Bua Briefs 16 of 2011

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9 November 2011

Presidential visit to Arabian/Persian Gulf Region

President Jacob Zuma is scheduled to conduct a two-legged visit to the Arabian/Persian Gulf (United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman) from 15 to 17 November 2011.

South Africa’s relations with the Gulf States have grown significantly since the mid-1990s. Not only is the Gulf the source of more than half of South Africa’s crude oil requirements, but it has become a major market for South African products, a source of investment and home to a sizeable South African expatriate community.

Several South African companies have representative offices in the Gulf and have been involved in major projects in the region in areas such as defence, construction and petrochemicals.

South Africa’s relations with the Gulf are primarily of an economic nature and are focused on increasing trade and investment. Several Gulf companies have made large investments in South Africa, particularly in the mining, telecommunications and tourism sectors.

Efforts to enhance the economic relationship will continue through the implementation of a focused inward investment strategy, which was approved by Cabinet in 2007.

The Middle East is an important economic region as it occupies a unique geopolitical position in the tricontinental hub of Europe, Asia and Africa. It is the source of 67% of the world’s petroleum reserves and commands two of the most strategically important waterways in the world, namely the Arabian/Persian Gulf and the Red Sea, giving access to the Asian hinterland via the Gulf of Aqaba.

Bilateral trade between South Africa and the Middle East has grown significantly since 1994. Gulf countries invest in the mining, agriculture, real estate, tourism, industry and investment holdings sectors in South Africa.

Each year, the World Bank conducts a study called Doing Business in a Transparent World where business regulations in various countries are compared. For 2012, South Africa moved up by one place to rank 35 out of 183 economies. The UAE moved up two places to 33 and Oman moved up four places to 49, highlighting these countries’ drive towards being competitive in trade.

Key messages
supporting statements
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) and South Africa have enjoyed a close commercial and political relationship since the emergence of our democratic state in 1994.
  • The UAE was the first Gulf Cooperation Council country to recognise the new democratically elected Government by establishing its embassy in Pretoria in 1995.
  • The UAE is positioned as the trading centre of the entire Middle East, just as South Africa is the gateway to the African hinterland. Both the countries are economically vibrant and have enterprising business communities.
  • Growing trade ties between the UAE and South Africa have resulted in the formation of the South African Business Group in the UAE with the objective of promoting business between the two countries. The group aims at helping both UAE and South African businesspeople establish useful contacts and increase bilateral trade.
  • More than 100 South African companies have established themselves in the UAE. The number continues to grow. These range from well-known restaurant groups to companies in the construction and engineering, banking, energy, travel and hospitality, trading and human resource consultancy sectors.
  • While the Gulf states are very rich in oil, South Africa is very rich in minerals, gold, diamonds, manganese, platinum and coal. Trade between the two sides is therefore poised for a long-term mutually beneficial course.
  • South Africa is the largest economy on the continent and the only African member of the G20. Our country offers investors the stability of a strong infrastructure, opportunities of a vibrant emerging market and a climate that fosters growth.
  • The UAE remains our largest trade partner in the region, with total bilateral equalling almost US$2 billion. The UAE is our 21st-largest export market. Fast-moving consumer goods (frequently purchased consumer products) to the UAE continue to dominate South Africa's exports, while oil is the biggest import.
South Africa is committed to strengthen and expand all levels of cooperation with the Sultanate of Oman.
  • South Africa and Oman maintain a good and diversified relationship. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in October 1995 and South Africa opened its embassy in Muscat in 2002 while Oman opened its embassy in Pretoria in 2003.
  • The upcoming Partnership Forum meeting between South Africa and Oman is expected to be used as a platform to review bilateral relations and explore further opportunities for cooperation between the two countries.
  • Other than political relations in general, specific focus will be placed on cooperation in the fields of arts and culture, justice and constitutional development, higher education and training, agriculture and trade and investment.
  • The potential for increased bilateral trade and investment with Oman is significant and discussions have commenced on possible joint investment initiatives on infrastructure projects in South Africa and on the African continent.
  • In terms of trade relations, Oman has traditionally enjoyed a trade surplus, primarily due to its export of petrochemicals to South Africa.
  • South Africa's main exports to Oman are chemicals, machinery and mechanical. Oman's main exports to South are electronic equipment. In 2010, exports from South Africa to Oman totalled R212,003 million while imports by South Africa from Oman amounted to R456,936 million.



The 17th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which serves as the seventh meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP7), will take place in Durban from 28 November to 9 December 2011 under the theme Working Together: Saving Tomorrow Today.

The Durban event is significant in the negotiation process to produce a second commitment period, given that the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which commits developed countries to cut their emissions, is set to expire at the end of 2012.

Following the procedural rules of the conference, it is customary for the COP and CMP to elect as President a minister from the host country. President Jacob Zuma has appointed the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, as the Incoming President of COP17/CMP7. In the preparations for COP17/CMP7, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane continues to work closely with Mexico in its capacity as current COP/CMP President.

The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Ms Edna Molewa, is mandated to lead the South African negotiating delegation to Durban. Under the leadership of Minister Molewa, government has announced its ground-breaking National Climate Change Response Policy which is guided by the Constitution, Bill of Rights, National Environmental Management Act, Millennium Declaration and the UNFCCC. This policy gives South Africa a clear roadmap to respond to the urgency of climate change as it seeks to push towards a green economy.

The UNFCCC is governed by its own processes and Rules of Procedure, which are important to observe since they strengthen multilateralism and the legitimacy of the whole process. It is important that a multilateral rules-based system must prevail, as without it there can be no guarantee that countries will do what they have committed to do and all the gains made over decades will be lost.

The negotiations in Durban will be a party-driven process with South Africa playing an enabling role for parties to find agreement on the salient issues of climate change. South Africa seeks a global regime that ensures that climate change does not reach dangerous levels, while recognising that the priority for developing countries is to address poverty and socio-economic development.

Key messages
supporting statements

South Africa is ready to welcome the United Nations and 194 world nations to Durban.

  • South Africa is an experienced host of numerous successful international events with the most recent being the International Olympic Committee  General Assembly Session in Durban and the 2010 FIFA World CupTM.
  • Government worked closely with the UN to ensure that South Africa hosts an international event which meets UN requirements with the UN confirming South Africa’s state of readiness.
  • All logistical arrangements are in place. Security preparations dealing with a broad range of possible threats and disruptions are being implemented. Arrangements for the increased demand for air and ground transport are ready. A visa-free entry for UNFCCC-accredited attendees was implemented, while all other observers and delegates will follow normal visa procedures.
  • The hospitality industry is geared to welcome the international community with the openness that brings close to 10 million visitors to our country each year.

South Africa, through the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), will facilitate an outcome which is balanced, fair and credible; while at the same time preserving and strengthening the multilateral rules-based response to climate change.

  • DIRCO was part of the climate change negotiations even before the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997. The department is familiar with the history and dynamics of this complex process, as well as the substance.
  • In its informal consultations at ministerial, negotiator and stakeholder level during 2011, South Africa has emphasised the party-drive principle.
  • South Africa believes the success of Durban will be measured in terms of the following:
    • The basic principles that must underpin UNFCCC climate-change negotiations are multilateralism, environmental integrity, fairness, (common but differentiated) responsibility, respective capabilities, equity and honouring of all international commitments and undertakings made in the climate-change process.
    • The Cancun agreements must be operationalised, including the establishment of the key mechanisms and institutional arrangements agreed to in Cancun. The Green Climate Fund represents a centrepiece for a broader set of outcomes for Durban. Developing countries demand a prompt start for the fund through its early and initial capitalisation.
    • We believe more should be done to make the Cancun agreements operational. Parties have no option but to deal with the outstanding political issues remaining from the Bali Roadmap. This means finding a resolution to the issue of the second Commitment Period under the Kyoto Protocol and agreeing on the legal nature of a future climate-change system.
    • Adaptation is essential for the outcome in Durban as it is a key priority for many developing countries, particularly small island developing states, least developed countries and Africa. The current fragmented approach to adaptation must be addressed in a more coherent manner that gives equal priority to adaptation and mitigation.
    • Any outcome in Durban has to be adequate enough to adhere to the principle of environmental integrity. In this context, the low level of ambition is a serious concern.

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to sustainable development and demands that Durban at least puts in place necessary building blocks to deliver an agreement that takes historical responsibilities into account.

  • The citing by the International Energy Agency of 2010 being the year with the highest recorded emissions demonstrates the urgency with which the world has to deal with climate change. 
  • If climate change is not addressed, its impact will undermine the developmental gains that have been achieved since 1994 and the progress made by South Africa, the Southern African Development Community and the African continent to reach the millennium development goals.
  • A global response is the only effective and sustainable answer to climate change as a global challenge and the conference in Durban presents leaders with an opportunity to shape the future global response to climate change by providing the required political direction.
  • South Africa seeks a global regime which ensures that climate change does not reach dangerous levels, while recognising that the priority for developing countries is to address poverty and socio-economic development.
  • Africa, which is the continent most affected by climate change, adopted the African Common Position on Climate Change in 2011 and will speak from one voice during the climate negotiations.
  • South Africa, through the Department of Environmental Affairs, which leads the South African delegation in pursuing the country’s interest at the COP17/CMP7 negotiations, is committed to unity of the African Group and a Common African Position in the negotiations.
For South Africa, taking meaningful climate action is about seizing the opportunity to build international competitiveness, new economic infrastructure, sectors and activity; create prosperity and jobs; transform the economy and society; reduce poverty; and improve the health and quality of life for all.
  • South Africa’s hosting of COP17/CMP7, as a developing country, demonstrates our commitment to address the global threat of climate change.
  • The recently approved National Climate Change Response Policy will guide government’s approach to climate-change impacts and the transition to a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy – premised on the commitment to sustainable development and a better life for all.
  • South Africa will implement nationally appropriate mitigation actions, which will result in the reduction of emissions by 34% in 2020 and by 42% in 2025.
  • The extent to which South Africa’s commitment is achieved depends on the provision of finance, technology and capacity-building support by developed countries and through the UN climate change regime.
  • South Africa will intensify work on understanding the vulnerabilities of the country and its people to the effects of climate change. A Team South Africa approach will be taken to COP17/CMP7 to showcase the country’s climate-response activities. 




Possible United States (US) grant of R3,8 billion for the fight against HIV and AIDS

The US Government is preparing to give R3,8 billion to South Africa to further help its efforts in combating HIV and AIDS. The American Government is reported to be “impressed” with the way the South African Government is tackling the AIDS crisis and has pledged to continue financing and providing technical assistance to the Government for the fight against the pandemic. A spokesperson from the US Embassy, Elizabeth Trudeau, said: “We are proud to be partners with the SA Government due to the way it is addressing the prevention, stigmatisation and treatment of HIV and AIDS.”

Empowering people with disabilities

Total South Africa invests in entrepreneurs with disabilities
Total South Africa has awarded a substantial financial contribution to the organisation's economic development and empowerment programme for South Africans with epilepsy and other disabilities. The contribution made by Total South Africa will therefore have a very direct and positive influence on Epilepsy South Africa’s capacity to continue to grow this programme throughout South Africa and result in further job creation and poverty alleviation for vulnerable groups in South Africa.

Economic development

Local Procurement Accord signed
Business, labour and community organisations have signed the Local Procurement Accord, which commits the various sectors to work together in terms of increasing the levels of goods and services bought from local producers, as well as creating local jobs. The accord between the main economic groupings in the country sets a target of 75% for local procurement.

Job-creation initiatives

Fedusa committed to creating jobs for youth
The Federation of Unions of South Africa says it is committed to working with government in creating jobs, particularly for young people. The union's general-secretary, Dennis George, has described government's commitment to job creation and service delivery as encouraging.

Climate change

Call for South Africa to showcase low-carbon investment opportunities at COP17
South Africa, as the host of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17), has been urged by Deputy British High Commissioner Martin Reynolds to use the COP17 gathering as an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that it was ready for investment in a low-carbon economy. Reynolds acknowledged that the country had made significant strides in response to climate change, which now cuts across all government departments.

Home affairs

Home Affairs, banks join hands to fight crime
The Department of Home Affairs and the banking industry are clamping down on identity theft and banking fraud with an online fingerprint verification system, billed as a perfect crime-fighting partnership. The initiative will help authenticate the client's identity for in-branch transactions, in addition to other safety measures such as producing identity documents. Some of the country's major banks are gearing for a full roll-out of the system.