His Excellency Delarey Van Tonder, Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to Kuwait, takes time from his busy schedule to answer a few questions on bilateral relations and the participation of his country in the third African Arab Summit being held in Kuwait on November 19 and 20.
1- How does SA perceive the upcoming Arab Africa Summit?
South Africa welcomes the economic focus of the Summit under the very appropriate theme “Partners in Development and Investment”. This theme, as well as the priority areas, which focus on trade and investment, infrastructure development, transport, energy, communications, agriculture and food security, private sector development and cooperation, migration and enhancing the role of women in economic development are designed to ensure a concrete impact on the lives of the people of our two interrelated regions. Furthermore, the Summit is expected to reaffirm the long-standing cooperation between Africa and the Arab World and the positive contribution of Kuwait to our continental development Agenda.
The philosophy underpinning Arab Africa partnerships is predicated on specific objectives that focus on outcomes for the mutual benefit of the parties involved. It is also based on the principles of trust, equality and mutual respect. Furthermore, South Africa seeks to utilise these partnerships to obliterate the dominant historical pattern of donor-recipient relationships, and to forge strategic linkages founded on reciprocal obligations, responsibilities, and advantages. As such Africa offers a stable investment environment with steady long-term returns on investment.
The Summit comes at an appropriate time of growing economic complementarities between Africa and the Arab World. According to the Gulf Research Centre (GRC) annual economic growth in the GCC region and Africa has been amongst the fastest growing globally. This creates a dynamic platform for formalised cooperation by regional organizations in the Arab World (inclusive of the GCC) with African Regional Economic Communities (REC’s), Africa’s officially endorsed socio-economic development plan known as the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as well as expanded cooperation between Arab financial institutions and the African Development Bank (ADB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
2- How does South Africa view the initiative of H.H. the Amir of the State of Kuwait to host the Summit?
The Amir of the State of Kuwait H.H. Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah is held in the highest esteem in my country as a result of his humanist, visionary and strategic leadership role in the GCC region and globally.
South Africa believes that the Summit comes at an appropriate time when the African Continent and Arab World remain seized with redefining its destiny and role in the globalising world. This emphasis also find expression in the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the OAU/AU and in the development of Agenda 2063, through which Africa seeks to elaborate a substantive framework for the development and integration of the Continent over the next 50 years, based on the principles of inclusive and sustainable growth.
Africa with its enormous resources and exciting potential presents a plethora of new and evolving trade, tourism and investment opportunities that could serve as a catalyst for strengthening the already excellent relations with the Arab States and specifically the State of Kuwait within the GCC context.
3-Will SA present a working paper to the Summit?
South Africa is a member of the Summit Drafting Committee. We are therefore committed that the outcomes of the Summit, contained in the Kuwait Declaration and Action Plan 2014-2016 should provide practical and concrete solutions in formalising existing opportunities for cooperation, to provide the institutional and financial capacity for Africa/Arab partnerships, and to raising the levels of trade, tourism and investment.
South Africa remains confident that Africa and the Arab States are well poised to bring about a conducive environment for the attainment of mutually beneficial sustainable socio-economic growth and development, and pledges to make every effort to support these outcomes, including participation in the cultural programmes of the Summit. Moreover, as a measurable expression of our commitment to the outcome of the Summit, a South African Trade and Investment Promotion Delegation will visit the State of Kuwait following the conclusion of the Summit on 20 November in order to promote closer economic ties between our countries.
4- How do you see bilateral ties between SA and Kuwait?
I am honoured to report that bilateral relations between our countries remain cordial and solid. South Africa views the State of Kuwait as a strategic role player in security and stability in the Gulf region as well as in international energy security. Furthermore, Kuwait performs a most constructive role as an investor on our Continent and specifically South Africa where it continues to contribute to the socio economic and infrastructure development of my country.
South Africa is pleased with the positive state of relations between the two countries. We have concluded strategic bilateral agreements and a substantial number of agreements are under consideration including the establishment of a Bilateral Joint Commission which will further consolidate and strengthen bilateral political and economic cooperation. The challenge however remains for both sides to deepen relations at all levels.
South Africa’s relations with Kuwait and the Gulf States have expanded significantly since the establishment of South Africa’s democratic order in 1994. Not only is the Gulf region a substantial source of South Africa’s crude oil requirements, the GCC countries have become a major market for South African products especially agricultural exports, a source of investment and home to a sizeable South African expatriate community.
Several South African companies in the construction and engineering sectors have successfully executed major projects in the region including cooperation in the defence and petrochemical sectors.
Although trade and commercial relations between South Africa and Kuwait need to be further expanded, Kuwait maintains a positive role as an investor with significant investment through its Sovereign Wealth Fund (KIA) in South Africa’s capital and financial markets.
Of note however, is the substantive involvement of amongst other Kuwait’s International Financial Advisors (IFA) and the Al Kharafi Group in the hospitality, premium real estate and tourism infrastructure development sectors in South Africa. Kapico, a local company with international reach has also invested beneficially in South Africa and the wider Southern Africa region.
The State of Kuwait has left a positive footprint on our Continent as an investment partner by contributing to Africa’s sustainable socio economic development, especially through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED). In times of need Kuwait continues to provide critical humanitarian and emergency support to Africa.
The historic visit of former President Nelson Mandela to the State of Kuwait in 1995 added a special dimension to our bilateral relations and also impacted positively on Kuwait’s constructive involvement in the economic development of the African Continent. Since then regular high level bilateral and multilateral engagements between our countries have continued in order to strengthen cooperation in the political, economic, security and social spheres.
I am also satisfied to report that South African nationals in Kuwait continue to make a positive contribution to the national priorities of the State of Kuwait especially in the field of education, banking and finance, health, engineering, energy, law and human resources development.
I wish to extend a cordial invitation to Kuwaitis to visit and consider investment in South Africa. Africa is rising - Experience it!