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The Warsaw Voice » Other » April 18, 2007
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Strengthening Ties
April 18, 2007   
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Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to Poland, Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, talks with Ewa Hancock.

This will be your second year as ambassador of the Republic of South Africa in Poland. What are your views on relations between Poland and South Africa? Are they satisfactory?
South Africa and Poland share important historical moments, since both countries have successfully concluded peaceful transitions from authoritarianism to democracy, and are defining their national identities and place in the world. During the early 1990s Poland and South Africa both had to integrate their economies into a globalized world, and we can say that both have had successes. Obviously, building democratic institutions and public confidence in such institutions take time, but there is no question that our countries are fledgling democracies from which there is no turning back.

The successful hosting of the United Nations Anti-Corruption Conference in Warsaw last year by Poland is one example to this effect. South Africa was proud, as one of the co-sponsors with Poland of the original resolution that led to the convening of the conference, to have been part of its deliberations. There is also cooperation between our countries in multilateral forums, and Poland very gracefully supported South Africa's candidature as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

This year will be an important moment in the relationship between Africa and the European Union. There is, for example, the ongoing round of trade negotiations, the outcome of which is critical towards ensuring that we end global apartheid, and the marginalization of Africa. Secondly, an announcement has been made about the long envisaged Africa-EU Summit, which will take place in December this year. Important decisions were taken at the last summit in Cairo in 2000, including about fair trade, which this summit must take forward. There is also the discussion on a possible strategic partnership between South Africa and the European Union. We are convinced that Poland will play an important role to help build a genuine relationship of solidarity between our two continents.

The formation of a Poland-South Africa parliamentary committee in the Sejm in November 2006 is another milestone in the relationship between our two countries, since this was the first time that such a committee had ever come into existence. This committee, we believe, will play an important role in strengthening links between the parliaments of our respective countries.

What about economic links between South Africa and Poland?
Trade between our countries, especially after Poland joined the EU, has grown phenomenally, and there are a number of South African companies that have invested in Poland. Led by South African Breweries/Miller, others have included Mondi, the JD Group and Pepcor; and South African Airways and SASOL have representative offices in Poland. A delegation from South Africa's Department of Trade and Industry visited last year and held bilateral discussions with the Polish Ministry of the Economy, to look at further areas of cooperation. We are also very proud to say that tourism from Poland to South Africa is growing in leaps and bounds, even above the average rate of growth for tourism to South Africa.

Can you comment on cooperation in the scientific field?
Poland and South Africa signed an Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation in 1999, which has resulted in very active bilateral exchange and projects between institutions in the two countries. South Africa is evolving a world class system of science and technology in such fields as nanotechnology, biotechnology, Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS), space science and technology, open source software and cyber infrastructure, to mention just a few priority areas. The cooperation in terms of this agreement and the interaction with scientists from Poland is therefore very valuable for our institutions and scientists. South Africa is also in the process of promoting research mobility between itself and Europe, in order to attract skilled researchers from Europe to work in South Africa, while South African researchers will be able to gain experience working in top European laboratories.

South Africa is one of two countries that have been shortlisted to host the world's largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometer Array. If successful, the core part will be built in Karroo in South Africa, with SKA stations as far away as Mauritius, Ghana, Kenya and Madagascar. In the light of the benefits this development will have for the scientific and research capacity of the whole African continent, seven other African countries have joined South Africa's bid to host the SKA. The winning bidder will be announced in 2008.
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