SA, Sweden cement ties

Friday, October 11, 2013
By: 
Nthambeleni Gabara

Pretoria - South Africa and Sweden share the common values of democracy, respect for human rights and social justice, says Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

Motlanthe was speaking at the Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House on Friday, where he hosted Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Jan Bjorklund as part of the South Africa-Sweden Bi-National Commission.

Motlanthe said Bjorklund’s visit served to cement the warm and fraternal relations that exist between the two countries.

“Having shared a rich history of support with Sweden, we continue to count you as a reliable partner not only for our socio-economic development, but also for the creation of a humane and well-managed world,” he said.

20 years of freedom and democracy

As the country prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of democracy next year, the Deputy President acknowledged that great strides have been made towards creating a better life for all.

“[I will say] with much confidence that our country is better today than the one we inherited.

“We are, however, all too aware that much still needs to be done to [tackle the] stubborn challenges of underdevelopment, poverty, inequality and unemployment that our country is faced with.”

The South African government has adopted the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030, which outlines the development strategy focused on skills development, youth employment and industrialisation.

According to Motlanthe, the NDP presents new opportunities for greater economic cooperation between Sweden and South Africa.

Maritime development

The Deputy President said the maritime sector was one of the areas that represented new vistas for greater economic activity.

Sweden has a well-developed maritime sector and South Africa has since established a Maritime Skills Development Programme with Sweden through the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA).

Through the programme, 26 postgraduate South African students have been awarded scholarships to study at the World Maritime University (WMU) in Malmo, Sweden.

“Our positive bilateral relations also extend to other multilateral mechanisms such as the European Union strategic partnership, [and the] transformation of the United Nations (UN),” he said.

In his remarks, Bjorklund said: “This is my first visit to South Africa and I’m very happy to be here… I’ve been in the country for three days and I’ve visited different parts of your society. I’m really impressed with the development and ambitions for the future.

“Sweden and South Africa have developed an excellent relationship over the years and created close ties in several areas. 2014 is an important year, where we will proudly be celebrating 20 years of democracy in South Africa.

“We will remember the long queues of the citizens of this rainbow nation patiently waiting to cast their ballots - for most of them, for the first time in their lives.”

Bjorklund noted the changes Africa had undergone, saying South Africa had particularly changed.  

“We are seeing the modern Africa taking shape and growing like never before.

“Today you are stronger, healthier, more confident and more optimistic. Africa is entering the global stage, demanding cooperation on equal terms, trade relations, investments, exchange of knowledge and cooperation on mutual benefits.

“We in Sweden and in Europe want to respond to this request and South Africa is by far the most important economic player on the African continent,” he said. - SAnews.gov.za

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