Address by President Nelson Mandela at the opening of the 2nd Afro-Arab Trade Fair

9 October 1995

Honourable Ministers;
Premier of Gauteng Province;
Visiting Cabinet Ministers;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

Since May last year, many events have taken place in our country, confirming that South Africa is, at last, a full member of the world community of nations.

Few of these events bear as directly on our cause of reconstruction and development as does this trade fair: for it is an engagement among countries from which we gain not only in trade and investment, but also in invaluable developmental experience.

South Africa is therefore proud and indeed honoured to host this, the Second Afro-Arab Trade Fair. For us, it is critical to take full part with our brothers, sisters and partners in the Organisation of African Unity and the Arab League in the efforts to promote interaction within the African continent and with the Arab World.

Our vision extends to Africa as a whole. A prosperous SADC region and strong region-to-region economic linkages will give life to the vision, captured in the Abuja Declaration, of a united and integrated African Continent.

The Arab world is indeed an integral part of Africa, and was centuries-old trade and cultural linkages extending to the Eastern and Southern part of the Continent. Two years ago, in Tunisia, our governments and business enterprises began process of building on those ties with the First Afro-Arab Trade Fair. And now the 2nd Afro-Arab Trade Fair challenges us to take further meaningful strides towards multilateral co-operation.

We also welcome the participation and commitment of UN agencies on this occasion.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

A Trade Fair of this magnitude, bringing together partners in development, is critical for all our countries. It contains within it the seed to fully tap the potential of regions endowed with many valuable resources, with a market of close on a billion people, and with nations that represent a rich variety of culture and which are determined to make their mark on the world stage.

But this is more than a trade fair.

The country pavilions, side-by-side with private companies, reflect the partnership of business and government, and a high level of political support for the common objective of advancing economic co-operation.

The Fair is designed to give participating countries and visitors the opportunity to be actively involved not only in business but also in development co-operation and cultural exchanges.

This is more than a trade fair, above all, because it helps to pose questions to examine how the funds available in productive investments are for the benefit of our peoples. This is a challenge to business, as it is to governments, to ensure thate engage in ventures that will cte jobs and see to socio-economic development and prosperity in all our countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

South Africa's acceptance by the world has indeed opened a new era for our people and the business community in particular.

Just as many countries in Africa and the Arab World have been discovering what South African suppliers have to offer, South Africans are looking keenly at what can be sourced from our African and Arab partners.

In 1994 alone, South Africa's exports to African and Arab countries grew by 26% to R9,6 billion, whilst our imports from these countries showed a notable increase of 47% to reach the figure of R2,5 billion. These rapid increases reflect the immense potential for both trade and investment among all our nations.

And so, following on the success of the First Afro-Arab Trade Fair at the northern-most tip of the continent, African and Arab nations come together again, this time at its southern-most part.

As a community of nations we mean business. We have much to offer each other in our common endeavour to make a better life for our peoples. And we bring to the world a wealth of human and natural resources fits to each of our countries an warm welcome, and wish you a pleasant time in our country.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation