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Strengthening the African Agenda through the AU, BRICS and FOCAC

DIRCO and ACCORD Public lecture  delivered by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Luwellyn Landers, entitled: “Strengthening the African Agenda through the AU, BRICS and FOCAC,”  at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard Campus, 21 September 2015  

Vice Chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal

Representatives of the African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD)

Student Representatives

Members of the Media

Ladies and gentlemen

I am humbled by your attendance of this public lecture which seeks to reflect on South Africa’s foreign policy engagements. We have decided to base our interaction today on the important topic of South Africa’s foreign policy, which is “Strengthening the African Agenda through the AU, BRICS and FOCAC.”

It is within this context that I will share with you some of the key outcomes of the 25th African Union (AU) Summit we hosted in June 2015 and the 7th Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Summit which took place in July 2015. We will also reflect on South Africa’s hosting of the upcoming 2nd Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), scheduled for December 2015.

South Africa’s African Agenda is premised on the Pan Africanist vision of creating a peaceful, stable and prosperous continent. Since the attainment of democracy, we have continued to premise our foreign policy on the inherent African identity and collective aspirations.  

The African Union

Ladies and gentlemen,

We undertook to place the interests of the continent at the centre of democratic South Africa’s foreign policy. South Africa viewed the transformation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) into the current AU as an important and required shift in focus. Our hosting of the inaugural AU Summit in July 2012 here in Durban was one of the milestones in the country’s contribution towards advancing the African Agenda. We wanted to ensure that a ‘better life for all’ that we seek for ourselves, is translated into concrete actions that would lead us to a better Africa.

Africa took it upon itself to ensure that we are liberated from the shackles of colonialism and apartheid.  Former President Nelson Mandela reflected in a Statement at the OAU Meeting of Heads of State and Government on 13 June 1994 when he said:

“Africa shed her blood and surrendered the lives of her children so that all her children could be free. She gave of her limited wealth and resources so that all of Africa should be liberated. She opened her heart of hospitality and her head so full of wise counsel, so that we should emerge victorious. A million times, she put her hand to the plough that has now dug up the encrusted burden of oppression accumulated for centuries”.

South Africa’s role in the conception of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) gave meaning to the concept and the pursuit of African solutions to African problems. We sought to move from a developmental approach prescribed by international actors. NEPAD remains a frame of reference for all our interactions with Africa’s international partners, including FOCAC, which I will reflect on later.

We have championed the establishment of the African Peer Review Mechanisms (APRM) as a voluntary mechanism to deepen democracy and good governance on continent.  

Ladies and gentlemen

Our role in peace and security initiatives on the continent is well documented. We therefore continue playing a very active part in the Prevention, Management and Resolution of conflict in Africa. South Africa has assumed a leading role in the establishment of the AU’s Peace and Security Architecture.

Since the advent, we have deployed resources both directly and through our multilateral institutions such as SADC, AU and the UN to strengthen our mediation efforts in Zimbabwe, Burundi, Madagascar, Sudan, Cote d’ Ivoire and Libya to mention but a few. South Africa’s commitment to post conflict reconstruction and development has yielded good results as evidenced in countries such as Sudan; Somalia, the DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Comoros  and CAR amongst others.

Ladies and gentlemen,

South Africa has strived to improve working relations between the United Nations Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council. In this regard, we have contributed personnel to multinational peace and security initiatives in support of regional AU and UN peace missions in amongst others Lesotho, Burundi, Comoros, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In the recent past, South Africa contributed to the establishment of the African Capacity for the Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC), which is the precursor of the African Standby Force (ASF. We will later in 2015 host the Amani Africa II Field Training Exercise, comprising forces from the region and ACIRC to test the readiness of the ASF.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have spared no energy in pursuing of the African dream. South Africa contributed to the development and adoption of Africa’s Agenda 2063 - a 50 years shared strategic framework for people-centred, inclusive growth and sustainable development. This vision is rooted in the Pan African drive “for self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity,” which seeks to realise the following seven aspirations:

•    A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development;

•    An integrated continent, politically united, based on the ideals of Pan- Africanism; including free movement of people, capital, goods and services;

•    An Africa of good governance, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law, including the entrenchment of democratic values, universal principles of human rights and  gender equality;

•    A peaceful and secure Africa, inclusive of the capacity to protect its citizens and interests, through a common defence, foreign and security policy;

•    An Africa with a strong cultural identity, values and ethics; where our diversity in culture, heritage, languages and religion shall be a cause of strength;

•    An Africa whose development is people-driven, especially relying on the potential offered by its women and youth; characterized by empowered women and youth; and

•    Africa as a strong, resilient and influential global player and partner, through being an active and equal participant in global affairs; and financing its own development.

Ladies and gentlemen

I indulge you in the details of Agenda 2063 because it is a vision which will be guiding us towards the Africa we seek to achieve. In the same vein the 25th Session of the AU Heads of State and Government was held in South Africa in June 2015 under the theme “Women’s Empowerment and Development Towards Agenda 2063.”

The Summit adopted the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan of Agenda 2063, which identifies those absolutely key projects that have to be attained by 2023.

Further, the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) negotiations were launched by the Summit. This will go a long way in integrating Africa’s markets and facilitating free movement of goods and means of production. The CFTA will contribute towards economic connectivity in Africa and bolster Intra-African Trade.


Ladies and gentlemen,

South Africa participates in BRICS to advance its own interests, the interests of Africa and the global South. We share a common vision with other members of BRICS. It is a vision which we will continue to pursue through economic cooperation, sharing of technical expertise, knowledge and experiences.

You will recall that when we hosted the 5th BRICS Summit in 2013 here in Durban, selected African leaders participated in the BRICS Retreat. This approach is informed by our continued commitment to utilise different forums and partnerships to advance the African Agenda as a thrust of South Africa’s foreign policy. BRICS leaders committed to cooperate and support Africa to diversify its economies through infrastructure development, knowledge exchange, building and investing in the continent’s human capital.

Ladies and gentlemen

The Seventh BRICS Summit was held in July 2015 in Ufa, the Russian Federation. The Summit marked a new era for BRICS engagement, as well as South Africa’s engagement with BRICS. In this regard, the Agreement on the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Treaty Establishing a Contingent Reserve Arrangement, which was signed during the Sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil entered into force in Russia.

South Africa subsequently undertook the necessary steps to honour our obligations to support the operationalisation of the Bank’s Headquarters in Shanghai and to open the African Regional Centre in Johannesburg concurrently. Mr Leslie Maasdorp was appointed as South Africa’s Vice President to the Bank while Mr Tito Mboweni was appointed our Non-Executive Director of the Bank. The Minister of Finance Mr Nene will represent South Africa in the NDB Board as Governor.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In line with our BRICS commitment we are seconding South African government officials and experts to Shanghai to assist with the drafting of the Bank’s legal, strategic and financial policies.
We are also sourcing and preparing a new generation of experts to assume permanent positions at the Headquarters and our own African Regional Centre.  

The Executive Management Team of the NDB is busy finalising the required policies, legal requirements and modalities in order to commence with its core business. Once completed we envisage the bank to approve and announce its first loans for projects in early 2016. South Africa will submit its own project proposals when the time is right, which will also include a regional project.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The BRICS Bank is not a replacement to any of the Bretton Woods institutions. Rather, the Bank will enable developing countries to fund large-scale projects on their own terms. These are complementary institutions to the existing global financial architecture to ensure a more direct response to the needs of developing countries.

The Summit endorsed a Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership aimed at deepening of trade and investment ties within BRICS. The Strategy will contribute towards increasing value-added exports, as well as promoting investments among BRICS.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to briefly reflect on the number of Agreements and /or Frameworks that were concluded at the Summit, including:

•    Agreement among the Governments of the BRICS Member States on Cooperation in the Field of Culture;

•    Memorandum of Understanding on the Creation of the Joint BRICS Website;

•    Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation with the New Development Bank by the members of the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism (for South Africa it is the Development Bank of Southern Africa); and   

•    BRICS Framework Programme for funding multilateral joint research projects under the auspices of the Science, Technology And Innovation track during a meeting of experts prior to the Summit.

The Summit also witnessed the inaugural formal meetings of the BRICS Parliamentary Forum, BRICS Civil Forum, Youth Summit/Forum and the Business, Academia and Trade Union fora.


Ladies and gentlemen,

The relationship between China and Africa has experienced an immense trajectory of growth over the last ten years. China has become Africa's largest trading partner, and Africa is now one of China's major import sources. The continent is considered China’s second largest overseas construction project contract market and fourth largest investment destination.

I should state from the onset that the gains that have been realized are mutually beneficial to Africa and China. FOCAC is therefore an important structured mechanism for our engagement with China.  Its intention is to strengthen equal and harmonious partnership, grounded in the pursuit of economic development and catalysing Africa’s industrial revolution. Much of the structured interaction between China and Africa has been through the FOCAC Ministerial meetings.

South Africa assumed the role of Co-chair of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) during the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Forum, which took place in Beijing in July 2012. South Africa will continue in this role until 2018, when it will hand over to the next Co-chair on the African side. It is against this backdrop that South Africa will be hosting the 2nd Summit of FOCAC in Johannesburg in early December 2015.

The Johannesburg Summit is an extra-ordinary activity that can only be convened with the consent of all members of the Forum. The decision for South Africa to host this meeting was first mooted by President Xi Jinping and President Jacob Zuma during their bilateral discussions on the margins of the 6th BRICS Leaders’ Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil in March 2014.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This will be the 2nd such Summit, following the convening of the inaugural in 2006 in Beijing. The Beijing Summit was a seminal event in the life of FOCAC which gave real impetus to the partnership. It was during this Summit when President Hu Jintao announced the Six New Measures for China-Africa Cooperation. These included the creation of the China-Africa Development Fund to assist in driving China’s manufacturing investment on the continent.

The theme for the upcoming 2nd FOCAC Summit is “Africa-China Progressing Together: Win-Win Cooperation for Common Development”. This theme is designed to take into account the aspirations of both the African continent and China. It also seeks to ensure increased focus on Agenda 2063 and its First Ten-Year Implementation Plan as a driving force of Africa’s partnerships with the rest of the world.

South Africa will utilise the occasion of the Summit to advocate for the centrality of the AU in all African development partnerships. We will collectively seek to bring in key elements of Agenda 2063 and its First Ten-Year Implementation Plan as Africa’s guiding vision for its development into the FOCAC Plan of Action.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Summit will focus on a number of key areas critical to the growth of African economies. The pursuit of Africa’s integration agenda is central to the continent’s developmental aspirations. In this regard, President Zuma plays a significant role as an AU champion for infrastructure development.

We are confident that China will continue to be a partner on regional infrastructure development. This ties in with the work of NEPAD in the context of the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), and President Zuma’s role as the Chair of the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative (PICI) and Champion of the North-South Corridor.

The following issues will undoubtedly dominate our discussions:

•    Improving railway connectivity, in particular networks that can facilitate intra-regional trade;

•    Developing a suitable road infrastructure that enables regional trade and the movement of people, goods and services;

•    Improving sea shipping and air transport; and

•    Investing in a well-developed ICT and digital economy.

China has the unique distinction of being the only country in the world to achieve full industrialisation within a 30-year period. This has been achieved determination to invest in people and technology, and to adopt best practice from pioneer countries. The Chinese experience can hold many lessons for Africa. Skills and technology transfer, as well as agro-processing are amongst the sectors that could be of benefit to Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to reiterate that democratic South Africa embraces the spirit of good neighbourliness. It seeks to contribute towards regional stability and development through cooperation with its neighbours.

Our identity is not merely on a geographical bases but we fully embrace African values and identity as an African country. In this regard, South Africa will continue to prioritise the development of the African continent through the creation of a peaceful and stable continent as an important impetus for prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In conclusion we must remember that our foreign policy is intrinsically linked to our domestic priorities. All our international engagements seek to address the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment and our objectives as set out in the National Development Plan. South Africa’s foreign policy remains an extension of our domestic policy.

We know our future well-being remains inextricably linked to the future of our continent. We know full well that we cannot address our own triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment without full and inclusive growth and development in our country. We also know that our  inclusive growth and development is dependent on the inclusive growth and development of our entire region and continent. Equally so, we know that there can be no growth and development of our continent without peace and stability, good governance and integrated regional and continental infrastructure development to ensure inter-regional and continental trade and economic development.   

This is why we do what we do in Africa. This is why we focus on:

•    Conflict resolution and conflict prevention;

•    Post-reconstruction and development;

•    Humanitarian support;

•    Strengthening good governance architectural and institutional capacity support;

•    Peace and security architectural and institutional support;

•    Infrastructure development support; and

•    Creating alternative global and continental financial support and institutions.   

I thank you. 





February/March 2020
















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