The third meeting of the South Africa-Ireland Partnership Forum was held in Cape Town, South Africa, on 15 November 2012, co-chaired by South African Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Marius Fransman, and the Irish Minister of State for Trade and Development, Mr Joe Costello. The Partnership Forum is the structured bilateral mechanism between South Africa and Ireland which was established in 2004.
The meeting reaffirmed the close and friendly ties that continue to exist between South Africa and Ireland. The parties had wide ranging discussions on political, economic and social developments in South Africa and Ireland, as well as in Africa and Europe.
The parties agreed that despite the remarkable progress that has been achieved in South Africa since 1994, the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment remained acute. The meeting expressed its full support of the South African Government's five development priorities, Health, Education, Rural Development, Fighting Corruption and Crime, and Job Creation.
The meeting also noted the importance of the Presidential Infrastructure Development Programme, aimed at stimulating the South African economy and creating jobs, and that the South African Government had earmarked in excess of one trillion rand for this Programme. The Irish side expressed its full support for this Programme and noted that it also presented opportunities to Irish companies to work in partnership with South African companies.
Both parties noted that the current Irish Aid Country Strategy Paper (CSP) for South Africa ends in 2012 and a new three-year CSP 2013-2015 with a projected budget of €3 million per year will replace it. An evaluation of the CSP 2008-2012 was carried out and comments and suggestions thereon were taken into consideration in developing the new CSP. The new programme will focus on Gender, HIV and AIDS, and Innovation and Capacity Development.
Both parties welcomed the work underway to develop a skills development programme under the proposed 2013 - 2015 CSP which will include the establishment of a Fellowship Programme targeted at South Africans who would pursue post-graduate studies in Ireland. It is hoped to commence the Fellowship Programme in 2013 providing full scholarships for up to 10 South African students.
The parties exchanged views on developments region and continental issues. The meeting welcomed enhanced efforts by the African Union and regional organisations in Africa, including SADC, to promote peace, security and human rights throughout the continent and to facilitate the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
Both parties expressed concern on the food crisis in Lesotho and the potential humanitarian impact on the country's population. South Africa and Ireland reaffirmed their commitment to provide humanitarian assistance to Lesotho to help ease its food crisis.
Similarly, there was an exchange on recent developments in the European Union, including Africa-EU relations, Economic Partnership Agreements, and the Irish Presidency of the EU Council in 2013.
Further, the importance of strengthening existing trade and investment relations was underscored by both sides. South Africa and Ireland exchanged views on their respective trade and investment, and tourism promotion strategies. Both sides pledged to work towards raising trade relations to the pre-2009 levels. In this context, Ireland expressed its support for the South African objective to significantly increase high-value exports as a percentage of its total exports.
The South African side welcomed the success of the Irish Trade Mission led by Minister Costello from 12 to 14 November 2012, including its successful participation in the AfricaCom Conference.
The two sides expressed their satisfaction at the signing of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of South Africa and Government of Ireland Concerning the Co-Production of Films, in Cannes on 20 May 2012.
At the conclusion of the Partnership Forum, both parties renewed their commitment to the Partnership Forum as a valuable mechanism to review and develop the excellent ties between South Africa and Ireland. Officials were tasked to follow up on the discussions and present clear and measurable results at the next meeting.
It was agreed that the Partnership Forum will meet again in 2014 in Ireland.