Remarks by minister Dr Naledi Pandor
At the launch of the Coordination Mechanism for Economic Diplomacy (comed)
7 March 2022, DIRCO Conference Centre, OR Tambo Building
Thank you Programme Director
Minister of Public Enterprises, Minister Pravin Gordhan
Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Mr Fikile Majola
South African Heads of Mission attending via virtual platform
Mr Cas Coovadia, CEO of Business Unity South Africa
Mr Kganki Matabane, CEO of the Black Business Council
Ms Bongiwe Kunene, Managing Director of the Banking Association of South Africa
Ms Busi Mavuso, CEO of Business Leadership South Africa
Other executive leaders of business, and government senior managers
Guests physically present and those attending via virtual platform
Members of the media
Today we are launching a very important initiative that has the potential to change the way we do business on the continent and help us achieve our economic objectives. The Coordination Mechanism for Economic Diplomacy (COMED) is intended to promote enhanced coordination between government departments, State Owned Companies (SOCs) and private sector organisations that are doing business on the African continent.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we pursue our African agenda, we urgently require a coordination mechanism that will facilitate a close partnership between government and business, and will provide leadership to our government-wide effort to promote our economic interests. The economic relationships between South Africa, the SADC region, and the continent will greatly benefit from a more coordinated approach, which will also assist in attracting foreign direct investment and building economies of scale.
The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) has provided a framework that will stimulate greater levels of intra-African trade, and it is now for us to capitalise on this opportunity and strategise as South Africans on how best to leverage existing opportunities.
I am delighted that today we realise yet another firm commitment to the strengthening of the “SA Inc” approach on issues of trade and investment cooperation within the continent. This was a discussion that started more than a year ago between DIRCO, DTIC, DPE and private sector organisations, and has reached a point where all stakeholders have agreed on the need to work together.
Government will only achieve our domestic priorities if we succeed in economic diplomacy. But as Government we cannot attract the necessary investment and trade to make an impact on our national priorities by working in silos. In order to effectively address the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality, the private sector needs to work closely with us as we share market intelligence and attempt to open doors for them through our representatives on the ground.
It is time for government to actively reach out to our local entrepreneurs and assist them in making inroads on our continent. It makes no sense that many African countries continue to import products and produce from outside of Africa when we manufacture and grow many of the same items locally. If we come together, we have the capacity to turn this situation around to our mutual benefit.
I can confidently affirm today that our Government is committed to work with all stakeholders in the promotion of our national interests. On several occasions our private companies have asked us to support them when they have been treated unfairly when doing business outside of South Africa, and we will continue to do so.
Ladies and gentlemen,
A recently conducted review by the Africa Branch here at DIRCO identified the following important trends on the continent:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As Government, we have the institutional network to provide the requisite support for coordination between players in the economic arena. We operate through 47 diplomatic Missions on the continent and have full diplomatic relations with all 54 African countries, including the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. We operate in countries with varying levels of stability, and an important part of our work is to promote peace and stability, which we know is a prerequisite for sustainable development and prosperity.
Stability enables countries to develop infrastructure and industries, creating employment and reducing poverty. The continent is endowed with investment opportunities in all fields, and South Africa has the requisite capacity to participate in these opportunities competitively.
South Africa has deep historic economic linkages with our immediate neighbours in the Southern African region, and we have major economic influence. But we are faced with growing competition from outside powers for market share, which presents an urgent challenge. Some of our neighbours have found foreign offers more beneficial, which necessitates a process of introspection to examine how we can improve our competitive edge.
While governments across the continent have expressed a willingness to support the growth of South African businesses in their countries, we need to coordinate our own efforts in a systematic way.
Your presence here today is a testament to the tangible support of your respective departments to this important initiative which will also serve as a mechanism for regional integration. Together we will identify economic opportunities on our continent, share information on market conditions, and promote good corporate practices. The Coordination Mechanism for Economic Diplomacy (COMED) will create the much-needed coordination mechanism between government and local businesses.
The greatest challenge facing all of us going forward is to turn our commitment to economic diplomacy into tangible actions on the ground, which will result in substantially higher levels of intra African trade and investment – so crucial for our own economic prosperity.