In­ter­na­tional re­la­tions

May is Africa Month which not only com­mem­o­rates the found­ing of the African Union (AU) more than half a cen­tury ago but gives us a chance to re­flect on our past, present and fu­ture.

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Africa Month pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to com­mem­o­rate the found­ing of the African Union and re­flect on our past, present and fu­ture

African unity should be close to the heart of ev­ery South African be­cause the greater our level of re­gional and con­ti­nen­tal in­te­gra­tion, and the more aware we are of what can be achieved col­lec­tively, the brighter Africa’s fu­ture will be.

There­fore, re­vi­tal­is­ing South Africa’s in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions pol­icy and re­gen­er­at­ing im­por­tant bi­lat­eral, con­ti­nen­tal and in­ter­na­tional re­la­tion­ships is high on gov­ern­ment’s agenda.

I have en­joyed over­whelm­ing re­cep­tions on my re­cent vis­its to South­ern African Development Com­mu­nity (SADC) coun­tries, both as the new Pres­i­dent of South Africa and the SADC Chair.The coun­tries vis­ited are some of those that sup­ported South Africa through the dark days of the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle.

Re­mem­ber, the tri­umph over apartheid was a joint ef­fort. We were of­fered sup­port, sanc­tu­ary and fund­ing from our al­lies to al­low our strug­gle to con­tinue de­spite im­mense odds.

Apartheid was a pe­riod in South Africa that was marred by fear, pain, loss and dis­ap­point­ment. It left many wounded and scarred for life.To this day our so­ci­ety is still hurt­ing, dam­aged by our past, numbed by our present and hes­i­tant about our fu­ture.

Many of our broth­ers and sis­ters from the con­ti­nent were on hand to wipe our tears, ease our pain and carry us through the dif­fi­cult times.

Help­ing Africa ful­fil its po­ten­tial

And just as these coun­tries once

fought side-by-side with us to at­tain equal­ity for all South Africans, to­day we must be equally united in our quest to help Africa ful­fil its vast po­ten­tial.

Of com­mon in­ter­est are peace and sta­bil­ity, eco­nomic growth, food se­cu­rity, in­fra­struc­ture development and en­vi­ron­men­tal change and man­age­ment. These can be bet­ter ad­dressed through mean­ing­ful in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal part­ner­ships that help re­alise our col­lec­tive might.

The AU has adopted the theme: “Win­ning the Fight against Cor­rup­tion: A Sus­tain­able Path to Africa’s Trans­for­ma­tion” for 2018.

This res­onates strongly with all of us and our still new gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to free­ing South Africa from cor­rup­tion, which takes a huge toll on a coun­try’s gov­ern­ment, econ­omy and cit­i­zens.

If the AU’s Agenda 2063 is to be a cat­a­lyst for the con­ti­nent’s so­cioe­co­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, it needs the par­tic­i­pa­tion of govern­ments that are com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the lives of its peo­ple, rather than govern­ments that jeop­ar­dise their cit­i­zens’ fu­ture by al­low­ing cor­rup­tion to take root.

Higher lev­els of growth

Also ur­gently re­quired is both an im­prove­ment in in­ter-Africa trade as well as busi­ness re­la­tions.The adop­tion by the AU of an agree­ment of free trade on the con­ti­nent is there­fore wel­comed as a new be­gin­ning that will cat­a­pult African coun­tries and com­pa­nies to much higher lev­els of growth.

Free trade has the po­ten­tial to sig­nif­i­cantly fos­ter the development of all coun­tries on the con­ti­nent, as well as big busi­ness, small com­pa­nies and mi­cro-traders.

The Tri­par­tite Free Trade Area agree­ment, which brings to­gether SADC, COMESA and the East African Com­mu­nity, will com­bine the mar­kets of 26 coun­tries with a pop­u­la­tion of nearly 625 mil­lion.

It will open mar­ket ac­cess op­por­tu­ni­ties for South African ex­port prod­ucts, and con­trib­ute to job cre­ation and the growth of South Africa’s in­dus­trial sec­tor. At the same time we are aware of the chal­lenges to labour in these new op­por­tu­ni­ties and these will be taken into ac­count be­fore any fi­nal doc­u­ment is signed.

At some point we would like to see a sin­gle cur­rency be­ing in­tro­duced for AU coun­tries in­stead of us re­ly­ing on other peo­ple’s cur­rency.

Em­brac­ing dif­fer­ences

Just as African govern­ments seek closer al­liances, so too must Africans them­selves be more will­ing to ac­cept each other and em­brace our dif­fer­ent cul­tures, both on the con­ti­nent and at home. We all have a lot to con­trib­ute and can learn from one an­other.

In South Africa, we are com­mit­ted to build­ing a coun­try in which a per­son’s prospects are de­ter­mined by their own ini­tia­tive and hard work, and not by the colour of their skin, place of birth, gen­der, lan­guage or in­come of their par­ents. We should hon­our Madiba by putting be­hind us the era of dis­cord, dis­unity and dis­il­lu­sion­ment.

I en­cour­age South Africans to learn about each other’s cul­tures to bet­ter un­der­stand them and to con­trib­ute to na­tion-build­ing and the heal­ing of past wounds.

The re­turn of land to the peo­ple from whom it was taken is an im­por­tant step to­wards heal­ing the divi­sions of the past.

We must fo­cus on a process of broad con­sul­ta­tion to see how land ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion can pro­ceed law­fully and with­out dam­ag­ing the econ­omy or food pro­duc­tion.

We have lots of work to do both in­side our bor­ders and across the con­ti­nent, but there can be no doubt that Africa’s time is now. Africa is the ori­gin of hu­man­ity and it is vi­tal that peo­ple re­spect their ori­gins and that Africans, in par­tic­u­lar, ac­knowl­edge their strengths.

Through­out his­tory, we have used col­lab­o­ra­tion and part­ner­ship to over­come the great­est of dif­fi­cul­ties and I be­lieve it is through the same sense of unity that we will cre­ate the Africa of our dreams.

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