Opening Remarks by Minister Dr GNM Pandor, on the occasion of the Fourth Session of the South Africa–Ethiopia Joint Ministerial Commission, Addis Ababa, 31 July 2023
Honourable Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I wish to express our sincere gratitude to you, Minister Mekonnen, for the warm reception and generous hospitality extended to us since our arrival. I am honoured to be back in Addis Ababa just a few short months since my last visit in April 2023, when I had the honour of participating in the historic Recognition Programme and to express our congratulations to both Parties on the progress that has been made in the peace process since the signing of the Pretoria Agreement in November 2022.
It gives me great pleasure, to co-chair with you, this Fourth Session of our Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC). We meet today on the last day of the month of July, marking the end of the Nelson Mandela month in 2023. We may recall that in 2009, the United Nations declared 18 July as ‘International Nelson Mandela Day’, and in our country, the whole month is known as the Nelson Mandela month.
Although the JMC has not met since 2013 due to various challenges – including also the COVID-19 pandemic – we never ceased to engage each other both at bilateral and multilateral platforms. My delegation firmly believes that this Fourth Session of the JMC will rekindle our efforts to further enhance and consolidate the cordial and fraternal relations between our two countries. My officials inform me of your active office in Pretoria and the many robust meetings they have had to keep our relations active.
Dear Minister, we are encouraged by your government’s very active engagements to strengthen cooperation and bilateral relations with other countries in the region and the African continent. Together we need to exploit new opportunities presented by the post-COVID-19 global economy in sectors such as the digital economy and technological innovations, artificial intelligence, the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), services, localisation of manufacturing of value-added goods and services. Strong bilateral cooperation between African countries and regional economic communities plays a crucial role in the realisation of the ideals of Agenda 2063, the Africa We Want, which is characterised by sustainable economic prosperity, unity, inter-connectedness and interdependence.
Minister, we spend too much time trusting others outside our continent and not enough time trusting ourselves. We need to change that history and I’m hopeful that our business leaders will leverage many opportunities provided by the African Continental Free Trade Area. I believe that the AfCFTA will be a catalyst for the pursuit of beneficial economic integration in the continent. Through the Free Trade Area agreement, we have promised ourselves, as Africans, that we will increase intra-African trade. That doesn’t mean we buy goods from country X and pretend they were made in Ethiopia. It means we must manufacture in Ethiopia and sell within Africa. It means we must manufacture in South Africa and sell within Africa.
Another matter that we must address if the African Continental Free Trade Area is to be a success, is the value addition to our vast natural resources within the confines of our continent. Everybody is running after the mineral resources of Africa, but they’re not establishing factories here. We should be wary of signing any agreement if production is not to happen on the continent. We must ensure that value addition and beneficiation happen within Africa and we must ensure that as Africans we derive full benefit from the value chain and that our people realise these much-needed opportunities. The time has come for South Africa and Ethiopia to work at changing our conditions. To work at changing our history. But to do this is not easy and there will be much opposition. So, the challenge is whether we can work together honestly and faithfully. If we can do that, we will change our conditions.
Honourable Minister, we need to reassert and protect the philosophy of the AU, which is anchored on the principles of Pan-Africanism, and we should remain vigilant against attempts to influence the organisation by outside interests. We should not allow ourselves to lose focus of the aspirations of our people as pronounced in the Agenda 2063, The Africa We Want. It is incumbent upon like-minded countries like South Africa and Ethiopia to defend the core values and interests of the AU and to ensure its strategic focus is directed at the socio-economic development of the continent.
Unfortunately inter and intra-state conflicts continue to threaten the successful implementation of the continental development agenda. South Africa has been observing with keen interest Ethiopia’s efforts in the implementation of the Pretoria Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. Honourable Minister, I commend your country for the positive progress registered thus far and wish to assure you of our continued support.
Touching briefly on events at the global level, South Africa is deeply concerned about the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Besides the human suffering, loss of lives and destruction, the conflict has exacerbated social and economic challenges in Africa and the global South due to, inter alia, increases in the prices of oil and gas, as well as food production and supply chains. Our government has consistently maintained a clear position that the only effective and credible mechanism for the resolution of political disputes is negotiations. In mid-June, African leaders, including HE President Cyril Ramaphosa, travelled to both Russia and Ukraine, as part of efforts to resolve the war between the two nations. This was a profound step and it is our hope that in time, it will yield positive results.
Ladies and gentlemen
I wish to conclude by stating that, we need to ensure that this Fourth Session of the JMC produces tangible results and measurable milestones to which we will hold ourselves accountable. Issues related to trade and investment are critical and we need to address any challenges that may threaten to derail the deepening and expansion of our bilateral cooperation. A clear way forward has to be agreed to in relation to the implementation of the signed bilateral agreements, and the review of the dormant agreements ought to be conducted thoroughly with a view to exploring new areas of cooperation.
Our objectives for this Fourth Session of the JMC include conducting deliberations that lead to the reduction of the cost of doing business between the two countries, removal of barriers to market access for products originating from our two countries, exploration of ways to promote the protection of investments, especially in view of the fact that the AfCFTA has been ratified by our governments. The quest for solutions in support of the eradication of poverty, job creation and the reduction of inequality should influence the content, scope and direction of our engagements.
Honourable Minister, once more, thank you for your wonderful reception of our delegation and we look forward to very fruitful engagements with your delegation.
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