'The renewal of AGOA is vital' - SA President Ramaphosa
Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa during the meeting with the congressional black caucus and anti-apartheid veterans during his visit to the United States:
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, Dr Naledi Pandor
South Africa’s Ambassador to the United States, Ms Nomaindia Mfeketo
Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Ms Joyce Beatty
Spokesperson of the Rainbow Push Coalition, Prof Jonathan Jackson Friends,
We are extremely grateful that our friends in Congressional Black Caucus and the anti-apartheid veterans have accepted this invitation to meet with us.
This meeting brings together the peoples of South Africa and the United States, who were united in the fight against apartheid in South Africa and racial segregation in the US.
We cannot express enough South Africa’s gratitude to the anti-apartheid activists for the significant role they played and continue to play in advocating for the recognition of the sovereign equality of nations.
The voice of the Congressional Black Caucus is as relevant now as it was at the height of the fight against apartheid, putting pressure on countries in conflict to respect international human rights conventions.
The people of Western Sahara and Palestine depend on such support in their fight for self-determination.
After our experience of apartheid, we know that self-determination can only be achieved with the support and solidarity of the people of the world.
We remember that the 1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act was a critical contribution towards the end of apartheid.
We re-affirm President Nelson Mandela’s statement to Congress in June 1990, when he said: “You have given us the gift and privilege to re-join our people, yourselves and the rest of the international community in the common effort to transform South Africa into a united, democratic and non-racial country.”
South Africa remains seized with the persistent challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
We therefore appreciate the continued efforts of our friends in the United States to overcome the debilitating effects of apartheid and colonialism.
As they have done with such great effect in the past, members of the Congressional Black Caucus can use their influence to promote policies that advance Africa’s development agenda.
The Congressional Black Caucus should hold the US government to account for its implementation of the US Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa, which acknowledges the role of the African continent in global affairs and seeks a partnership among equals.
We are therefore concerned the possible implications for the African Continent if the ‘Countering Malign Russian Activities Bill’ were to become US law.
The law could have the unintended consequence of punishing the continent for efforts to advance development and growth.
Both the US and Russia are strategic partners for South Africa. As a sovereign country that pursues an independent foreign policy, the Bill seems to punish those who hold independent views.
It is disappointing that this Bill has been crafted at a time when President Biden has sought to engage African countries on the basis of respect for their independence and sovereignty.
In the wake of the devastating social and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa is working hard to rebuild our economy.
We have held four South Africa Investment Conferences to mobilise investments that would stimulate economic growth, create jobs and assist with skills training and capacity building, especially for the youth.
We are undertaking far-reaching structural reforms to make our economy more competitive. We are improving the ease of doing business by doing away with red tape and streamlining investment support.
We call on the members of the Congressional Black Caucus and anti-apartheid veterans to encourage investment in South Africa and Africa more broadly.
The renewal of AGOA is vital to ensure that the progress made over many years to strengthen trade and investment ties between the US and the continent is not lost.
We call on you to help us to change the narrative about Africa, which seeks to portray the continent as riven by conflict and which gives a false impression that Africa has nothing to offer the rest of the world.
On the contrary, we know that Africa has huge potential for growth and development.
The African Continental Free Trade Area will place the economies of Africa on a new trajectory of development and production.
The continent’s united response to the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that Africa has the will and the means to work together to overcome the greatest challenges.
It is important that Africa should be allowed the space to choose its own partners and should never again find itself as a battleground for influence among the global powers.
Instead, we seek to partner with countries from across the world in pursuit of Africa’s interests.
This includes partnerships on issues such as Africa's just energy transition in accordance with global equity and national circumstances and enabled through international support.
It includes partnerships to develop Africa’s human capital through education, and innovation. This is vital to ensuring the continent’s future stability, security and prosperity.
For us, this meeting is an important opportunity to reaffirm the ties of friendship and solidarity that have been forged over decades of common struggle for justice.
It is an opportunity to reflect on our shared vision for a better Africa and a better world, and to restate our commitment to work together to realise that vision.
Thank you again for your attendance and your support.
I thank you.
Issued by The Presidency, 16 September 2022