Meeting SummaryThe Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) outlined the objectives and work of the Diplomatic Academy in providing Economic Diplomacy (ED) training to South African mission staff. The Economic Diplomacy Strategic Framework was guided by government policies and programmes, and essentially provided a conceptual framework and tools for the training that would translate domestic policy into foreign policy. This training had been designed by DIRCO and the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) and included clarification on the roles between various spheres and agencies of government, exposed the diplomatic missions to South African economic interests, and allowed for a study of provincial offices’ commercial strengths and priorities and different sectors. Diplomats were instructed how to pursue market access for South African products, how to promote and attract investment into South Africa, how to promote tourism and enhance the image and national brand of South Africa, and ultimately pursue political engagements that advanced the African agenda and African economic development. The types of interventions that diplomatic staff might undertake in maximising the benefits of both bilateral agreements and international institutions, such as the UN, WTO, SADC and BRICS, were outlined. This training would ensure that diplomatic missions became more efficient and effective in supporting South African commercial interests both at home and abroad. DIRCO internal staff, and 170 South African diplomats, had undertaken ED training since 2011, and the schedule of training for all remaining diplomats between now and 2013 was tabled. The three main priorities for ED were trade and investment, tourism, and managing the image and brand of South Africa, including speaking with a unified voice in times of crisis and disaster. A hard-copy Economic Diplomacy Kit (which was circulated to members) was provided, and this was updated electronically when relevant information became available. DIRCO was considering initiating an Indaba for enterprises seeking to do business abroad, on an annual or biannual basis.
Members asked questions on the monitoring and oversight of bilateral agreements and received an explanation of the types of agreements that were in place. They asked about the updating of the provincial data in the Economic Diplomacy toolkits, and how often the figures were revised. One Member asked about the mandate of the MEC for International Affairs in the Western Cape, whilst others noted that whilst provinces could not sign international agreements, the twinning of cities was agreed upon. The effect of migration and opening of foreign-owned business on the South African economy was explored. The Chairperson requested a training workshop for Members on Economic Diplomacy, to which the Ambassador agreed.
South Africa’s strategy in driving economic diplomacy: Briefing by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Ambassador Thami Ngwevela, Chief Director, Diplomatic Academy, Department for International Relations and Co-operation outlined South Africa’s strategy for driving economic diplomacy. In 2008 the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO or the Department) was asked to develop an Economic Diplomacy Strategic Framework (EDSF) in order to support South African missions - its embassies, consulates and high commissions abroad - in meeting the domestic priorities for growth and prosperity in the international environment.
The EDSF was guided by government policies and programmes, and essentially provided a conceptual framework and tools for Economic Diplomacy (ED) training programme that would translate domestic policy economic and commercial dimensions into foreign policy. The training was designed by DIRCO, in close partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti). The ED would ensure that South Africa’s economic interests were pursued within international organisations, including the United Nations, World Trade Organisation, G20 and within strategic alliances in the forums of the European Union, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), the IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) partnerships.
The EDSF clarified the roles between various spheres and agencies of government, including cities, regions and provinces, whose specific functions were defined in the Constitution. It was important for diplomats to understand the variances and their implications, such as the fact that provinces could not sign international agreements.
ED Training at the Diplomatic Academy exposed the diplomatic missions to South African economic interests. There was engagement with provincial offices, to understand their commercial strengths and priorities, as well as representatives of trade sectors such as mining, industry, technology, the stock market and banking. Diplomats had been instructed how to pursue market access for South African products, how to promote and attract investment into South Africa, how to promote tourism and enhance the image and national brand of South Africa, and ultimately pursue political engagements that advanced the African agenda and African economic development. The ED training would ensure that diplomats had the capacity and professionalism to efficiently and effectively function in economic development. They were provided with an understanding of key policies such as the New Growth Plan (NGP), the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP2) and the Trade, Policy and Strategy Framework (TPSF).
The ED training interventions aimed to contribute to a better life for all of South Africans. It would ultimately enhance sustainable development, strengthen the political and economic integration of SADC, by reducing trade barriers and work towards a unified economic region, and strengthen South-South relations with countries who had a common, colonial history, as well as strengthen strategic relations with the North, and improve participation in the global system of governance, as well as strengthen political and economic relations.
The African continent was strategically important in economic diplomacy. A close relationship had developed between DIRCO and businesses operating abroad. National economic prosperity had been enhanced through working with corporate South Africa and through maximising the existing 185 bilateral trade agreements.
The dti and DIRCO had three main priorities for ED. These were trade and investment, tourism, and managing the image and brand of South Africa. ED training therefore focused on how to manage messages and to communicate with a unified voice in times of crisis and disaster.
The ED training had started in 2011, in the DIRCO Head Office, and was included in all DIRCO residential programmes. A programme for diplomats had started, and 170 South African diplomats had been trained to date. Those in Europe were trained in March 2012, those in SADC countries were trained in May 2012 and those in North and East African countries in June 2012. ED training for diplomats in West African countries was scheduled for October 2012, and further sessions, for those in the Americas, the Caribbean, Asia and the Middle East, were to be scheduled before the end of the 2012/13 financial year. All missions abroad would have received training by the 2013/14 financial year.
In addition to the ED training, DIRCO provided an online Economic Diplomacy Kit. A hard copy of this Kit was circulated to Members. The kit was made available to new Ambassadors, in hard copy, and the electronic version was updated regularly. The kit comprised sections of national information from the dti, as well as provincial sections that included contact details for trade and investment contacts. For example, a diplomat in the USA could use the kit to link up a New York firm seeking to buy shirts with relevant provincial supplier contacts.
DIRCO was considering initiating an Indaba for enterprises seeking to do business abroad, on an annual or biannual basis.
The Chairman introduced Mr Abdul Waheed Patel, Managing Director at ETHICORE Political Consulting. Mr Patel explained that his consultancy helped foreign businesses to understand the regulatory environment for setting up a business in South Africa, as well as helping South African businesses to understand the regulatory environment in the rest of the African continent, so they could expand their businesses abroad.
Ms E Van Lingen (DA, Eastern Cape) advised that the Committee also needed more information when it was invited abroad.
The Chairman advised the Ambassador that Members of the Committee would benefit also from the ED training.
Amb Ngwevela replied that a training session could be designed.
Mr K Sinclair (COPE, Northern Cape) asked what could be done about apparently ineffective bilateral agreements.
Ms B Abrahams (DA, Gauteng) asked who monitored bilateral agreements.
Amb Ngwevela replied that bilateral agreements took three different forms. “Omnibus agreements” had been entered into as South Africa achieved democracy. They reflected international goodwill and listed broad areas of co-operation. They were symbolic, and were more effectively represented through the existence of South African diplomatic missions. Secondly, there were specific agreements, which came into operation once they were signed, and these required no oversight, since it would be apparent if these agreements came to a halt – an example would be the rights to fly over a foreign territory. The third type of agreement would require monitoring. These might include agreements with the EU that contained provisions around annual, high-level summits, in which problematic issues and changes were discussed. The monitoring arrangements were actually written into the agreements. He conceded that some agreements could have been strengthened with more monitoring, and that each branch within DIRCO was reviewing its agreements to identify improvements.
Mr Sinclair asked what DIRCO could do to ensure that internal South African issues were dealt with in foreign affairs in a more effective way.
Amb Ngwevela replied that there was a need to determine how, and for what South Africa wanted to be remembered, and to show the world that it could resolve problems.
Mr Sinclair highlighted that many provinces were working towards the same aims, and competing with each other, such as wanting to increase tourism or investment to their own area, which was in opposition to the idea that South Africa should pursue one common goal.
Amb Ngwevela replied that there were national plans and institutions, such as the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), which provided a global picture of infrastructure development. He acknowledged that provinces made both competitive and collective efforts, but DIRCO would ensure that they were not presenting other provinces negatively.
Ms Van Lingen asked about the approach of the DIRCO to South-South relations, particularly in view of the large numbers of Chinese-owned retail outlets that had opened throughout South Africa.
Amb Ngwevela replied that South Africa had joined the global environment, and this did not come without its own challenges. The opening up of borders had enabled immigration of entrepreneurs from many territories, as well as emigration of South Africans to other countries. There were 500 000 South Africans living in the United Kingdom. He suggested that many immigrants were merely seeking to make a living for themselves, without being dependent on state support. Since China had 1.2 billion inhabitants, it constituted a large portion of the global population, hence its global visibility. It was necessary for South Africa to embrace the opportunities to be part of the international community. There would be repercussions if any attempts were made to put up barriers. The role that immigrants played in supporting economic growth in South Africa was important.
Ms Van Lingen asked what role development agencies played in economic diplomacy.
Amb Ngwevela replied that development zones must be promoted.
Ms Van Lingen noted that the provincial booklets in the kit were dated 2012, and asked when they were updated.
Amb Ngwevela replied that the booklets were printed annually, but that the electronic versions were updated continuously; for example, quarterly trade statistics were revised as they were known.
Ms Van Lingen acknowledged that provinces could not sign international agreements, but asked about twinning of cities.
Amb Ngwevela replied that twinning agreements were symbolic of friendship and co-operation, and were not covered by international law.
Mr F Adams (ANC, Western Cape) advised that the Western Cape provincial government had an MEC for International Affairs. Given that provinces could not sign international agreements, he wondered about the mandate of this MEC.
Amb Ngwevela replied that this question covered political territory and that she would raise it with the Director General and Minister. The international protocol for international relations was covered by the Geneva Convention, and this stipulated that local Presidents would engage with foreign Presidents, Prime Ministers with Prime Ministers, provinces with provinces and so on. In all cases, the Ambassador in the territory would have advised on this protocol.
Mr A Nyambi (ANC, Mpumalanga) asked whether a follow-up meeting with both the Department for Tourism and the DIRCO could be called, given the economic importance of tourism.
The Chairperson suggested that the workshop for the Committee could be organised to coincide with a planned visit to Gauteng Guest Houses in Pretoria.
The meeting was adjourned.
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