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Media briefing remarks by His Excellency President Cyril Ramaphosa during the State Visit by His Excellency President Sauli Niinistö of the Republic of Finland

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Your Excellency, President Sauli Niinistö, President of the Republic of Finland

Ministers and Ambassadors,

Members of the Media,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good Morning, thank you for being here.

It has been an honour to receive President Niinistö in South Africa during Freedom Month, and even more so in the week that we commemorate 29 years of our democracy.

South Africa’s liberation from apartheid would not have been possible without the principled solidarity and support of the Finnish people, the Nordic countries, and our many, many friends and allies around the world.

Even when we attained our democracy this support did not waver, and Finland continues to play a key role in supporting South Africa’s ongoing transition to a more egalitarian, prosperous society that leaves no-one behind.

I shared with President Niinistö my personal endearment for the great and honourable Finnish people. In 2000 Finland’s former President Martti Ahtisaari and I were tasked with inspecting Irish Republican Army arms dumps as part of the Northern Ireland peace process.

I learned from President Ahtisaari, as I have on many other occasions, just how inviolable principled solidarity is in building the fellowship of nations.

Indeed, Finland is a valued friend of the South African people and our longstanding partner in development.

It is our collective wish to see the bilateral relationship thrive and improve, especially with regards to reciprocal trade and investment.

Later today, President Niinistö and I will engage with business from both Finland and South Africa on how to improve trade and investment flows between our two countries.

A great deal of work is already happening in this regard.

By way of example, Gauteng province recently entered into a cooperation agreement with the government of Finland in the fields of renewable energy and ICT infrastructure, and towards the creation of a business corridor.

We have agreed to expand Finnish South African cooperation in the following fields:

· Water resource management

· Early Childhood Development, as well as out-of-school youth and adult education

· The training of youth as peace mediators

· Digital and emerging technologies. We have agreed to the proposal of EU member states that the EU-AU Data Flagship Programme’s regional hub should be in South Africa

As South Africa and Finland we expressed our shared commitment to preserving and strengthening the rules-based multilateral system.

We discussed several issues of regional and international significance, and explored ways in which we can collaborate to drive effective responses to the major issues facing humankind today. These include wars, the threat of climate change, and the economic inequalities worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We agreed that a world free of conflict, instability, poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment is our highest aspiration, and that deepening our solidarity and cooperation is paramount.

With these few words I thank you once more for being here and invite you now, Mr. President to deliver your remarks.