Unabriged budget address: Deputy Minister of International Relations & Cooperation

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Budget vote 2010 of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, presented by Deputy Minister, Ms Sue van Der Merwe, MP, National Assembly

22 April 2010

Chairperson of the house

Minister Nkoana Mashabane

Deputy Minister Ebrahim

Ministers, deputy minister

Honourable Members of Parliament

Your Excellencies ambassadors and high commissioners

The presentation of our budget to this house comes, as the minister has said, just 49 days before the kick off to the 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, the first time ever on African soil. It is with a sense of excitement that our country readies itself to welcome hundreds of thousands of fans from the length and breadth of our continent and from all over the world.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup will be important to South Africa in many ways. It will showcase South Africa to the world as a tourism and investment destination, it will enable us to show that South Africa and Africa can successfully host an event of this magnitude and thus it will give us the opportunity to realise some of our objectives as outlined by the minister.

The minister spoke of how we leverage support for our national interests through our international relations work. During the world cup we will have a once in a life time opportunity to do this through the experience of the fans that come, but also through the television coverage all over the world.

The minister also described our work as bridge builder and as pathfinders for new opportunities in our efforts to build our country. We want to show today how we are doing that and draw the link between our international efforts and our ambitions for a better life for all our people.

Thus our work starts here in South Africa and then extends to the international community through a very extensive network of bilateral relationships with virtually every country in the world. We have missions in 105 countries and representation through non resident ambassadors in many more. Naturally though, we place emphasis on our relationships with neighbours on the continent and our immediate neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

Working with our sister Departments of Finance and of Trade and Industry, we have made significant progress in the past few years on integrating our region. We already have strong political bonds with our neighbouring countries, which bonds have their roots in our history. It is our challenge now to translate those strong bonds into practical benefits for our people.

Having launched the SADC free trade area (FTA) in 2008, our work now focuses on consolidating the FTA and moving steadily towards a SADC wide customs union. Currently 13 countries with a registered market of 170 million people with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) worth United States $ 360 billion comprise our SADC FTA region.

When Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) join, 77 million more people will be added, with an additional market of United stares $71 billion. Such a position will greatly enhance our attractiveness as a trading entity and we continue to work actively to consolidate this position.

This process of regional integration has to leverage the experience of our 100 year old Southern African Customs Union (SACU). It is also critical that, as we build a SADC wide customs union, we be vigilant and ensure that the measures we take will serve to cushion us during stormy periods such as the current global economic crisis. Therefore we must build a customs union able to diversify its economic relations, particularly with the rapidly growing markets of the south.

At the frontline of our efforts at promoting our trade and economic interests are our diplomats, posted in all corners of the world, who are now all exposed to specialised training in economic diplomacy. The main elements of this training focus on providing diplomats with an analysis of the international economic environment, on studies on legal aspects of economic interaction, as well as briefings on the interrelations between economic diplomacy and South Africa’s foreign policy. We use both our bilateral relationships as well as the many multilateral forums to which we belong to promote South Africa and encourage investment.

A huge opportunity to promote South Africa this year will be the Shanghai exposition, to be officially opened on 1 May. This is a world exposition, which only takes place every five years and is considered the Olympics of the economy, science and technology. It gives South Africa the opportunity to showcase itself as a unique combination of a modern economy, that is globally oriented, but with the spirit, energy and human centeredness of Africa.

We have a magnificent South African pavilion, which we anticipate will attract much interest from the estimated 70 million visitors to the exposition. Several South African companies, including those with cutting edge technologies will participate in our stand and we will have the opportunity to further promote the 2010 FIFA World Cup to this huge audience.

South Africa is the largest economy on the African continent, many South African companies have global reach and our diplomatic efforts are as extensive as many countries larger and more powerful than we are. We believe this imposes on us a particular responsibility. We see our work therefore, not only as promoting the interests of our own South African people, but the interests of our neighbours on the continent must also be a priority for us.

South Africa has a modern infrastructure, including a sophisticated telecommunications network, highly developed financial services industry and developed transport networks among others. We are therefore in a strong position on the continent to act as a hub, a stimulus for growth for the region and a driver of continental prosperity. A prosperous continent will be to the benefit of us all.

So since our country gained its freedom, South Africa has focused it foreign policy on the African agenda, on building African Institutions and on promoting peace on the continent. We have spent considerable energy and resources on these efforts. As mentioned by the minister, we now need to consolidate those efforts and streamline them to greatest effect.

And to do this, we have begun work on the establishment of the South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA). The concept of such an agency has been agreed by Cabinet and we are working on the next stage of its development. Our thinking includes working on the existing African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund (ARF) and expanding it to become the envisaged agency.

This will require a new piece of legislation which will be brought before this parliament in due course. It is envisaged that such funding as is already earmarked for the ARF would form part of the initial budget of the agency. We have held discussions with many similar agencies in other countries, including those countries from the developed and developing world, to gain from the international experience and to inform our work in this regard.

We have had an enthusiastic response from our development partners and will continue discussions with them so as to leverage trilateral cooperative methods to further enhance the effectiveness and the impact of this agency.

Members will be engaged in this discussion through the law making process and we look forward to your inputs in this regard. Focus for the partnership agency will be on African partnerships and the minister has earlier outlined the work we do in the African Union context. It was therefore with great humility that we received the support of the African Union in our bid to serve a second term on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as a non-permanent member.

Our current membership of the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) will provide us with a good synergy in promoting the closer relationship between regional peace and security structures and the UNSC. We will keep this house updated on developments in this regard as the campaign for our candidature progresses.

Chair

I would like to acknowledge the distinguished guests we have here today from the institutions studying international relations, guests from academia and from the diplomatic corps and thank them for their ongoing cooperation. But in line with the ministers leadership in bringing international relations to our people; I have also invited to this budget vote today some members of my own community from Stellenbosch where I have my constituency office, from Claremont where I work with a community based group of domestic workers on a housing project and my comrades in my branch!

I did this so that they could be here, in a sense representing the broader South African community, so they could see how our international efforts impact on the lives of ordinary South Africans. I wish to thank them all for coming and I hope that they have found this interesting and that they now understand why I am so often absent!

I would like to thank the minister and deputy minister for the pleasure of working with you both. I too would like to acknowledge with thanks and appreciation the professionalism and support that I receive from our director-general and the officials he so ably leads. They are some of our brightest minds and contribute significantly to the challenging world of our international interactions.

I am proud to be part of our South African diplomatic service and I thank them most sincerely for their hard work and dedication to the cause of South Africa’s international work.

Thank you

Issued by: Department of International Relations and Cooperation
22 April 2010

Source: Department of International Relations and Cooperation (http://www.dirco.gov.za/)