SA, Belgium deepen relations

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

SA, Belgium deepen relations

Pretoria - Relations between South Africa and Belgium are set to advance, with both countries agreeing to cooperate in crucial areas that can help government meet its key priorities.

This emerged during a meeting between International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and her Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders in Pretoria on Wednesday.

The two looked at how Belgium can help support South Africa's national priorities, especially infrastructure development not only in the country, but Africa as well.

Addressing the media after their meeting, Nkoana-Mashabane said government remained convinced that the key to the economic development of the continent lay in creating the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the free movement of goods, people and services.

"We remain committed to integrating the continent in order to create a bigger market," said Nkoana-Mashabane, highlighting that the planned Tripartite Free Trade Area involving COMESA, EAC and SADC would open up more investment opportunities.

Despite the economic crisis faced by the Euro countries, Reynders said Belgium was committed to working closely with South Africa in the identification and implementation of these various projects, which have the potential to assist South Africa achieve its developmental objectives, especially in the fields of infrastructure development, skills development, energy, water and education.

Reynders said Belgium was pleased with the progress the country had made in its development and the role in some of the international platforms.

Belgium has long played a meaningful role in the development of the country. In recent years, it allocated an amount of 25 million euro as Official Development Assistance (ODA) to South Africa covering, among others, health, education and capacity building in the public sector.

There is also extensive cooperation between the ports of Durban and Antwerp, as Belgium is a leading country in ports management, transport and logistics, which are especially important to South Africa in the context of the Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPS).

The two ministers also reflected on issues of mutual concern such as the economic developments in Europe - where Nkoana-Mashabane indicated that SA was closely following the situation, given the interdependency of the economies.

"As a member of the G20, we pledge to work with our partners to do everything in our power and means to contribute towards the solution. This crisis is not Europe's problem alone, it's a global crisis," added Nkoana-Mashabane.

Given Belgium's historic relations with and continued involvement in the Great Lakes Region, the two ministers further exchanged views on developments in the Eastern part of the DRC - where they agreed to enhance cooperation and redouble efforts to assist the country to return back to normal.

Reynders said all they wanted was an end to the violence and killing of innocent civilians. He added that Belgium was willing to support these efforts no matter what.

Both Nkoana-Mashabane and Reynders expressed concern over Syria and called on all parties to work together to find a peaceful and negotiated settlement

During his visit to South Africa, Reynders will also meet with Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu before travelling to KwaZulu-Natal for a meeting with Premier Zweli Mkhize - which will also focus on further deepening of trade and economic relations between South Africa and Belgium.