|Sassy: A scene from the popular South African musical African Footprint. — Photo courtesy South Africa's Embassy
(VNS) On the occasion of South Africa's National day (April 27), Viet Nam News presents an article by ambassador Kgomotso Ruth Magau.
South Africa celebrates its national day, Freedom Day on April 27 with the theme for 2013 being "Mobilising Society Towards Consolidating our Democracy and Freedom".
It is a day that represents peace, unity, and the restoration of human dignity of all South Africans. It is a reminder of the countless sacrifices made by our countrymen and women; and a chance to ensure that no one will ever take our hard-won freedom for granted.
The year 2013 is furthermore significant for South Africa by not only celebrating the 19th year of its Freedom and Democratic Government but also since it is the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Africa and Viet Nam.
Although diplomatic relations with Viet Nam were only established in 1993, one year before South Africans formally elected their first democratic government, our co-operation with Viet Nam long pre-dated it as Viet Nam was one of our most steadfast supporters in the struggle against Apartheid.
Although South Africans and Vietnamese still need to be made more aware of the commercial potential of doing business with each other as well as visiting our respective countries, there is already much improvement in this regard.
From a near zero base when diplomatic relations were established 20 years ago, trade between Viet Nam and South Africa has increased dramatically with the two-way trade turnover between Vietnam and South Africa for 2012 being 300 per cent more than in 2005. South Africa is also by far Viet Nam's largest market in the fast-growing African continent. Viet Nam's main export items to South Africa are clothes, textiles, rice, electronic goods, jewellery and furniture while South Africa's exports to Viet Nam are mainly metals, fresh fruits and juices, gems, wine, chemicals and timber. Having said that, by no means are the trade and investment opportunities being fully exploited. For example, South Africa's financial, life insurance service and banking system has been rated among the top 10 globally with strong coverage in the rest of Africa and especially within the 14 nation Southern African Development Community, of which South Africa is a member. This Community represents a consumer market of about 250 million with increasing discretionary income levels, thereby creating a significant target for investment and trade.
Furthermore, the Southern African Development Community member countries, linked to South Africa through an extensive and expanding transport network, are together with the neighbouring East African Community establishing a Free Trade Agreement providing a further access to 600 million consumers.
A further indication of South Africa as a viable and profitable trade partner is reflected in its membership of the G20, BRICS as well as IBSA.
Vietnam Airlines is also, since 2011, the dedicated feeder airline into the South African Airway's Hong Kong-Johannesburg route which facilitates the increase in tourists between not only South Africa and Viet Nam but also into the African continent with Johannesburg being the main hub into Southern Africa. Hopefully, this partnership will lead to a direct air link between Viet Nam and South Africa once the volume allows for it, adding to the prevailing direct regional links from Bangkok and Singapore to Johannesburg.
In order to facilitate a more seamless and structured relationship between Viet Nam and South Africa a number of bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding regards our mutual strategic interests have been concluded. South Africa also hosted the 2nd Meeting of the Viet Nam-South Africa Inter-Governmental Partnership Forum in August 2012, with Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs leading the Vietnamese delegation.
South Africa and Viet Nam share a number of experiences, both having to overcome conflict in order to achieve freedom and having done so to ensure that our countries remain at peace. Although both achieved a rise in per capita income, the danger of a growing income gap between rich and poor needs to be addressed as well as to ensure employment for our youthful populations.
In order for South Africans to achieve this and to fulfill our economic potential, the South African Government announced earlier this year its National Development Plan, providing guidance in improving our macro-economic environment as well as increasing trade and investment incentive measures.
Furthermore, the South African Constitution, regarded as one of the most progressive globally, ensures a stable environment for investment, protects the rule of law, our hard fought democratic institutions and entrenches respect for human and cultural rights as well as racial and gender equality.
To conclude, since this year we will be celebrating 20 years of diplomatic relations with Viet Nam and next year also 20 years of democracy and freedom, our wish is that both Vietnamese and South Africans will continue building on the ever increasing trade, investment and tourism ties between our two countries, thereby helping to achieve the goals of mutual interest we set for ourselves. — VNS