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Blinken arrives in South Africa, in desperate bid to counter Russia-China influence




Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference Thursday, March 17, 2022, at the State Department in Washington. (Saul Loeb/Pool via AP)

SECRETARY of State of the United States of America, (US) Antony Blinken landed at Lanseria Airport early on Sunday morning as part of his five-nation tour, which will also take him to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister, Dr Naledi Pandor, is scheduled to host Blinken on Monday in Pretoria, on the occasion of the South Africa-US Strategic Dialogue.

Clayson Monyela, spokesperson for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) said Pretoria and Washington enjoy historic and cordial relations.

“The South Africa-US Strategic Dialogue is a structured bilateral mechanism designed to serve as a platform through which the two countries review the bilateral relationship, consider new areas of cooperation and exchange views on matters of mutual interest,” he said.

“The US is a major export market for South Africa and a significant source of foreign direct investment (FDI), technology transfer, development assistance and tourism. Trade and investment relations take place under the auspices of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which grants duty-free and quota-free access to the US market for value-added products.”

Monyela said AGOA has created jobs in both South Africa and the US “and is thus mutually beneficial”.

The US is South Africa’s third largest trading partner with more than 600 US companies operating within our borders.

US foreign direct investment (FDI) in South Africa was valued at $7.8bn (ZAR 116bn) in 2019, a 6.8% increase from 2018,” according to Dirco.

US direct investment in South Africa is led by manufacturing, finance, insurance and wholesale trade. South Africa’s FDI in the US was valued at $4.1bn in 2019 (ZAR 59bn), up 1.2% from 2018.

“According to SA Tourism statistics, for the period January-April 2022, tourist arrivals from North America went up by 414,6% (16 838). In North America, the US has recorded the highest increase in volume to 43 700 (459,8%),” said Monyela.

“The introduction of additional flights from the US [Delta and United Airlines] to Cape Town is indicative of the interest shown by US citizens to visit South Africa, which will support the various efforts aimed at economic recovery, including in the tourism sector.”

It is expected that Minister Pandor’s meeting with Secretary Blinken will take stock of South Africa’s bilateral cooperation with the US, with a particular focus on the trade and investment relationship.

Monyela said other areas of focus will include health, climate and energy as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest.

“The meeting will also discuss ongoing and recent developments relating to the global geopolitical situation,” said Monyela.

“While in South Africa, Secretary Blinken will also use the opportunity to announce the US Government’s new Africa Strategy in a public address.”

In a statement issued from Washington, US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said Blinken would also join the annual South African celebration of National Women’s Day.

From South Africa, Blinken will be in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Tuesday and Wednesday where he will meet senior DRC government officials and members of civil society to discuss “our mutual interest in ensuring free, inclusive, and fair elections in 2023, promoting respect for human rights and protecting fundamental freedoms”.

Price said Blinken will also focus on combating corruption, supporting trade and investment, addressing the climate crisis, building agricultural resilience, and supporting regional African efforts to advance peace in eastern DRC and the broader Great Lakes region.

“Finally, the Secretary will travel to Rwanda on (Wednesday and Thursday), August 10-11, where he will meet with senior Rwandan government officials and civil society members to discuss shared priorities, including peacekeeping,” said Price.

“The Secretary will focus on the role the government of Rwanda can play in reducing tensions and ongoing violence in eastern DRC. He will also raise democracy and human rights concerns, including transnational repression, limiting space for dissent and political opposition and the wrongful detention of US lawful, permanent resident Paul Rusesabagina.”

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