Keynote Address by the Honourable Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), Ms Makgabo Reginah Mhaule, at the Meeting of the Fourth BRICS Young Diplomats’ Forum, Pretoria, 26 June 2018

Programme Director, Ambassador Joyini

Our host for this session, the Minister of Science and Technology, the Honourable Ms Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane

The Director General of the Department of Internationals Relations and Cooperation, Mr Kgabo Mahoai

The Director for Finance and Support Services at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Ms Limpho Monyamane

Senior Management from DIRCO, the Department of Science and Technology, the CSIR and Gauteng Government

Our BRICS Partners

Member of the Diplomatic Corps

Representatives from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the United Nations Children fund

The BRICS Youth Heads of Delegation

All Esteemed Delegates

Distinguished Guests

Sanibonani

As you may have observed in entry to our country, our National Flags are flown at half-mast as our department and country is under a dark cloud of sadness after the loss of our former Chief of State Protocol Ambassador Billy Modise who served our nation selflessly and diligently in our struggle against apartheid and a Batho Pele public servant in our continued mission to build a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous country.

Let me also eco the words of condemnation expressed by President Ramaphosa on the attacks in the Republic of Zimbabwe and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. As such attacks are designed to undermine democracy and create instability in nations that have registered progress for their people.

With that said, it is indeed a privilege and honour for me to address you on this exceptional occasion of the 4th BRICS Young Diplomats Forum which is convened under the theme “The Youth demographic dividend while prioritising women across all sectors in the 4th Industrial Revolution.”

As you may be aware, this is a significant year in our history as South Africans and indeed to the peace loving people of the world. Thus 2018 has been officially declared the Year of Nelson Mandela, to commemorate the centenary of this revered son of the African soil.

In similar vein, this year also marks the centenary of another icon of the African liberation struggle Mama Albertina Sisulu. Africa can indeed pride itself on the selfless service and leadership qualities of these two stalwarts of good governance.

Madiba as he is fondly known amongst South Africans and across the globe, believed that young people are a country’s most important asset. He argued with conviction that the youth need to be protected, empowered and nurtured to build a rich and united country.

Again, the month of June is Youth Month, dedicated to the youth of our country who lost their lives while in pursuit of their generational mission of Freedom in their Lifetime, personified by their struggle for decent education. I am hopeful that during your stay in our country, you will be afforded the opportunity to learn about our history and visit some of our heritage sites, take with you lessons on Ubuntu and understand what we mean by that.

Before I delve into the reason we are gathered here, I must say that as young people, you have an infectious energy that gives you hope for our future. It is a true that you possess the ability to view challenges of the world with both an innocence and imagination. I am also aware that it has been proven that you are able to present solutions where others only see difficulties. And for that you are indeed the future leaders today.

Ladies and Gentlemen

We meet at a time when internationalism is central in how the current world order functions. Thus the current digital revolution, provides us with a unique opportunity to sharpen the way we conduct our business. In the current set up, world economies are being characterised as competitive based on future production technologies and processes that innovators create.

Of course, it is the youth who stand to benefit the most from this revolution. Since it is a revolution that is having the most profound impact of how society will function and be shaped for the years to come.

Like the youth of 76, it is incumbent on young people to take the mantle and drive the process towards their full benefit of this digital revolution.  You must occupy the frontline in breaking the barriers that divide us in this new integrated system where virtual reality and cyberspace is the reality. We must build the societies that create and nurture innovation and new technologies, finding alternate ways in which we solve global problems.

I believe that the ICT sector is key to the future growth of our country, the continent and the world at large.

As we coexist in this digital age and in the midst of a universe that is continuously shrinking to become a global village, ICT and Innovation are key elements that underpin our future growth and development. As with any integration into new systems and thinking, a country must create the requisite skills to be functional and competitive.

If young people are to be the catalysts for change, they will need the necessary tools to be effectively equipped. We need to see more collaboration in areas of skills transfer, knowledge partnerships and best practice sharing in order to stimulate innovation and empower all people equally.

Esteemed Delegates

We have many young people amongst us here this morning that have unflinching determination and the potential to be innovators and creators in this vibrant world of technological change. The youth achievers that form part of today’s 4th BRICS Young Diplomats’ Forum are the future of our respective countries. I believe that the BRICS Young Diplomats’ Forum is an earnest endeavour that is aimed at providing a platform for our young people to share ideas that will take BRICS forward as a strong and dynamic partnership for Global change.

Many future projections indicate that about an estimated 65% of children entering primary education today will most likely work in economic roles that do not even yet exist at present. Hence, it is incumbent upon us that we expose the youth to as wide a variety of technological innovations as possible because any initiative that seeks to empower the youth is an investment towards the future of our country, the continent and the community of nations.

I am of the view that the BRICS Young Diplomats’ Forum should be futuristic in its approach and focus. Young Diplomats and indeed young people need a different sort of environment to be creative and efficient. It is clear that traditional methods of engagement may not be the only way to interact around key global issues. We need to open our thinking to the proposition: change is good, change needs technology and young people are key drivers of this change.

Esteemed Delegates

Another critical question is whether the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be a revolution that changes the status quo for women? In its 2014 Gender Gap Report, the World Economic Forum predicted that globally, we should only reach gender parity by 2095. But, unfortunately today, that forecast has worsened, with the gap anticipated to close as late as 2133. That is 117 years from now, multiple generations away. The world cannot wait that long for this change to be realised. We need to seize the day and make the change for an inclusive society. I should take this moment to commend the delegations that have elected young women to lead them this week as they partake in this pre conference of the BRICS.

It is, therefore, imperative to consider the positive impact that the 4th Industrial Revolution can have on the gender gap. A question that comes to mind is: How will the accelerating pace of technological change determine what roles women can play in the economy, politics, and society? One other question that stands out is whether the 4th Industrial Revolution will have the propensity to worsen inequality, particularly for women.

This is why we must start fostering a culture of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education for girls. That is why work for organisations like the Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF) is focused on encouraging young people and especially young women to use technology and entrepreneurship to create economic opportunities and inspire girls to pursue careers that are life-changing. Women need to be in the epicentre of this change.

Ladies and Gentlemen

For our government, it has become more than a slogan to say that our youth today are tomorrow’s leaders. We are seized with building leaders for tomorrow, today. Young people are the greatest asset with the highest potential to build better societies in South Africa, our continent and the world.

What we tend to forget is that the journey towards their leadership destiny begins today. It will be a long and difficult journey but it is a journey worth traveling. It requires individuals with great zeal, fortitude and tenacity to carry on despite the challenges. As Former President Nelson Mandela noted:

“Young people are capable, when stimulated, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.”

It is imperative that we raise a new generation of young people that will not be job seekers but job creators. We need innovative young entrepreneurs who will play a significant role in the renewal of our economies. Entrepreneurship is a fundamental endeavour for economic emancipation of all peoples of the world today.

Surely, you will agree with me that our objective reality reveals that, as youth, you remain the hardest hit by the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality not only in South Africa but globally. These are the challenges that we must collectively address with the urgency that they deserve.

The strength of our public-private partnerships is one that will help both businesses and people to move society forward. This is the reason why inclusive growth is central in the development agenda of the South African government and the Global South.

We need to embark on all these initiatives, conscious of the fact that our greatest asset is human capital. We must invest in skills development so that we can produce young men and women who will become exceptional innovators and make a meaningful contribution to the economic growth of our country.

Let us forever be mindful of the fact that government alone does not have capacity to create jobs for each and every person that is currently unemployed. However, through sound partnerships and collaborations such as BRICS, we can make significant contribution towards the improvement of the standards of living for the majority of our people.

Let me conclude by once again quoting Former President Nelson Mandela:

“To the youth of today, I also have a wish to make: be the scriptwriters of your destiny and feature yourselves as stars that showed the way towards a brighter future.”

Again let me welcome you to our beautiful country. South African for the next week is your home away from home. Please enjoy our hospitality, the sights & sounds of our capital city, our food and our culture as an expression of our friendship and solidarity with our BRICS partners and the world.

This is your future – working together, make it work!!!!

Ngiyabonga.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road
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