Welcome remarks by His Excellency, President JG Zuma at the Meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Customs Union countries
16 July 2010Your Excellency, His Majesty Mswati III;
Your Excellency, President Hifikepunye Pohamba;
Your Excellency, Lieutenant-General, President Ian Khama;
Your Excellency, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisihli;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers;
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the government and people of South Africa it is a pleasure to welcome you to South Africa.
We meet just a few months after the successful centenary celebrations of the Southern African Customs Union in Windhoek, Namibia.
We have travelled a long and arduous road in the last century.
SACU has great potential to advance the economic integration agenda of the region.
It has come a long way since it was established in 1910 by colonial Britain.
It was later reshaped by Apartheid South Africa to serve its geopolitical interests, and was transformed in 2002 to equally advance the economies of each of our countries.
The era of democracy that led to the signing of our 2002 Agreement affirmed the common histories and cultures that transcend national borders.
Our peoples are tied not only by history and geography, but also by family and blood ties
In developing the 2002 Agreement we shared a common understanding of the type of arrangement we wanted to create.
We said we wanted an institution whose decision-making processes and functions were democratic and transparent.
The current agreement provides us with such an arrangement.
Our meeting today provides us an opportunity to continue the discussions we initiated in Windhoek and the follow up discussions we held last night.
During our meeting last night we recognised the challenges facing SACU and explored possible strategies for addressing them.
What impressed me personally was that our discussions were guided by the spirit of frankness and a desire to make SACU a vehicle to improve the quality of life of the ordinary people of the region.
This Summit takes place after the successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup by South Africa on behalf of the African continent.
Let me extend my heartfelt gratitude for the support you provided to South Africa during this tournament.
We truly appreciate that you set aside time in your busy schedules to join us for some of the activities, making this truly an African World Cup, and not just a South African celebration.
Amongst a host of benefits, the tournament has dispelled the negativity around trade and investment in Africa.
The stereotypes have been shattered. At last, the world has seen Africa in a positive light. It is vital that we capitalise on this new-found interest.
That is why is it is important for us to strengthen our economic integration and coordinating mechanisms, to be ready to take advantage of the successful international marketing of the continent.
We must also take advantage of the shifts in the global economy.
African markets are attractive to development partners in the North and the emerging South, including the international private sector.
We keep emphasizing to the world in every global forum that Africa is open for trade and investment.
The environment is being created for sustainable economic growth and development.
The Southern African Customs Union has historically been a vehicle that addressed our common concerns.
We need an organisation that moves swiftly and responds timeously to the challenges that we face. We cannot afford to be complacent.
We have the opportunity to place the Southern African region on a growth path that will in the long-term benefit all the citizens of this area. That is why we need to act decisively.
This Summit indicates that we have begun the process of reflecting critically on our common destiny as a region.
As leaders, we will have to take bold decisions which we will have to commit to, in order to secure the long term economic health of our region.
We are all agreed on the need to prioritise the eradication of poverty and the improvement of the quality of lives of ordinary citizens.
Let me once again seize this opportunity to thank you all for the support extended during the hosting of the World Cup.
This event highlighted the success that can be achieved when we stand together.
With these few remarks, I reiterate my profound gratitude for having you in South Africa and look forward to successful deliberations.
I thank you