Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Dr Naledi Pandor, is set to host Mr Micheál Martin, the Irish Deputy Prime Minister (Tánaiste), Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, for a bilateral meeting on July 18, 2023. The primary agenda of this meeting is to strengthen the existing bilateral ties between South Africa and Ireland, covering various aspects such as regional and international issues, multilateral developments, and the South Africa-Ireland Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC).
Established in 2017, the JCC provides a framework for conducting bilateral relations between South Africa and Ireland. The JCC convenes biennially, with Deputy Ministers leading discussions. During the previous meeting in February 2022, representatives from both countries explored avenues for cooperation across several sectors, including education, labor, immigration, energy, trade, gender, tourism, arts and culture, and science and technology. These areas align with the priorities of both governments, ensuring a comprehensive collaboration.
The partnership between South Africa and Ireland is built on shared values and a mutual commitment to multilateralism, promoting democracy, protecting human rights, empowering women, upholding the rule of law, and fostering socially cohesive and just societies.
Ireland relies on South Africa as its primary import and export partner on the African continent. In 2021, Ireland ranked as the 11th largest supplier to the South African market and was the 11th export destination for South African products to the European Union (EU). Over the span of five years, from 2018 to 2022, the total trade volume between the two countries increased from R9.2 billion to R10.5 billion, demonstrating a positive annual average growth rate of 3.1%.
Examining the exports from South Africa to Ireland in 2022, primary products accounted for roughly 48% of the total exports. This category includes coal (18.7%), fruits (18%), and other goods (11.3%). Value-added products constituted around 30.4% and were primarily represented by motor vehicles and tools. Notably, these top ten value-added products accounted for approximately 78.4% of the total exports in 2022.
In terms of imports from Ireland to South Africa in 2022, the top ten products accounted for approximately 73.4% of the total imports. Among these, value-added products such as medicaments, powered aircraft, automatic data processing machinery, orthopedic appliances, and pharmaceutical products, comprised roughly 64.6%.
This year, 2023, holds special significance as it commemorates the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between South Africa and Ireland. The bilateral relations between these nations have a rich historical backdrop and have remained amicable over the years. Ireland, along with the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, actively supported South Africa’s struggle for freedom, providing refuge to many South Africans, including former Minister Kader Asmal.
Coinciding with the upcoming Nelson Mandela International Day on July 18th, South Africa, and the international community will pay tribute to Nelson Mandela’s legacy. It is expected that Tánaiste Martin will join Minister Pandor in participating in Mandela Day activities, highlighting the shared values of both countries.
The bilateral meeting between Minister Pandor and Tánaiste Martin aims to reaffirm the enduring significance of political and economic relations between South Africa and Ireland. Both nations are committed to enhancing their economic ties, which will contribute to skills development, job creation, investment opportunities, and further strengthening political and people-to-people relations.