Remarks by Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Candith Mashego-Dlamini, at the Lunch of the African Heads of Diplomatic Mission on 29 January 2020 at the Sheraton Hotel, Pretoria

Programme Director,
The Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador Bene Lofongo M’Poko,
Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Heads of Mission,

It is a great honour that I speak here today on behalf of the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor. As you are familiar with the diplomatic business of government, one has to be in different locations at any given time. I therefore believe that Minister Pandor’s apology will be accepted with warm hearts.

I bring to you fraternal and well wishes, and compliments for the New Year, 2020. We hope that this year will bring prosperity to all Africans.

Your gathering today is very significant in a sense that it resembles the African way of resolving local challenges. Meetings of these nature are always held to exchange ideas and promote own solutions to own problems. We therefore would want to believe that as you gathered today, you have pondered on how best and quicker can the mediation in South Sudan be concluded, what will it take for the warring factions in Libya cease the confrontations, what should Africa do to eliminate the threat of insurgence in the Sahel and elsewhere in the continent?

The continent we all belong to is not only facing insecurities and instabilities. Issues of underdevelopment and unemployment dominates the social statistics in double digits. Whilst growth is reported in many parts of the continent, few can rightly be linked to socio-economic developments at the benefit of the poor, women and children.

Whilst we are overly occupied to resolving our conflicts and bringing about economic emancipation, we tend to create own vulnerabilities that are easily exploited by our developed partners from the North.

I am mentioning this brief overview not as a far-afield observer, but because my own country, South Africa a part of the African community is going through same. Our unemployment has reached a time-bomb level of 29%. This means that about 10 million people, mostly young, are unemployed. The economic growth is expected to hit a 0.8% low this year. Obviously, this figure cannot begin to create any opportunity of employment. The key sectors in the GDP composition such as services and manufacturing are not growing.  The gap between the rich and poor is widening.

Like all other countries, South Africa cannot resolve its own socio-economic ills on its own, nor prosper whilst the rest of the region and the continent remain stuck in poverty. I therefore urge you, Excellences, to continue to prioritise trade and investment between South Africa and your respective countries. Cultural and people-to-people cooperation remain a pivotal vehicle through which everlasting bonds can be created. During your stay in South Africa, please find time to drive across the valleys, the mountains and the streets of this land of Chief Albert Luthuli. Experience by yourselves the hospitality, the scenery and the beauty of the country.

Ambassadors and High Commissioner,

In two weeks’ time, the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union will convene in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Heads of State and Government will be meeting in similar format alluded above, to find solutions to the challenges I have just presented. South Africa will assume the chairship of the Union which will last for a year under the theme “Silencing the guns: creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development”. All our reviews have shown so far that there is mammoth task ahead.  However it is not insurmountable.  South Africa is ready to take up the responsibility and would rely on the support and cooperation with all Members State. We therefore call upon you, Ambassador and High Commissioners, to communicate to your respective capitals, our expectation for continued cooperation in the pursued of Agenda2063. In fact this decade will demand Africa to be more united and determined, even deeper than during the colonial era.

Our chairship coincides, not only with the beginning of a new decade, but with the year of “silencing the guns”. This envisioned flagship goal adopted at the conceptualisation of Agenda2063 aims to realise an African continent free from wars, civil conflicts, gender-based violence, violent conflicts and preventing genocide by this year, 2020. It cannot be deferred to future generations. We all have to take stock on how far we have gone and deal decisively with remaining firing guns. South Africa will place high on its agenda the realisation of this flagship goal.

Ambassadors and High Commissioner,

Peace cannot hold if not supported by sustainable development. Post-conflict reconstruction and development requires functioning economy and government that is capable to disperse social goods and services. The operationalization of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in July this year will have a significant impact economic development which is a base for sustainable peace. The World Economic Forum (WEF) projects that the AfCFTA will increase the value of intra-African trade by 15-25% by 2040 and boost economic output by US$29 trillion by 2050. These are possibilities which we must protect and promote. African manufacturing companies must begin to cooperate to increase their capacities through regional value chain mechanisms that transcend across borders within the continent.

We need to work together to ensure that women from the continent occupy a visible and impactful role in the maintenance of peace and Africa’s agenda for economic development.  South Africa will work to promote active participation of women through entrepreneurial initiatives. The scourge of violence against women and other harmful practices must be fought wherever they exist.
 
Ambassadors and High Commissioner,

I remain available to engage with you as we pursue the AU’s Agenda 2063 during this year, 2020.

Thank you.

Siyabonga.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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