SONA Debate by Minister Naledi Pandor ANC MP 19 February 2018
Theme: Our tradition of internationalism and development. Advancing South Africa's national interests and promoting a more equitable world order.
Mr President, Madam Speaker, Chairperson, honourable members and guests.
The international cooperation objectives that the President and his government and our country intend to pursue can be summarised as follows.
First, we will implement the Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement that combines markets of 26 countries and a population of over 600 million people. Action on this will increase demand for products, revive manufacturing, and create jobs on a scale not seen before in Africa.
Second, we are negotiating a Continental Free Trade Agreement. African countries have not developed the art of securing value for the continent as a block - an immense potential lies in free trade - minerals processing and beneficiation could be immensely strengthened through South African technology.
Third, in 2018 it's our turn to chair the BRICS group of countries, and we will give priority to the promotion of value-added trade and intra-BRICS investment into productive sectors. At the same time, it's our turn to chair SADC, and we will intensify regional efforts to implement our industrialization strategy, to develop an infrastructure roadmap and to promote increased cooperation among SADC countries.
These objectives resonate with South Africa's very progressive international agenda, which was forged by our leaders in the course of struggle.
Our focus correctly includes achieving South Africa's national goals, our national interest, but as leaders such as President Mandela and Mama Sisulu taught us national interest in the absence of a strong foundation of global solidarity makes international cooperation soulless and uninspiring.
The broad international cooperation agenda set out by the President during his address solidly reflects these conjoined imperatives.
We have obligations to our friends in struggle who stood beside us in trying times.
We must never forget our obligation to them.
Our agenda of international cooperation in 2018 offers outstanding opportunities. Most exciting in this year is our celebration of twenty years of cooperation and solid partnership with the people's Republic of China.
Madam Speaker, any foray into international cooperation in this year in which we celebrate President Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu reminds us that we are beneficiaries of their courageous commitment to international friendship.
We must show similar courage and commitment.
President Mandela began building links of solidarity in Africa and we must never waver from this critical focus.
Our programme of international policy and practice has been significantly strengthened by the 54th conference of the ANC. The majority party has been mandated to cut ties with Israel given the absence of genuine initiatives by Israel to secure lasting peace and a viable two-state solution that includes full freedom and democracy for the Palestinian people.
We must also not neglect the last occupied territory in Africa, Western Sahara. Now that Morocco has been re admitted to the AU it must be obliged to finally free the suffering masses of Western Sahara.
Africa lies at the heart of South Africa's international cooperation policy.
Our commitment is to deeper integration and cooperation through increased trade, shared markets, and the development of strong institutions.
Our relationships must be those of mutual capacity sharing and not those of a neo-colonial dominance by South African mega corporates.
There are two perceptions about South Africa that we must address decisively in this context.
The first is the challenge of xenophobia. We must engage our nation on the solidarity we espouse and work hard to persuade all of Africa of our commitment to pan Africanism. We will reach out to the rest of the continent to address all concerns and to advance African solidarity.
The second challenge is the notion that we neither share the benefits of BRICS sufficiently nor those we derive from G20 membership opportunities. We will work hard through the President to dispel these perceptions.
One of the ways we can do this is to build on the science and innovation partnerships we have achieved through the most significant global scientific project of the 21st century.
South Africa, in partnership with several other African countries made history in 2012 when we secured the right to co-host the Square Kilometre Array ( SKA) global radio telescope. The project has allowed for significant benefits in human resource development and science infrastructure capacity development in our partner countries.
This is a model we will build on in future.
The President's announcement of a major investment conference planned for later this year offers further opportunity to advance our Africa strategy. Investors from the continent must be part of the summit to secure African investment in South Africa and opportunities for our investors in other African countries.
Our investment promotion efforts must include incentivizing multinational companies to locate and relocate some of their R & D facilities in South Africa. We must be firm on our insistence that Africa becomes a knowledge and innovation hub particularly in sectors prioritized in the NDP.
Further strengthening of our economic development zones programme will support our cooperation efforts. We intend to become a partner of choice for high technology enterprises and start-up companies.
Africa's greatest resource is people particularly young people. We should use international cooperation to expand the skills base of our continent. We need to address our skills gaps and develop an international skills development initiative.
There is a fierce worldwide competition for skills we must develop rules to ensure we are an attractive participant in this competition while also developing our own skills base. Our immigration policy on skills must support us in addressing this aspect of our international agenda.
For years, our foreign policy has been assisted by the success of our own negotiated political settlement. Other countries saw us, and in particular President Mandela whom we celebrate this year, as an example of how to solve political problems practically and without violence. Now in our new dawn it's time to return to the foreign policy that Mandela made famous, to a foreign policy in which human rights are paramount, and to a foreign policy in which the rule of international law is its solid foundation.
Africa remains our focus, our number one priority. However, our foreign policy must sustain warm relations with all important trade and investment partners. As we work to further strengthen the BRICS partnership, we will certainly not neglect other valued and established partnerships such as the one with the European Union, which continues to be an important trading, investment, development cooperation and dialogue partner for South Africa.