South Africa, Belgium deepen relations

5 July 2012

South Africa and Belgium have agreed to cooperate in areas that could help South Africa meet its key priorities nationally, as well as in the rest of Africa.

This came out of a meeting between International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and her Belgian counterpart, Didier Reynders, in Pretoria on Wednesday.

The two looked at how Belgium can help support South Africa’s national priorities, especially infrastructure development.

Addressing the media after their meeting, Nkoana-Mashabane said the government remained convinced that the key to the economic development of the continent lay in creating the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the free movement of goods, people and services.

“We remain committed to integrating the continent in order to create a bigger market,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.

She said the planned Tripartite Free Trade Area involving the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) would open up more investment opportunities.

Despite the economic crisis faced by the Euro countries, Reynders said Belgium was committed to working closely with South Africa in the identification and implementation of various projects, which have the potential to assist South Africa achieve its developmental objectives, especially in the fields of infrastructure development, skills development, energy, water and education.

Reynders said Belgium was pleased with the progress the country had made in its development and its role in some of the international platforms.

Belgium has long played a meaningful role in the development of South Africa. In recent years, it allocated €25-million euro as official development assistance (ODA) to South Africa covering health, education and capacity-building in the public sector.

There is also extensive cooperation between the ports of Durban and Antwerp, as Belgium is a leading country in ports management, transport and logistics, which are especially important to South Africa in the context of its strategic infrastructure projects.

The two ministers also reflected on issues of mutual concern such as the economic developments in Europe, which Nkoana-Mashabane indicated SA was following closely, given the inter-dependency of the economies.

“As a member of the G20, we pledge to work with our partners to do everything in our power and means to contribute towards the solution. This crisis is not Europe’s problem alone, it’s a global crisis,” said Nkoana-Mashabane.

Reynders will also meet with Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu, as well as travel to KwaZulu-Natal for a meeting with Premier Zweli Mkhize.

Source: SANews.gov.za