Essop Pahad - Opening session of 2010 National Communication Partnership Conference

29 July 2008

29 July 2008

Programme Director,
The Chairpersons of the 2010 National Communication Partnership, Mr Nkenke Kekana and Mr Nkwenkwe Nkomo,
Chairman of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee SA, Dr Irvin Khoza,
CEO of Government Communications (GCIS), Mr Themba Maseko,
Acting CEO of the International Marketing Council of South Africa, Mr Moeketsi Mosola,
Distinguished guests,

On behalf of the government of the Republic of South Africa, I welcome all delegates who have travelled to the conference from other countries and continents. I have been informed that we have delegates from countries such as Botswana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Sudan and Swaziland to mention but a few. Our theme for this World Cup is Ke Nako, Celebrate Africa’s Humanity and it is this theme that informs our understanding of partnerships and our communications messages for 2010.

On 15 May 2004, we all watched with great anticipation as FIFA, the world football governing body, decided that the 2010 World Cup would be held in South Africa – a first both for South Africa and for our continent. From the onset we were very clear that should our bid be successful we would be hosting an African World Cup not just a South African World Cup event.

The staging of the event on African soil presents us with an enormous opportunity to showcase our country and our continent. I want to assure and reassure all of the participants present today that we are on track to host the best and most successful World Cup of Soccer ever held.

For us this event is about much more than sports – it is about Africa and Africa’s ability to host the world. It is about getting out from underneath the welter of negative press coverage our continent receives. It is about informing the world that Africa has much to offer, that our people are ready to receive the world, ready to host those who come to the World Cup and that when they come they will receive a wonderfully unforgettable African experience.

Hosting the FIFA World Cup of Soccer is about more than a sporting event. For us in South Africa sports is linked both to our struggle for freedom and democracy and to our national identity. The overwhelming majority of our people are soccer-loving fans, and the ups and downs, the victories and defeats of our national side, impact on their moods and tempo. When the national side wins we are upbeat, confident and walk on air and when they lose the collective national sigh is long and audible.

This National Communications Partnership Conference comes at a time when we are cementing partnerships at a number of levels – first, partnership between and among the FIFA representatives, the LOC, the GCIS, SA Tourism and the IMC. Second, there is the forging of a partnership with other African countries; for this is the African World Cup of Soccer. Third, there is a partnership with domestic and international sponsors of the FIFA 2010 World Cup. Fourth, a partnership with the media and with marketing agencies in South Africa, and fifth, a partnership with the people of our country - for this is also their World Cup. It is our people who will be our Ambassadors to our guests from around the world. In many respects, they will be the first point of contact with our global visitors.

Partnership means working together on the basis of equality, to advance certain goals which the constituent parts of the partnership share in common. And the overarching goal we all share in common, is hosting an incredible event on our continent that will be the envy of all. To achieve this goal the partnerships in all the spheres I have identified need to recognise that the eyes of the world are already on us, but the stare will intensify right after the Olympics in Beijing are over.

So as partners in this historic sporting event, we need to project to the world our readiness and our humanity. It is in all our interests - the government, the private sector, and the media - to be vigilant about our progress in all the intersecting spheres of 2010 activities. We must all exercise our oversight role responsibly, and with a view to projecting to our people and the world an accurate picture of progress to date.

We see the hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup as an opportunity to also demonstrate to the world the positive socio-economic developments in our country, our region and our continent. We are confident that global perceptions of Africa and of South Africa will change. In the run-up to 2010 we need to go on a massive “Highlight and Accentuate the Positive” campaign, but we must do it fully-cognisant that where there are shortcomings in our preparations and timelines, they need to be pointed out honestly and in the spirit of co-operation and mutual interest. A well-managed successful FIFA World Cup of Soccer is in the best interests of all of us – the public and the private sector, the people and the media.Rather than being defensive and reactive, we need to be receptive and proactive. Let us be proactive around the following key themes:

  1. Our stadiums will be ready for 2010. In fact, they will be ready before the World Cup, as the stadia are also the venues for the Confederations Cup. We are on-target to meet the FIFA deadlines for stadia readiness. There is only one stadium that will not be ready for the Confederations Cup in 2009, however all stadia will be ready for 2010 and FIFA is completely satisfied with construction progress to date.
  2. We have an advanced, well-developed technical infrastructure – our banking and IT services are on par with the rest of the world. So, visitors coming to South Africa will not face challenges communicating with relatives abroad.
  3. Our physical infrastructure is being totally upgraded, and will be ready for 2010. In particular, we need to allay concerns about electricity supply, an accessible and safe public transportation system, crime, safety and security.
  4. Accommodation is plentiful and of a very high calibre in all the host cities.
  5. The pre- and post-2010 tourism experience will be exceptional. Tourism SA is in the process of linking 2010 to a range of other tourism experiences throughout the country and the region.
  6. Travel throughout the region will, as far as possible, be relatively easy and seamless – we are even in negotiations on a UNIVISA to enable tourists to travel in the region on a single visa.
  7. As an African World Cup, Africa will benefit from the 2010 World Cup of Soccer. A set of Legacy projects of benefit to our continent is already at an advanced stage of planning.

As we continue to prepare for hosting 2010, we must always remind ourselves that the event is bigger than the moment. It goes beyond 2010, as its impact will undoubtedly stretch well into the 21st Century. So all of us, including the media, need to ask ourselves two important questions:

  1. What do we see as our role in this partnership? [and]
  2. Have we moved to a point where we are self-confident that we can project our core messages around the world?

Given the power of the media to shape images and perceptions, we need to ask whether the media in our country have the capacity and independence-of-mind to question news items about our state of readiness that emanate from Reuters, the BBC, Spanish newspapers etc? And more than question, do the media have the ability and self confidence to point out that the stories are wrong, that they lack credibility, that they are unsubstantiated by the facts on the ground?

We are aware that negative stories will from time to time emerge in the international media. But the critical question is, will the media in South Africa simply parrot those stories, or will they be discerning and dig beneath and undertake a critical analysis of what is being said? This is not by way of saying that the media in South Africa ought not to be critical of shortcomings in our preparations - they must be critical, for in their responsible reporting they assist us as well.

As we gather here today to mark the 3rd annual National Communication Partnership Conference, we need to reflect on what has transpired since that historic day when we were announced to the world as hosts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Many things have since taken place. The construction of stadiums and renovations of existing ones is continuing apace. Improvements to our transport system continue, as are other projects central to the successful hosting of this prestigious event.

As government we remain committed to the guarantees that we have made to FIFA, with regard to creating an enabling and receptive environment for the many thousands of visitors who will be visiting our country to watch the football tournament. It is however, also important to ensure that our visitors are given a total African experience that would remain with them for years to come. They must leave South Africa as our praise singers, ready to return and ready to urge others to come. Communication therefore is central to achieving these goals.

The next two years will undoubtedly be a time when we repeatedly test our state of readiness. Our systems will be put to stringent tests and we will be obliged to report on a regular basis what we are doing to ensure a successful event.

Informed by our common goal of building a better Africa and a better world, communicators from all corners of the African continent should strive to communicate a message of unity with one integrated and coherent voice.

I trust that I speak on behalf of my fellow countrymen and women gathered here today, when I say that this is Africa’s moment to shine. In our communication of the 2010 World Cup, we need to give real meaning to what we said when we told the world that this is going to be an African World Cup. As government, we are truly encouraged that our brothers and sisters from other parts of the African continent have heeded the call and have made an effort to be with us over the next two days. This partnership means a lot to us as the host nation.

Our partnership with our people means that we must prepare them to be ambassadors. We are all involved in the World Cup, whether we are the taxi drivers who pick up tourists at the airports, workers in the service industry, people on the street who are stopped and asked for information, or official translators trained in the many global languages. Partnership in this sense means training our people to be official and unofficial hosts. We must ensure that our people realise that as hosts their behaviour impacts on global perceptions of our nation and our continent. The messages we must communicate revolve around our people’s warmth, their hospitality, their friendliness and their compassion. And we must engage in a mass campaign to make sure that the best of what we are as South Africans shines through.

The period building up to the tournament presents us with an opportunity to express our commitment to our continent, and to cementing unity-of-purpose and pride-of-place among all of us. The many skills, talents and ingenuity that will, without question, emerge in the next two years, can only benefit our country post-2010.

Building and sustaining partnerships such as the 2010 Communication Partnership is vital in ensuring that we take full advantage of the opportunities that 2010 presents to us, to project a positive image of Africa.

Our approach to convincing the world that we are capable of staging an event of this scale and magnitude must inextricably be linked to the broader agenda of the African Renaissance, for as we repeatedly acknowledge, our destiny is linked to that of the rest of Africa, and we are working to build a better South Africa, a better Africa and a better world.

In January 2006, the AU Heads of State and Governments declared 2007 the International Year of African Football (IYoAF) in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Confederation of African Football (CAF). CAF understands that sport is an instrument for the promotion of unity, solidarity, peace, reconciliation, gender mainstreaming, sustainable economic development, poverty reduction, and the promotion of healthy lifestyles among youth.

The build-up to the 2010 World Cup, and the hosting of the event, is a time to share with the rest of humanity all the good things about us and our continent, which is precisely why we say “Ke Nako, celebrate Africa’s humanity.” When we talk of Africa’s humanity, we talk of the contribution that this continent and its people have made to the development of humanity. But we also talk of the wellspring of good will, the compassion, the caring and the warmth of the people of our continent. So communicating about 2010 is about multi-faceted communication, directed at incredibly-diverse audiences, especially and including our own people.

We need to be at the cutting edge of all communication efforts – consolidating all our endeavours to ensure that we set the agenda of public discourse around this World Cup. We cannot and should not allow the discourse to be dominated by others. To reiterate what was said by President Thabo Mbeki a while ago: "The government will leave no stone unturned to ensure that everything is done to host a tournament that meets the expectations of billions of football fans across the world. Together, we will ensure the resounding success of the first FIFA African World Cup."

This commitment places a huge obligation on all of us gathered today, to strive to act in ways that will give meaning to the commitment made by the President.

It is therefore the task of this gathering to ensure that at the end, we emerge with a clear approach of how best can we utilise communication to mobilise all of us in partnership with each other, with our people and society, to make the World Cup and everything surrounding it successful.

The outcomes of this conference should be those that ensure that it is Africans themselves who share our stories with the world, in line with our slogan “Ke Nako, celebrate Africa’s humanity.”

There is no better platform to realise our over-arching goal of hosting the best World Cup of Soccer ever, than this Partnership.

On behalf of the government of the Republic of South Africa, I wish you fruitful deliberations in the next two days, as you seek better ways of telling a compelling story about our beautiful continent.

Ours is a message that says Ke Nako, Celebrate Africa’s Humanity.

I thank you.

Minister in The Presidency, Dr Essop Pahad

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)

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