Pretoria - South Africa is committed to pursuing regional political and economic integration and to promote Africa’s development through sustained solidarity and mutually beneficial relations.
This was affirmed by International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on Thursday during her Budget Vote, which coincided with Africa Day.
The Minister used the opportunity to renew South Africa’s solidarity with the people of the Western Sahara.
“Today all of Africa is free, except the people of the Western Sahara, whose right to self-determination is being denied. In this regard, we would like to renew our solidarity with the people of the Western Sahara and call for the implementation of UN resolutions that would give effect to the right to self-determination of the Saharawi People, as contained in the Charter of the United Nations (UN),” said Minister Nkoana-Mashabane.
The Minister also reaffirmed South Africa’s solidarity and support for the Palestinian struggle and urged the international community to expedite the resolution of this long-standing conflict.
Peace and stability
With regards to the continent, the Minister said peace and stability is a pre-requisite for development and prosperity.
“Peace and security will contribute significantly to creating conducive conditions for the development of our continent and the welfare of her people, in line with the vision of an African continent that is free of war and conflicts, and at peace with itself, as encapsulated in Agenda 2063,” said the Minister.
She committed that South Africa will continue assisting the Basotho parties to resolve their political challenges as they head to the polls on 3 June 2017.
SA to assume role of SADC Chair
South Africa will be the incoming SADC Chair of Summit for the 2017-2018 period under the proposed theme, ‘Partnering with the private sector in developing industry and regional value-chains’.
“We will focus on harnessing the participation and involvement of the regional private sector in the implementation of the SADC Regional Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap,” said Minister Nkoane-Mashabane.
Enhanced intra-Africa trade
Efforts are already underway to accelerate the implementation of the SADC-COMESA-EAC Free Trade Area, which will enhance intra-Africa trade and build towards the achievement of the Continental Free Trade Agreement.
Despite the international programme being executed in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous global and economic environment, South Africa has managed to increase the volume of outbound trade and inward investment, tourism, skills and technology transfers.
As of December 2016, South Africa’s total trade with Africa stood at R436 billion, compared to 2015. In 2016, South Africa grew its exports to the continent by 4.67%, while total bilateral trade grew by 3.84%.
“Our immediate region, Southern Africa, accounted for more than R336 billion or 77.17% of our total African trade, as the region remains the primary destination for South African exports,” the Minister said.
Exports to African countries accounted for more than R316 billion, while imports accounted for around R120 billion, resulting in South Africa having a favourable trade surplus with the continent of over R196 billion.
The Minister said this favourable trading environment is largely due to the exporting of value-added finished goods and services.
“Mindful of this trade imbalance, we will utilise the dti’s Trade Invest Africa strategy to contribute towards enhancing industrial and manufacturing capacities on the continent,” Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said.
Relations with America, Europe
Relations with America and Europe also continued to grow and trade with these regions increased from R76.3 billion in 1994 to R857.9 billion in 2016.
Furthermore, bilateral trade between South Africa and the US also grew from R15.9 billion in 1994 to more than R73 billion in 2016. This means that the US remains the largest single source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in South Africa, with over US$50 billion.
As such, Pretoria will continue to engage the new administration in the US, with a view to enhancing bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
“Our bilateral relations have also been beneficiary for ordinary South African youth, who are getting educational opportunities abroad.
“In 2016, [there were] 200 fully funded scholarships for South African students in the Americas and Europe regions.
“Under the aegis of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), Africa Business Education (ABE) initiative, 80 South African students are currently studying for Masters Degrees in highly technical fields in Japan,” Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said.
The students will then be awarded internships at Japanese companies. - SAnews.gov.za