Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Heads of Mission Conference

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Programme Director,
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu
Deputy Ministers, Mr Luwellyn Landers and Ms Reginah Mhaule,
Members of the Portfolio and Select Committees,
Members of the Ministerial Review Panel,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to join you at this biennial gathering that brings together our country’s global envoys to assess our progress in advancing our country’s interests on the continent and around the world.

We strive to advance our national interest in a global landscape that is in a constant state of flux, where political, social and economic forces beyond our control have a direct bearing on our efforts.

Like any other country, South Africa is not immune to tremors in the global economy or to shifts in geo-politics.

In the midst of global uncertainty, we are fortunate to have at the helm of our diplomatic service an experienced and capable corps of people who can be relied upon to steadfastly promote our progressive international agenda.

In all our efforts, we are guided by the National Development Plan 2030, which provides a roadmap for unleashing the energies of our citizens, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities and enhancing the ability of the state.

At the same time, we wholly identify with the aspirations of Agenda 2063 of the African Union and its vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena”.

South Africa and its fortunes are inextricably linked to those of the continent.

In accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961, Inkosi Albert Luthuli said:

“I accept this also as an honour not only to South Africa, but for the whole continent of Africa, to this continent, Mother Africa!”

It was the people of Africa who extended the hand of friendship and solidarity to us during the dark days of apartheid, and today it is African countries who are our valued allies and trade partners.

When Africa falters, South Africa falters. And when Africa prospers, South Africa prospers.

We are guided by the words of Kwame Nkrumah, who said:

“Divided we are weak, united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world.”

This year marks the centenaries of two titans of the liberation struggle, Tata Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu.

As we reflect on their respective legacies, we are ever mindful of the sacrifices they and many others made for our liberation.

We carry a weighty responsibility to ensure that their sacrifices were not in vain, and to realise their vision of a South Africa free from discrimination, inequality and want.

Although we have registered notable progress in the 24 years since democracy, we still grapple with the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

To address these challenges, government is on an ambitious drive to grow our economy, anchored in cooperation between government, business, labour and civil society.

We want to get our economy going following a period of stagnant growth.

We want to regain public and investor trust, and thereby unlock private capital and promote investment.

Above all, we want to see our people secure dignified, meaningful employment to ensure that all South Africans benefit from economic growth.

In just two days from now, we will open the South Africa Investment Conference in Johannesburg, a critical intervention to showcase opportunities for both domestic and foreign investors.

The conference is an integral part of government’s ambitious drive to raise $100 billion in new investment over 5 years, stimulate economic growth and create jobs.

The Conference will discuss opportunities in sectors like agriculture, minerals, manufacturing, transportation, energy, water, ICT, tourism and film.

This Heads of Mission Conference therefore takes place at an important moment, for it is you, our diplomats, who must play a pivotal role in driving the message that South Africa is open for business.

It is our missions abroad that are leading our economic diplomacy, that need to ensure that the outcomes of the conference are conveyed around the world, and that are responsible for assisting the expansion of trade and investment links with partner countries.

The Investment Conference follows the successful Jobs Summit held earlier this month, where more than 70 interventions were identified to protect existing jobs and create new ones.

The framework agreement adopted by social partners at the Summit focuses on empowering women and the youth, stimulating demand in the local economy, and expanding our export capacity.

The Summit agreed that the ‘Buy South Africa’ should be significantly upscaled and that we should take advantage of new opportunities in Africa through regional and continental integration.

As part of our investment-friendly approach, we are focusing on addressing structural weaknesses in the economy, rebuilding investor confidence, restoring good governance in public institutions and creating a supportive environment for those who want to invest and those who have invested already.

South Africa’s advanced infrastructure has long been one of the country’s strongest attractions for investors.

As part of the work that we must undertake now to stimulate growth and create employment, we are consolidating our R400 billion MTEF infrastructure budget into an Infrastructure Fund.

This will be used to address infrastructure gaps in areas such as roads, water infrastructure, schools, human settlements and public transport.

Additional resources from development finance institutions, multilateral development banks and private lenders and investors will also be leveraged through this fund.

Over the past few months, we have already achieved a number of milestones in our quest for improved investment, resulting in renewed levels of business confidence.

For example, we have initiated changes to our visa regime to attract more skilled workers and tourists.

Processes to restore confidence in our institutions and organisations of governance are underway.

We are investigating and prosecuting cases of corruption.

The governance and management of key state owned enterprises is being overhauled to ensure they are held accountable to fulfil their economic and developmental mandates.

Our ability to generate foreign investment in our country depends in large measure on the image of our country abroad, which is one of the core responsibilities of our diplomats.

We must acknowledge that there are some negative perceptions about South Africa, its government and its economy that we need to work to correct.

It is important that we should not overlook the challenges we have, nor deny that we are emerging from a period of difficulty.

But it is clear that our democracy is resilient, that we are making progress in addressing the immediate challenges we face, and that we are establishing a foundation for lasting growth and fundamental transformation.

We should locate the South African narrative within the context of a continent that is on the rise.

It is estimated that over the next 20 years the working population of Africa will increase to more than a billion.

Ours is a young, active and increasingly connected continent.

With favourable demographics, high productivity potential and ideal positioning as a springboard into the rest of Africa, our country is an attractive destination for growth-seeking investors.

Ranked 61 out of 147 in the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Competitiveness Report and as the continent’s second biggest economy, South Africa offers investors the stability of a well-regulated and developed country, an effective legal environment, cost competitiveness and reliable infrastructure.

Our banking system is solid, well capitalised, well-regulated and internationally respected.

There is no doubt that we have a very solid base to work from.

Your Excellencies, 
The advent of globalisation heralded a new future that is highly connected and interdependent.

This means that there are a vast set of issues – from climate change to cross-border crime – that cannot be address by individual countries acting alone.

It is only through collective effort, supported by multilateral institutions like the United Nations, that we have been able to address some of our world’s most complex challenges.

As we witness the rise of extreme nationalism in some parts of the world, and neo-isolationism takes root in others, it is clear that the need for an effective, rules-based multilateral system is greater than ever.

The very essence of the UN Charter is respect for international law and the principles of international justice as we seek, as a global collective, to live in harmony, maintain international peace and security and respect the human rights of all.

Good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law is also among the aspirations of Agenda 2063.

If we are to safeguard our security and prosperity, if we are to silence the guns in Africa, we have to work to consolidate rather than erode the international rule of law.

It is international law that informs the exercise and limits of the use of state power, and that enforces cooperation over conflict, and collaboration over confrontation.

The challenge before us is to transform global politics from a power-based hierarchy to a rules-based international system where each country can advance and protect its national interest without provoking animosity.

The centrality of the UN to South Africa’s foreign engagement is based both on a strong belief in collective and equitable global governance, but also because of the UN’s role in the fight against apartheid.

South Africa enthusiastically embraces its responsibilities as an active member of the UN.

This is particularly the case as South Africa prepares to enter the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member from 2019.

Our election provides us with an opportunity to align the work of the UN with that of the AU and to promote the positions we have adopted when we campaigned for this non-permanent seat, including the priorities of Agenda 2063.

South Africa’s third term on the UN Security Council should build on President Nelson Mandela’s legacy of working towards a peaceful, just and prosperous world.

We must honour his legacy by serving as a bridge builder, bringing together divergent perspectives and seeking peaceful resolution of any conflict.

We must continue to campaign for the reform of the Security Council.

The current formation is antiquated, unrepresentative and prejudicial to developing and smaller states.

The Security Council remains the primary international organ mandated to promote international peace and security.

It is essential that it remains true to its mandate and moves beyond the paralysis brought on by the geo-political interests of a few member states.

The only way this can happen is if world leaders, including those who represent the Permanent Members of the Security Council, are bold and courageous and commit to enlarging the Security Council urgently.

Failure to do so will encourage states to start acting unilaterally, with disastrous consequences for all.

As South Africa, we need to pay particular attention to the intersection of the work of the UN Security Council and that of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union.

We should encourage greater cooperation and collaboration to ensure a common approach to ending conflict on the continent.

We will need to continue to be engaged with the ongoing challenges in Lesotho, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Somalia, Central African Republic, Mali and Libya.

The African Union has established and consolidated a comprehensive peace and security architecture.

The architecture is based on a paradigm that recognises preventive diplomacy as central to eradicating conflicts on our Continent.

We will use our term in the UN Security Council to highlight and advance the cause of the Palestinian and Saharawi peoples.

Peace and security in Africa is inextricably linked to its economic and social development.

The most effective way to ensure lasting stability is to achieve economic growth that benefits all of Africa’s people.

At the same time, peace and stability is a necessary condition for faster and more inclusive growth.

South Africa played an active role in remodelling the OAU into the African Union, specifically with the aim of strengthening Africa’s ability to resolve conflict.

We will continue to support the institutional reforms of the AU to ensure that it retains its agility in an ever-changing and complex world.

We are resolute that such reforms should conform to the AU Constitutive Act and not betray the Pan African philosophy of the founding leaders.

Your Excellencies,
On the multilateral level, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the G20 being held at summit level.

The meeting this year takes place in the context of uncertainty, increased unilateralism and protectionism by some G20 Members.

South Africa will continue to use its membership of the G20 to promote inclusive growth and development and support the Argentinian Presidency in their efforts towards consensus building and fair and sustainable development.

I will be departing for Berlin later this week where I will participate in the G20 Africa Conference, hosted by Chancellor Merkel, where we will reflect on the G20 Africa Partnership, inclusive of the Compact with Africa that seeks to enhance private sector investment in Africa’s infrastructure.

Earlier this year we successfully hosted the BRICS countries, establishing the foundation for a decade of greater cooperation, development and progress.

In addition to reaffirming our shared commitment to multilateralism and the interests of the countries of the global South, we developed an ambitious agenda for cooperation on the 4th Industrial Revolution and the opportunities provided by rapid advances in technology.

We are also taking the FOCAC grouping towards a strategic partnership, in which China will be a significant partner in developing African infrastructure and promoting regional integration.

South Africa will also be Chairing the Indian Ocean Rim Association, which we view as the pre-eminent regional organisation linking Africa, Middle East, Asia and Australasia.

We will focus on uniting the diverse countries that constitute the association behind an agenda of peace, stability and sustainable development.

Your Excellencies, 
We exist in an ever-changing and complex global environment.

As a country, as a brand, as a trade partner and as an investment destination, South Africa has what it takes to compete on the world stage.

It is up to us to make sure we take full advantage of the opportunities that exist for the benefit of all our people.

We have emerged from a difficult decade, which has dampened confidence and slowed our progress.

As we undertake the critical task of renewal and rebuilding, we draw strength from the knowledge that we stand on the shoulders of giants like Tata Mandela and Mama Sisulu.

Their examples have shown us that we can triumph over adversity.

They taught us that the race will never be won until all South Africans are able to lead lives of dignity, in peace and in prosperity.

Their lives provide ample evidence of the limitless potential of the human spirit to persevere and to prevail.

Working together as South Africans – and in concert with partners across the globe – we can be certain that we will indeed build a better Africa and a better world.

I thank you.