South Africa

OP-ED: SA poised to normalise ties with Rwanda — in the interests of integrating Africa economically

South Africa is ready to press the reset button on its relations with Rwanda, and this will not be at the expense of the values and principles that SA holds dear.

One of the landmark events in Africa’s geopolitical landscape in 2018 was the agreement reached in Kigali, Rwanda, on the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA), whose coming into operation is expected to catapult intra-African trade, leading to an improvement in the living conditions of the continent’s people. The “Kigali Declaration for the Launch of the ACFTA” is to serve as “an effective conduit for increased trade and investment across the African continent”, thereby addressing the prevailing situation which is characterised by Africa’s “traditional reliance on the export of raw commodities and the import of value-added products”, said President Cyril Ramaphosa at the extraordinary African Union (AU) Summit held mid-2018 in the Rwandan capital. Trade among African states must improve if the continent is to address the phenomena of poverty, unemployment and inequality. According to the Cairo-based African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), intra-African trade currently stands around at 15%, compared to Europe’s 59%, Asia’s 51% and North America’s 37%. The impediments have been identified, ranging from poor infrastructure connectivity to lack of manufacturing capabilities. African leaders are at one not only on the objectives of the ACFTA but also on the urgency of its implementation. Economic integration requires unity of purpose on the political front. That is why South Africa is working hard to cement the good relations that it enjoys with fellow African states. Soon after assuming his position, President Cyril Ramaphosa, joined by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, embarked on a tour of the continent. This was aimed at re-affirming South Africa’s belief that its future is inextricably linked to that of the rest of the continent. While in Rwanda to take part in the AU Summit that adopted the ACFTA, President Ramaphosa met his counterpart and chair of the AU, President Paul Kagame, for bilateral talks. At the conclusion of their meeting, the two presidents tasked their foreign ministers with the responsibility to normalise relations between Pretoria and Kigali. The directive was underpinned by an understanding that political unity and harmony had to move in tandem with emerging trends centred around economic integration. In recent times, bilateral diplomatic relations between South Africa and Rwanda have been characterised by tensions. Minister Sisulu is adamant that South Africa must build bridges and find ways of cementing its relations with fellow African countries. Such relations, she says, must be based on mutual respect and understanding. South Africa stands ready to press the reset button on its relations with Rwanda. And such a reset will not be at the expense of the values and principles that we hold dear — the non-negotiable “right to life”, the principle of “equality before the law” and the right to “freedom and security of the person”. DM Clayson Monyela, head of public diplomacy, Department of International Relations and Co-operation.