Remarks by Hon. Nomaindiya Mfeketo, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, on the occasion of the media briefing on international developments, Imbizo Media Centre, Parliament, Cape Town, 9 September 2015

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media,

We invited you to this briefing today to share information on some of the work we are doing internationally to advance our foreign policy objectives and promote South Africa’s national interests.

Through our foreign policy endeavours, we seek to build partnerships and create opportunities that would help us address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. The National Development Plan (NDP) provides clearly that we need to scale up economic diplomacy and ensure that the work we do abroad is linked to our national priorities in the areas of skills development, infrastructure development and poverty eradication, amongst others.

Today, we will focus on some of the following matters:

1. Preparations for South Africa’s hosting of the 2nd FOCAC Summit,

2. The importance of the IORA Inaugural Blue Economy Conference in Mauritius, and

3. The outcomes of our recent visit to Iran, Nepal and Bangladesh

1. Preparations for South Africa’s hosting of the 2nd FOCAC Summit

As announced by Minister Nkoana-Mashabane and her Chinese counterpart on the sidelines of the recent event in China celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Second World War, South Africa will host the 2nd Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on 04-05 December 2015.

The South African Government will be working closely with the Government of China, the African Group of Ambassadors in Beijing and Addis Ababa, and the AU Commission on the preparations leading up to the FOCAC Summit.

As part of the activities leading up to our hosting of the FOCAC Summit, from today until 11 September 2015, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation is hosting the FOCAC Think Tank Forum. At a later date, we will host a FOCAC Business Forum will be held, where the private sector will be given exposure to network, deepen and expand cooperation on trade and investment.

The 2nd FOCAC Summit will take place within the context of the African Union having adopted at its June 2015 Summit held in South Africa, the first 10-year implementation plan for Agenda 2063, which is a continental vision for an African continent that is united, peaceful, prosperous and which moves towards industrialisation and value-addition, infrastructure development and greater intra-African trade.

It is expected that the FOCAC Summit will adopt a new Declaration and Plan of Action (2016-2018). South Africa is currently engaging all parties in preparing these two key outcome documents.

2. IORA Blue Economy Conference

During August 2015, the Republic of Mauritius hosted the Indian Ocean Rim Association’s (IORA) Inaugural Blue Economy Conference, which took place within the context of IORA having decided to make the Ocean Economy/Blue Economy a strategic priority. South Africa was one of the Conference-initiating member countries.

The Conference provided an opportune platform to conceptualise the Blue Economy and enable cooperation on exploiting the vast ocean resources. Key features of the agenda entail analysing the existing capacities of the Member States in the following:

  • Fisheries and Aquaculture;

  • Renewable Ocean Energy;

  • Seaport and Shipping; and

  • Seabed Exploration and Minerals

The Blue Economy offers a model of development that is ocean-based rather than solely land-based, and better suited to the challenges and opportunities of Indian Ocean Rim economies. It highlights the role biodiversity, including marine life and ecosystems, plays in supporting marine economic activity and enhancing food security.

In this context, at a domestic level, South Africa has its own strategy, which was launched by President J.G. Zuma in October 2014, for the Ocean Economy, as encapsulated in Operation Phakisa, spanning the priorities of Marine Manufacturing and Marine Transport, Aquaculture, Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, as well as Marine Protection and Governance.

The IORA was formally launched in 1997 and is a cooperative community of 20 coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean, and six non-member Dialogue Partner States. South Africa has been nominated to serve as Vice Chair of IORA from October 2015 and Chair the Association from October 2017 – 2019. South Africa in the Indian Ocean Rim Association aims to optimise this convergence of the domestic priorities and the IORA priorities, as an area of high value potential.

3. Working visit to Iran, Bangladesh and Nepal

We recently went on a Working Visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran, where we held bilateral discussions with representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran, aimed at expanding and consolidating political, economic and cultural ties.

In our bilateral discussions with our Iranian counterparts, both sides expressed the desire to see the relationship between the two countries further expanded and consolidated.

South Africa and Iran enjoy cooperation across varied fields, including arts and culture, agriculture, education and health, and the potential for the expansion thereof remains positive.

South Africa considers Iran to be an important friend and partner and recognizes the important role Iran assumes regionally and internationally within global governance and multilateral architecture.

During the month of August 2015, we also visited Bangladesh and Nepal. As a developing country, we find our interactions with fellow developing countries enriching. We are faced with common challenges and we work together in multilateral forums to jointly address some of these common challenges.

South Africa established formal relations with Bangladesh in September 1994.

Bangladesh has been identified as a country with enormous potential for the expansion of trade and economic relations. Economic growth is predicted at 6.4% for the current fiscal year.

Bangladesh continues to be a partner of South Africa in multilateral organisations such as the United Nations (UN) and its agencies, the Commonwealth, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Group of 77 plus China (G77) of which South Africa is the current chair, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).

In Bangladesh, we met with the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, as well as the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh. Amongst other things, we shared views on sustaining democratic rule and human rights, reform of global institutions of governance and sustainable development.

In Nepal, our visit underscored the continued commitment of the South African Government towards supporting their internal reconciliation and nation-building endeavours. Previously, a number of Ministerial delegations from Nepal visited South Africa, mainly interested in drawing lessons from the way South Africa has dealt with its peaceful transition to a democratic system. During the visit to Nepal, South Africa reaffirmed its offer to share peace and reconciliation experiences.

I thank you.


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