Naledi Pandor reflects on Ramaphosa's 'impactful' AU leadership

17 February 2021 - 20:01
Naledi Pandor said the pandemic struck Africa just as the global community was weakened by unilateralism, conservative nationalism and unwarranted attacks on global UN institutions.
Naledi Pandor said the pandemic struck Africa just as the global community was weakened by unilateralism, conservative nationalism and unwarranted attacks on global UN institutions.
Image: Alon Skuy

International relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor has heaped praise on President Cyril Ramaphosa for his contribution to the African continent during his stint as chair of the AU.

Nothing has illustrated our commitment to Africa more than the positive role SA has played in supporting the continent in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. As chair of the AU, you gave life to a most impactful, co-ordinated African response to Covid-19,” Pandor said.

She was participating in the parliamentary debate on Ramaphosa's state of the nation address, delivered last Thursday.

Pandor said the pandemic struck Africa just as the global community was weakened by unilateralism, conservative nationalism and unwarranted attacks on global UN institutions. “The reality that only a global response would work, drove our AU responses led by the AU leadership,” she said.

She noted that it was under Ramaphosa's leadership that the AU established the Covid-19 emergency fund, which included additional funding to boost the capacity of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

“While creating the Africa Covid-19 Fund was critical and while support to the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was imperative, you are right, Mr President, that much more is needed,” she said.

The focus on innovation, research, vaccines development and a robust African innovation platform is very important pan-African advice for greater African economic freedom and prosperity, said Pandor. She said the inclusion in the ACDC agenda of a focus on African indigenous remedies and treatments augured well for the development of institutions and businesses in this sector.

“In response to your call, we are working hard to raise SA’s global visibility, promoting our strengths as the best place to be, to do business, to visit, to work, to study and to live. We are also responding to new opportunities and harnessing the collective capabilities of Dirco’s resources both at home and abroad. The agenda we seek to support has been clearly outlined by you,” said Pandor.

She said they will identify new opportunities and expand those that have benefit for SA. In pursuit of this objective, SA has created a significant footprint in Asia, which is the continent showing the most promise of a speedy return to pre-Covid levels of economic growth, according to Pandor.

The minister reflected on SA acceding to the Treaty of Amity and Co-operation last year to take up significant trade and development opportunities available in the region.

“We will also benefit from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership of these countries.

“This partnership created the world’s biggest trading bloc, estimated to account for about $26 trillion or 30% of global GDP and 28% of global trade,” said Pandor.

SA will leverage engagement with the Asean countries to enhance mutually beneficial trade, investment and tourism ties and to support skills development and training for South Africans and building the capabilities of the state through co-operation with partners in the region.

SA secured significant beef export opportunities to the Malaysian market as of November 2020 and market access was also obtained for fruits to Thailand.

Pandor said product protocols were being negotiated in the region and were at an advanced stage. These include table grapes to Vietnam and South Korea, avocados to India and Japan, and pears to China and India.

Total two-way trade with Asia and the Middle East (inclusive of Oceania) breached the important milestone of R1 trillion (R1009 726 847 172), for the first time in 2019 and is set to grow further, she said. “We aim to build on these successes ensuring growing global trade which is one of the best ways to fight poverty, inequality and unemployment in our country and our continent,” said Pandor.

Ramaphosa handed over the chairmanship of the AU to the Democratic Republic of the Congo this month, having presided over the AU at a time which saw the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which is seen as the largest common market in the world.

On global partnerships, Pandor said they were looking forward to enhanced intra-Africa trade, reignited industrialisation and notably meaningful integration into global value chains and the global economy in general.

In addition, the AfCFTA will provide a stimulus to African economies to catalyse diversification, which will in turn minimise Africa’s vulnerability to the vagaries of commodity and resources price fluctuations. Our approach recognises that our agenda has to be set by the imperatives of the South and should continue to be guided by the principles of respect for national sovereignty, national ownership and independence, equality, non-conditionality, non-interference in domestic affairs and mutual benefit,” she said.

This includes the recognition that South-South co-operation should not be seen as Official Development Assistance and further stressing that it is not a substitute for, but rather a complement to, North-South co-operation.

Pandor reflected on the new regime in the US, saying: “The return of the US to the community of nations has pointed to the emerging signals of more positive attention to these struggles.”

We hope you will work with the new US administration to ensure positive progress including for the people of Libya,” she added.

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