President calls on world leaders to close poverty gap

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Unless world leaders act with urgency and purpose to close the gap between the wealthy and poor, hardship and suffering will only deepen, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The President made the remarks while addressing the United Kingdom Houses of Parliament during South Africa’s State Visit to the country on Tuesday.

President Ramaphosa is on a two-day Royal State Visit to the country at the invitation of His Majesty King Charles III.

Without this urgency, the President said “instability, conflict and terror will increase”.

He said: “We need to attend to the deficiencies in access to education, health care, safe water, sustainable energy and economic opportunity if we hope to end the poverty that is handed down from one generation to the next.

“Nowhere is the need to tackle inequality more important than in our response to climate change. Those countries that carry the least responsibility for global warming are most vulnerable to its effects. They do not have the resources needed to adapt to drought, floods and rising sea levels. And as they seek to grow, industrialise and diversify their economies, their energy needs will increase and the space they have to reduce emissions will narrow”.

This, he said, places a responsibility on industrialised nations to contribute substantial resources to low- and middle-income countries to fund their climate actions.

“This is not charity,” he said. “It is compensation for the harm done – and the harm yet to be done – to people in developing economies as a consequence of the industrialisation of wealthy countries. And because a global reduction in emissions benefits all countries and all people, it is also a necessary investment in the future of humanity.”

The President said South Africa greatly appreciated the commitment of the UK to the implementation of a just energy transition in the country.

He said this demonstrated a clear recognition by the UK government of the importance of supporting transitions to low-carbon economies in a manner that does not disadvantage affected workers, communities or industries.

“We have called on the United Kingdom and the other partners to ensure that a substantial part of the funding takes the form of grants and highly concessional loans.

“We are pleased that the final outcomes of COP27 hold out the promise of concerted action to address climate change. It was President Nelson Mandela who espoused the vision of a global community of nations that strives by all means available to improve the human condition.”

Given the two country’s history, shared values, durability of their relationship, he said he firmly believes that South Africa and the United Kingdom should work together for the realisation of such a global community.

“Three decades ago, the British people joined hands with the people of South Africa – and with millions more around the world – to free Mandela and to end apartheid.

“Now, let us rekindle the moral purpose of the global fight against apartheid to confront the discrimination, inequality and injustice that divides humanity and that stifles the progress of all,” he said.

Strengthening commerce, trade, investment ties

He said the State Visit was an opportunity to reinvigorate the ties of commerce, trade and investment between the two countries.

The United Kingdom is the largest foreign investor in South Africa and the country’s fifth largest export destination. Over the last two decades, the United Kingdom has been South Africa’s largest source of tourist visitors outside of Africa.

“British companies need to use this advantage to greater effect, to seek out the opportunities in our country for investment and for trade. The cooperation in science and innovation between the two countries is significant, with rich potential for further expansion,” he said.

He said the South African government was convinced that there was great scope to expand these areas of cooperation.

“We are undertaking far-reaching economic reforms to make our economy more competitive and more efficient, to reduce the cost of doing business and to encourage new entrants into several industries.

“As we undertake the most significant restructuring of our energy market in almost a century to address severe power shortages, there are great opportunities for investment, innovation and partnership,” he said.

By pursuing these and other avenues for cooperation, President Ramaphosa said he believed that “we will define the relationship between South Africa and the United Kingdom in new and exciting ways”.

“By exploring the full extent of our common interests and capabilities, I am certain that we will add another chapter to our long and rich history,” he said.

He said members of the UK Parliament had been vital and engaged participants in the evolution of the relationship between the two countries.

“We thank you for your friendship, solidarity and partnership. Please be assured of the sincere and enduring friendship of South Africa and its people,” he said. –