11th UK-South Africa Bilateral Ministers Forum

This week CX attended a Chatham House (CH) event on the 11th UK-South Africa Bilateral Ministers Forum.

A joint communiqué was issued by both Governments. It noted that the 2009 goal of doubling trade between the two nations by the end of 2015 would be missed. This was confirmed during the CH event where the audience was informed that trade had only increased by 30% over this period.

However, after the event we were able to speak with the British High Commissioner to South Africa about our introductory trade guides for British SMEs. We handed our SA guide to the High Commissioner.

The biggest emphasis during the event was on foreign direct investment (FDI). The UK is one of South Africa’s largest investment partners and looks to remain so for the foreseeable future. It was also noted that the UK has a specific Trade Envoy for South Africa in the form of Baroness Scotland compared to a joint envoy for Kenya and Tanzania. We would like to see more UK Trade Envoys in Commonwealth nations to help advance trade in this area. As we mentioned in our latest City AM article Commonwealth markets offer the UK a prize opportunity with South Africa being one such destination.

In terms of how the UK could re-engage with South Africa and the African continent more generally it was conveyed that the UK had been missing and that other nations will overtake her without greater involvement in Africa. The view was that the UK knows South Africa better than new nations trying to work in the region and that where the UK needs to be now are the places it has already been in the past.

Returning to the communiqué itself there was an interesting mention on bilateral defence:

“South Africa expressed its appreciation for the significant contribution to military education, training and development including funding senior officers at the Royal College of Defence Studies, the Advanced Command and Staff Course.

“Ministers welcomed the extension of the British Peace Support Team South Africa tenure, enabling the continued transfer of skills and expertise to the South African National Defence Force and the opportunity to develop further the UK’s support to South Africa.”

This links to our Commonwealth’s Call to Duty report which recommended greater officer exchanges and the creation of a Commonwealth Military Scholarship. We hope that such dialogue helps our suggested Commonwealth Security Forum with both nations taking a lead.