growth policies.  These partnerships are an important tool for supporting Africa’s flagship projects contained in NEPAD and in terms of the flagship projects identified under Agenda 2063.

Distinguished Delegates

The Nordic states are today some of the most developed and prosperous countries in the world, with the highest human development index and GDP per capita. Your states have become global role-models for the principle of people-centred development, successfully combining a free-market economy with social welfare responsibility. The Nordic states have a shared political goal of encouraging strong social cohesion, based on the core values of equal opportunities, social solidarity and security for all. The model promotes economic and social rights, not just political rights, and is based on an inclusive approach that everyone is entitled to equal access to education, social and health services, amongst other public goods. These are all elements that Africa aspires to and, for this reason, we place great value on this informal dialogue process as a means to learn from each other and develop ways of assisting each other.

The Nordic states have stood with Africa in solidarity over many decades and you continue to do so, as illustrated by your presence here today.  Historic, strong political ties between Africa and the Nordic states have been premised on your support, collectively and individually, for Africa’s struggle against colonialism, in particular the struggle against apartheid, at both political and grass roots levels. Nordic states and organisations also continue to actively support Africa’s development efforts.

Therefore, I believe that the Africa-Nordic Ministerial Dialogue remains an important platform for solidarity and cooperation, where we can engage as friends in an informal environment in an open and frank manner.  It is a forum where challenges, opportunities, lessons and ideas can be shared and discussed openly and freely in order to propose solutions and to build. These engagements serve not only to deepen our mutual understanding, but also provide an opportunity for the further expansion of cooperation between us to all our benefit.

With these thoughts I wish to formally open the 14th Africa-Nordic Ministerial Dialogue in the expectation that this will be the last formality between us for two days.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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