SA, DRC take stock of decade of cooperation

Pretoria � The first decade of the South Africa-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Bi-National Commission (BNC) was largely consumed by efforts of assisting the DRC in areas of institutional capacity building, says President Jacob Zuma.

This included the training of the DRC national army, police, diplomats; providing technical electoral support; as well as conducting the important public service census, President Zuma said on Sunday.

He was speaking in Pretoria during the 10th session of the South Africa-Democratic Republic of Congo BNC, which was attended by President Joseph Kabila Kabange of the DRC.

President Zuma said South Africa and the DRC have used the BNC mechanism to identify critical areas of cooperation.

The BNC, which was co-chaired by the two Heads of State, is aimed at further deepening bilateral and economic relations between the two countries.

It is clear to us that we have made substantial progress over the years. The DRC of 2017 is different from that of 2004 when we started our collaboration within the context of the BNC. The DRC is now politically stable and the security situation has improved.

Where there are still challenges, the government of the DRC, with the assistance of the region, continent and international community, is addressing those, President Zuma said.

He said projects that should be pursued with great vigour include the Grand Inga Hydro Power project for electricity production for economic development.

We also need to continue to prioritise cooperation in such critical areas as defence and security, infrastructure, energy, agriculture, trade and investment, mining, health and capacity building, to mention but a few, President Zuma said.

President Kabila said the DRC has identified energy as a strategic area of cooperation.

This is an area that I think we should push very hard in order for us to start seeing signs of success. Work has been done but yet a lot still needs to be done. The future is also economic cooperation, infrastructure and mining.

What has been hindering a lot of progress, I believe, is the fact that there's quite a lot of bureaucracy that we need to do away with, President Kabila said.

At the end of the meeting, South Africa's International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane read a joint communique by the two countries.

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said during the meeting, commitments regarding cooperation in projects in fields of politics and governance, defence and security, economy, finance and infrastructure were made.

Both Heads of States called for the full implementation of the Grand Inga Treaty that was signed on 29 October 2013 between the DRC and South Africa.

In this regard, they encouraged, the African financial institutions to assist in the implementation of the Grand Inga project, she said.

The two Heads of State reiterated their willingness to improve economic relations between the two countries by facilitating trade and removing all impediments constraining bilateral trade and investments.

Furthermore, they noted the positive development with regards to an immigration agreement which would facilitate movement of diplomats and officials of the two countries.

They urged ministers whose mandate this resides with to make the necessary arrangements to sign this agreement expeditiously, as all legal requirements have been complied with, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said.

She said the two Heads of State witnessed the signing of the memorandum of understanding (Mou) between the Cross Boarder Road Transport Agency and of the office of management of Multi-Model Freight.

The two Heads of State also used the occasion of the 10th session of the BNC to exchange views on the regional, continental and the international issues.

They noted with appreciation the ongoing work by the SADC community regarding regional integration, on continental issues the two Head of State expressed their commitment to African unity and integration. The Two Head of State reflected on the need for peace, security and stability on the region and on the continent to end the suffering of the local populations, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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