12 December 2011
South Africa and Benin have signed a cooperation deal that will boost flights between the two countries, as well as eliminate the need for visas for citizens of either country visiting the other.
The Bilateral Agreement on Air Services deal was signed by President Jacob Zuma and his counterpart, Boni Yayi, during Zuma’s one-day official visit to the West African country on Sunday.
The two confirmed their willingness to establish between the two countries a strategic partnership – which will mainly be facilitated by the business community – to help Benin establish development-oriented infrastructure such as transport, renewable energy and mines.
Yayi renewed his invitation to South African businesspeople and investors to come to Benin in order to discover business opportunities as well as the potential and assets of that country’s economy.
According to a joint statement, the two heads of state also exchanged views on the socio-political crises and other armed conflicts threatening peace, the role of the African Union and stability in Africa and worldwide.
“In this regard, they expressed their concerns over the increasing economic and political difficulties the continent has to face, and expressed the need for strengthening [the African Union] so as to enable it to better take up its new challenges,” the statement read.
Education a major priority
Zuma was bestowed with the Grand Cross, Benin’s highest distinction, as well as an honorary doctorate from the University of Abomey-Calavi for his steady commitment to the promotion of peace, stability and sustainable development in Africa and the world.
In his acceptance speech at Abomey-Calavi, Zuma highlighted his personal passion for education and what the South African government was doing to improve it. He said his passion arose from his inability to get an education due to his poor background as well as the legacy of apartheid.
He said education was a major government priority, receiving the highest budget allocation.
He said it was high time that African leaders put their focus on education, as it was a vital instrument for the promotion of justice, democracy and development.
“We have obtained our political freedom. To go further and achieve the economic freedom we so desire, we have to invest in education and skills development.”