Speech by Deputy Minister Landers participation at the GEG-Africa Programme and the T20 African Standing Group Meeting, the G20 and Africa: Navigating African Priorities for the G20, 29 January 2019

Programme Director,
Excellencies, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Director-General Dondo
Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, Chief Executive of the NEPAD Agency,
Dr Yashuo Fujita, Deputy Director, JICA Research Institute
Representatives of International Organisations and Think-Tanks present, and

Thank you for the warm words of welcome.

On behalf of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) of the Republic of South Africa and as co-sponsor of this Conference, I am pleased to deliver the opening remarks at this important meeting. Today I wish to share with you South Africa’s strategic and foreign policy imperatives that guide our work in the G20.

Last year, the Buenos Aires G20 Leaders’ Summit marked the 10th year anniversary of the G20 meeting at Leaders’ Summit level. It was an historic opportunity for the Leaders to reflect on current global economic, financial and development challenges.

Since its elevation to Summit level, the grouping has expanded its role and mandate and has increasingly incorporated issues of a developmental, trade and foreign policy dimension in its agenda.

My focus today will focus on two broad areas. Firstly, I wish to outline South Africa’s foreign policy approach to its engagement with the G20. Secondly, I wish to outline our priorities in terms of the developmental agenda and G20 support for Africa, in particular.

1. South Africa’s foreign policy approach to the G20

In terms of our foreign policy approach, South Africa’s participation at the G20 is guided by the four strategic foreign policy pillars of our Republic, i) advancing our national interest to attain domestic objectives; ii) enhancing the African agenda and promoting Africa’s sustainable development; iii) influencing the global multilateral architecture; and iv) advancing the agenda of the South through strengthening South-South cooperation and North-South Dialogue.

Our participation in the G20 seeks to provide strategic direction in establishing an international economic and financial policy platform that will drive and negotiate the best possible outcomes for South Africa, Africa and the developing world.

Given the overlap between our own National Development Plan, the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, there exist high levels of synergy between South Africa’s domestic priorities and the AU’s Agenda 2063 as well as the global blue print for sustainable development, the UN’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

As the only permanent African member of the G20, South Africa continues to coordinate its position with Senegal as the Representative of NEPAD and the current Chair of the African Union who participate at G20 meetings as invited guests.

I now turn my attention to the G20 Buenos Aires Leaders’ Summit, 2018 and its outcomes.

Guided by its own development priorities and the AU’s development blueprint, Agenda 2063, South Africa participated in the Buenos Aires Leaders’ Summit that was held under the theme, “Building Consensus for Fair and Sustainable Development”. The Summit focused on the priority areas of “the future of work”, “infrastructure for development”, and “a sustainable food future”.

Despite prevailing geo-political and international trade tensions, the G20 Leaders were able to muster the political will to adopt the Buenos Aires Leaders’ Declaration by consensus. It was underpinned by the Leaders’ “renewed commitment to work together to improve a rules-based international order that is capable of effectively responding to a rapidly changing world.” This was a significant achievement recalling that the recently held G7 and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summits were unable to adopt a consensus Declaration.

This is also significant given the prevailing backlash against trade, multilateralism and the anti-globalisation sentiment from some quarters. Regrettably, the G20 Leaders’ were not able to make a strong pronouncement on multilateralism due to stated positions by some members.

President Ramaphosa throughout his engagements at the Summit 1stly emphasized the following:

  1. The need to build safer and more resilient global financial systems;
  2. The promotion of the international development agenda;
  3. The continued commitment to a rules based multilateral system;
  4. The need for inclusive growth and sustainable economies; and
  5. The rejection of seemingly rising unilateralism and protectionism.

South Africa utilized the Summit to promote and strengthen the interests of the African Continent and the South by focusing on the following 10 important priorities and outcomes:

(i) Sustainable Development

Whilst the negotiations were robust, South Africa managed to focus the Leaders’ attention on Africa’s developmental agenda. The Buenos Aires Update and the G20 Action Plan outlines the G20’s collective concrete actions towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In this regard, South Africa emphasized the need for G20 support for the implementation of the industrialization in Africa initiative. The Leaders’ agreed to continue support for the G20 Partnership with Africa, including the Compact with Africa under the Finance Track, #eSkillsforGirls and Rural Youth Development initiatives.

Further, the Summit endorsed the G20 High Level principle on Sustainable Habitat through regional Planning and launched the G20 Initiative for Early Childhood Development (ECD).

(ii) Illicit Financial Flows

Despite initial resistance from some members, South Africa managed to reaffirm the Leaders’ collective and continued support for the G20’s prioritisation of addressing Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) as a developmental issue for Africa.  This is of particular significance following the findings by the AU High Level Panel on IFFs, which identified this scourge as a major impediment to Africa’s development.

(iii) The Future of Work

South Africa throughout the negotiations emphasized the need to embrace technological advancement for the benefit of all and to ensure that technological development reduces rather than deepens inequality.

In this regard, a key priority for this Summit was the Future of Work, where Leaders’ resolved to promote the building of inclusive, fair and sustainable Future of Work that will result in decent work and skills development.

The Leaders’ further endorsed the Menu of Policy Options for the Future of Work bearing in mind that the “transition will create challenges and that policy responses and international cooperation will help ensure that the benefits of the technological transformation are widely shared.”

(iv) Trade

Unsurprisingly, the negotiations on trade were the most controversial. The proposed text was problematic for three reasons.  (i) It did not reference the current trade tensions; (ii) the text was negotiated by a small group of countries and presented to the Group as “a delicate balanced and negotiated text that cannot be changed”; and (iii) from a substantive point of view the G20 pronounced on World Trade Organisation (WTO) reform at a time when there is no consensus within the WTO or the Africa group in Geneva on this process. Further, the proposed text made no mention of increased protectionism.

Notwithstanding our reservations, South Africa agreed to go along with the consensus, noting that the process should be Geneva based, membership driven and inclusive.

South Africa reiterated that the G20 needs to show leadership in light of the current global trade tensions. We reaffirmed the centrality of the rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system, as embodied in the WTO that promotes a predictable trade environment and recognizes the importance of the development dimension.

In this regard, South Africa on the margins of the G20 Summit, and in our capacity as BRICS Chair, issued a BRICS Media Statement outlining this priority.

Notwithstanding the current tensions in the area of international trade and investment, it was significant that G20 Leaders’ agreed that “trade remains an important engine of inclusive growth and economic development and recognized that the Multilateral Trading System has positively contribute to that end.”

(v) Climate Change

On the contentious issue of Climate Change, there remains clear division within the G20 between the United States and the rest of the G20 (19 members) in reference to the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

As was the case at the Hamburg Summit in 2017, all those G20 members who are signatories to the Paris Agreement reaffirmed that the Paris Agreement is irreversible and committed to its full implementation. Developing countries succeeded in ensuring that the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances was reflected in the Declaration.

The United States insisted on a separate paragraph that reiterated their decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

All G20 members did however, look forward to a successful UNFCCC COP24 and agreed to engage in the Talanoa Dialogue.

(vi) Energy Transitions

South Africa promoted the key issue of the need for increased energy access in Africa. Reference to “Energy Transitions” reiterated the “acknowledgement of the role that all energy sources and technologies in the energy mix and the different possible paths to achieve cleaner energy systems.” G20 Leaders’ recognized the “opportunities for innovation, growth and job creation through increased investment into cleaner and sustainable energy sources – including renewable, technologies and infrastructure.”

(vii) Education

G20 Leaders’ launched the G20 Early Childhood Development Initiative and made the firm political statement that “access to education is a human right and a strategic public policy area for the development of more inclusive, prosperous, and peaceful societies.”

The importance of girls’ education was also underlined.

(viii) Digitalisation

South Africa joined other members in highlighting the need for digital inclusion and G20 support to address digital divides. G20 Leaders’ “welcomed the G20 Repository of Digital Policies to share and promote the adoption of innovative digital business models.” The importance of the interface between trade and the digital economy was highlighted.

(ix) A Sustainable Food Future

G20 Leaders’ reaffirmed their commitment to addressing challenges of food security that is crucial to achieving a world free of hunger and all forms of malnutrition. In this regard, the G20 will build on the G20 Food Security and Nutrition Framework to promote sustainable agriculture in rural areas with a specific focus on sustainable soil, water and riverbanks management.

The G20 members as a collective endeavored to work with, “the private sector, the scientific community and all other relevant stakeholders to enhance value addition, productivity, efficiency, sustainability and upgrading in Agro-Food Global Value Chains and encourage initiatives to reduce food loss and waste.”

(x) Gender Mainstreaming

G20 Leaders’ agreed that gender equality is essential for economic growth and fair and sustainable development and that gender will be mainstreamed across the G20 Working Groups. G20 Leaders’ noted progress made in achieving the G20 Brisbane Summit commitment to “reduce the gender gap in labour force participation rates by 25% by 2025” and recognized that more needs to be done.

(xi) Health

South Africa continued to spearhead the G20’s work to advance counter measures to Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) through National and Regional Action Plans on AMR based on the One-Health approach.

The Summit noted the work done by the Global AMR Research & Development (R&D) Hub with a view to exploring practical market incentives for the Hub’s sustainability. As per the Argentine Presidency’s priorities in the field of Health, G20 Leaders’ endeavoured to address malnutrition and childhood overweight and obesity. Of importance to Africa, G20 Leaders’ stated their “commitment to ending HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and looked for to the successful 6% replenishment of the Global Fund in 2019.”

We believe, that the above outcomes presents an important step in ensuring that the G20 strengthens and provide political support to the UN led processes of sustainable development and to promote Africa’s development agenda.

In conclusion,

Looking ahead to the G20 Osaka Summit to be held on 28 and 29 June 2019, and building on the strong commitment of the G20 to development and African priorities, we are encouraged by the Prime Minister Abe’s commitment to use his Presidency of the G20 to “lead global economic growth by promoting free trade and innovation, achieving both economic growth and reduction of disparities, and contributing to the development agenda and other global issues with the SDGs at its core. Through these efforts, Japan seeks to realise and promote a free and open, inclusive and sustainable, “human-centred future society.”

In this context, the  deliberations of this conference is as an important input in guiding South Africa’s approach and engagement in the work of the G20 during 2019.

I thank you.


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