Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Directors-General in the Presidency and Department of International Relations and Cooperation,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome all the new Heads of Mission as you begin your tenure as representatives of your respective countries to the Republic of South Africa.
It is nearly 25 years since South Africa was welcomed back as a member of the international community following our first democratic election in 1994.
Over the course of this time, our country has built strong and meaningful relationships with countries across the world.
Many of these relationships have their roots in the bonds of solidarity and friendship that were forged between our peoples during the struggle against apartheid.
We remain grateful to all those countries – many of whom are represented here – who gave us refuge, who provided material and political support, and who mobilised for the isolation of the racist apartheid regime.
This ceremony further strengthens the ties between our countries as we welcome the esteemed representatives of Angola, Austria, Burkina Faso, the Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Jamaica, the Republic of Korea, Liberia, Malaysia, Mexico, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.
Your presence here is a firm indication of the commitment of your respective governments to maintain and deepen relations with South Africa.
It is significant that all the continents of the world are represented here this afternoon, since the democratic South Africa has always endeavoured to maintain friendly relations with all countries regardless of location, size or alignment.
We firmly believe in the indivisible unity of humanity and that we share a responsibility to continuously strive to settle differences between countries peacefully and permanently.
It is for this reason that South Africa works to actively promote the centrality of multilateral institutions in managing global affairs, and why we urge respect for international law and agreements.
We seek to work with our partners across the world to build a more democr atic, just and equitable world order, one which prioritises the needs and interests of the poor and vulnerable.
Much of the conflict and instability in the world has its roots in the extreme inequality between countries and within countries.
It is fuelled by poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment.
As the peoples of the world, we have a shared interest in ending poverty and closing the disparities in wealth, skills, resources and access to education, health and social support.
South Africa stands ready to work with all governments and peoples in achieving these objectives.
We trust that your presence in South Africa as the representatives of your respective peoples will enable us not only to build bilateral relations, but to cooperate in building a better world.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
You begin your appointments in South Africa at an important moment for our country, a moment of renewal and rebuilding.
Despite the great progress we have made since 1994, we have in recent years struggled with a number of challenges, including poor economic performance, policy uncertainty, corruption and the weakening of some public institutions.
These challenges have combined to undermine our ability to respond effectively to the poverty, unemployment and inequality that still plagues our nation.
Over the last few months, however, the country has embarked upon a new path towards inclusive growth, job creation and transformation.
We have acted decisively to end state capture and restore the integrity and credibility of key public institutions.
Central to this effort is the restoration of effective governance and the improvement of the financial and operational performance of strategic state owned en terprises.
It involves the stabilisation of public finances, improved financial controls at all levels of government and measures to root out all forms of corruption and mismanagement.
We are working to not only achieve policy certainty, but also to ensure alignment of policies and programmes across government.
This is part of a broader effort to make South Africa a country in which it is easier to invest and do business.
All this demonstrates that South Africa is willing to acknowledge its shortcomings, and is prepared to take the necessary measures to correct these.
While we work to address the legacy of our apartheid past and the challenges of recent years, our eyes are firmly set on the future.
We are moving with determination and urgency to increase investment, grow our economy and create jobs, especially for young people.
We have embarked on an ambitious investment drive informed by an understanding that, under the current cond itions, far greater investment is a prerequisite for faster economic growth.
It is an understanding that jobs will not be created and poverty will not be reduced unless we grow our economy.
We have appointed four special envoys for investment, who are meeting potential investors both in South Africa and abroad.
You can expect that they will be keen to speak to investors in your countries and that they will call on you for support in this important task.
It is our wish that we will use the good relations between our countries as the basis for greater levels of investment and bilateral trade, which will promote economic activity and development in our respective countries.
We are seeking mutually beneficial cooperation and collaboration to ensure that our societies make progress and that our people benefit from the relationships we build.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The South African delegation returned this morning from the 31st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Nouakchott, Mauritania, where I had the honour and privilege to sign the agreement on the African Continental Free Trade Area.
We will now submit this agreement to our Parliament as part of the ratification process.
The establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area is expected to have a far-reaching impact on the economies of Africa.
It will contribute significantly to greater intra-African trade and investment, encouraging economic dynamism, innovation and growth.
Importantly, it will promote the industrialisation of the continent, enabling many African countries to extract greater value from their mineral resources through beneficiation.
The Continental Free Trade Area is very much aligned with South Africa’s economic growth and development strategy, which places emphasis on regional and continental integration.
We anticipate that the Continental Free Trade Area will not only benefit Africa – it will also create conditions for greater flows of trade and investment between Africa and the rest of the world.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,
In conclusion, allow me to thank each of you, on behalf of your countries, for continue to honour us with your friendship and cooperation.
We look forward to working with you to strengthen relations between our peoples and to contribute to building a better world for the benefit of all.
I thank you.