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Public lecture by Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule on the Outcomes of the 10th Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Johannesburg Summit at the Sol Plaatjie University, Kimberley, Northern Cape, 19 September 2018

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Public lecture by Deputy Minister Reginah Mhaule on the Outcomes of the 10th BRICS Johannesburg Summit at the Sol Plaatjie University, Kimberley, Northern Cape, 19 September 2018 :

Our Programme Director, Prof Mary Jean Baxen,
Prof Collin Miruka,
Prof Patrick Fitzgerald,
Members of Senate and Council present,
MEC of Education, Ms Barbara Bartlett and other members of Exco present,
Academics and Staff,
Provincial Chairperson of the ANC, Dr Zamani Saul, the leadership and all other political parties present,
President of SRC, Mr Zolani Jack, Members of the SRC and the entire student leadership present,
Students,
Officials present here,
Esteemed guests,
Sanibonani.

I am honoured and of course delighted to interact with you today, particularly because of our focus of engagement which is the outcomes of the recently concluded 10th BRICS Summit which was held in Johannesburg in July this year. You will recall that before the commencement of the Summit, we criss-crossed the length and breadth of our country presenting and informing our people what our partnership within the BRICS entails. We further focused on ensuring that South Africans understands the importance we attach to the BRICS formation and the benefits we derive thereof.

In this context we made a commitment to get back to the people and report on the outcomes of the Summit. Certainly this is our first public lecture of this kind which is held at the university named after the first Secretary General of the South African Native National Congress, later named African National Congress (ANC) and also the first Black South African to write a novel, Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje.

The summit took place during the 10th anniversary of the BRICS formation which coincided with a very significant year where South Africa celebrates the centenary of the two giants in our liberation, namely Mama Albertina Sisulu and former President Tata Nelson Mandela. Whose contribution shape our current democratic dispensation and internationalist character.

The Summit indeed afforded us a fitting platform to again reflect on the important pillars of our foreign policy, particularly our cooperation with countries of the South. Tata Madiba alluded to this in his inaugural State of the Nation Address (SONA) on 24 May 1994 when he said: “We will also be looking very closely at the question of enhancing South-South cooperation in general as part of the effort to expand our economic links with the rest of the world.”

I can inform you that it is in this context that South Africa accepted the invitation to join BRICS in 2011. We believe that economic cooperation remains an important instrument to pursue our national interests and improve the living conditions of our people while contributing to the well-being of our fellow Africans and all those in communities across our nations.

Having said that, I would like to take an opportunity to briefly reflect on the history of our membership to the BRICS formation before outlining the outcomes of the summit and the benefits we have leveraged from the opportunities it continues to provide.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It must be public knowledge that our foreign policy outlook and continued focus on strengthening relations with formations and people of the South is largely informed by our history as well as identity. We however must emphasise that we are Africans who share historic commonalities with countries of the Global South which includes amongst others, the struggle against apartheid and colonialism. We also share common aspirations in regard to the kind of the world we wish to live in and the shared future which can benefit humanity.

Similarly, the BRICS formation in this context signifies a long standing tradition of solidarity that was firmly established 63 years ago, in April 1955. This was when countries of Asia and Africa met at the historic Bandung Conference in the emerging Cold War era situation of which the meeting’s significance and outcomes are well documented. I must however remind you that the Bandung Conference resulted in the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in later years.

Amid pressure from the Cold War bipolarisation, those countries were able to concertedly affirm that they would choose neither the East nor the West, but pursue their own path and strategy under the “Bandung Principles” of the Afro-Asia solidarity. For us it is important to recall that South Africa was at the Bandung Conference, represented by selected ANC leaders.

Subsequently, with the attainment of our democracy, it is again common knowledge that South Africa shared the same socio-economic and underdeveloped challenges as countries of the Global South. To a certain extent our challenges continue to be compounded by an international system that perpetuates the marginalisation of the Global South and the poor in every corner of the globe.

The BRICS formation has demonstrated potential to change the world. This is possible considering that the BRICS formation has joined an array of inter-regional bodies that contribute to global diffusion of power. Of course we joined the BRICS formation to advance our foreign policy objectives that are predicated on our domestic interests and the promotion of the African Agenda.

Esteemed Guests,

We can, once again, underscore that our 2018 Chairship of the BRICS Forum has been guided by our commitment to ensure that the African Agenda, as well as that of the Global South, remain on the Agenda of BRICS, particularly as it relates to garnering BRICS support for industrialisation and infrastructure development. We have sought to harmonise policies adopted in regional and international fora with those pursued in BRICS, more notably the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The benefits that South Africa and the African derive from our membership of the BRICS are both practical and tangible. A case in point is that South Africa-BRIC trade has grown from $28bn in 2010 to $35bn in 2017.

Additionally the establishment and operalisation of the BRICS New Development Bank as well as the Africa Regional Centre (ARC), which we proudly host in Johannesburg, has brought closer the alternative project funding institution to our people and the continent.

Just as a reminder, infrastructure and sustainable development project funding by the BRICS bank will also be extended to countries that are not members of the formation, and therefore African countries will benefit a great deal. I can say without any fear of contradiction that the ARC will enable us to identify projects that will enhance economic connectivity and bolster intra-Africa trade, among others.

It must further be noted that we witnessed with pride the first tranche of NDB project loans disbursed in 2016. I recall that this trench included a project in renewable energy amounting to 180 million USD to our own country. This has enabled us to stabilize our electricity grid supply and keep the much-needed jobs through continued operations in factories. There are those who are already saying the NDB could be the new World Bank, as far as I know this was not the objective of its creation. In May 2018 South Africa was granted an additional loan of USD 200 million by the NDB for expansion of the Durban port. It is worth noting that thus far the NDB has disbursed loans totalling USD 5.1 billion.

Programme Director,

Let me at this juncture turn my focus to some specific outcomes of the 2018 10th BRICS Summit. South Africa in its capacity as Chair of the BRICS grouping hosted the Johannesburg Summit on the 25-27 July 2018, in Sandton, Johannesburg, under the theme, “BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution”.

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President Ramaphosa in his opening address to the Summit expanded on the theme, further stating, quantum leaps in technology and innovation present enormous opportunities for growth, development and human progress.The president also indicated that the surge in innovation has the potential to dramatically improve productivity and to place entire countries on a new trajectory of prosperity. It has the potential to solve many of the social problems we face, by better equipping us to combat disease, hunger and environmental degradation.

Esteemed guests,

A report by the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2020, which is roughly two years from now, three most important skills for an employee will be complex problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity. Admittedly this require emerging markets to institute innovative programmes to re-skill the current workforce to be able to match the advances in technology. This of course will be achieved within the context of BRICS and also in cooperation with other formation across the globe.

In line with the theme, we informed our guests that, as a country, we have already committed to establish a Digital Industrial Revolution Commission. It will include the private sector and civil society, among others. In this regard, the BRICS Summit has adopted the Johannesburg declaration and an Action Plan based on this thematic focus and other pressing international issues. The BRICS Heads of State also presided over the signing of a couple of memorandums of understanding.

During deliberations of the Annual Meeting of the BRICS Business Council, we recognised the achievements and progress the Council had made over the past year and analysed the opportunities and challenges facing the emerging economies. The five BRICS countries reinforced their ongoing commitment and agreed on the importance of ensuring greater economic, trade and investment ties amongst the BRICS countries.

The three major focus areas identified during South Africa’s BRICS Business Council’s rotating chairmanship were: 
1. Youth – Fostering Entrepreneurship
2. The Digital Economy – Skills Development for the 4th Industrial Revolution
3. Agriculture and Food Security

Perhaps I must state that, flowing from the above and our commitment to the Establishment of the BRICS Credit Rating Agency, there is growing global interests in how we manage the BRICS affairs. Just a few week ago, two of the ‘Big Three’ rating agencies has given the BRICS New Development Bank positive ratings, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has assigned its AA+ long-term and A1+ short-term issuer ratings with a stable outlook while Fitch assigned the NDB a long-term issuer default rating (IDR) of AA+ with a stable outlook and a short-term IDR of F1+. This is a positive development in that it provides the NDB with a unique opportunity to establish itself as an important player in the multilateral development finance space. This further negates the perception of naysayers that the BRICS grouping lacks the required clout to influence global power dynamics.

Also, the Council reviewed the major work and achievements during South Africa’s presidency in 2018 and listened to the reports presented by the nine working groups, on energy and the green economy, financial services, deregulation, manufacturing, infrastructure, agribusiness, skills development, regional aviation and the digital economy.

Further moves towards enhancing economic development came in the form of the establishment of a BRICS Tourism Track and the BRICS Women’s Initiative.

On a separate matter, a proposal was made to the Summit, arising from deliberations from the 2018 BRICS Youth Summit, to consider the establishment of a Youth Working Group, as the 10th Working Group of the Council. This matter is receiving the attention it deserves.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me underscore that all the BRICS partners utilised the summit occasion to recommit to the pursuit of a rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system, as embodied in the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Importantly, this commitment of the BRICS Leaders was also strongly supported by the BRICS Outreach partners.

This brings me to an important aspect of our hosting. We convened, on the margins of the summit, the BRICS-Africa Outreach Dialogue and the BRICS Plus Initiative. Thus the following Heads of State/Government attended the Summit: Rwanda, Ethiopia, Angola, Zambia, Namibia, Senegal, Gabon, Togo, Uganda, Jamaica, Argentina, Turkey, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania and Zimbabwe

I must indicate that both the Outreach Dialogue and the Initiative were held simultaneously to reflect the broad partnerships BRICS has stimulated with the African continent and the Global South.

Key outcomes of the Johannesburg Declaration, included amongst others: establishment of a BRICS Working Group on the 4th Industrial Revolution through the BRICS Partnership on New Industrial Revolution (PartNIR) and its Advisory Group consisting of respective representatives of BRICS Ministries of Industry; BRICS Networks of Science Parks, Technology Business Incubators and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises were established to further support initiatives of the 4th Industrial Revolution; BRICS Vaccine Centre was established here in South Africa.

The declaration, which was reached to the principles of consensus further committed to the principals of mutual respects, sovereignty, equality, democracy, inclusiveness and strengthened collaboration in key subthemes; namely: Strengthening multilateralism, reforming global governance and addressing common challenges; Strengthening and consolidation BRICS cooperation in International peace and Security; BRICS partnership for global economic recovery, reform of financial and economic global governance institutions, and the Forth Industrial Revolution; and People to People Cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, allow me to turn my attention to education as a matter that received a focused attention of the summit. Our leaders agreed that there is a need to develop an outcome based education that will assist us in meeting the developmental challenges brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this vein the BRICS Heads of State/Governments reaffirmed the importance of higher education exchange for BRICS and called for a network of universities across the BRICS countries to collaborate and exchange knowledge and research experience.

Again, I am alluding to this so that the Institution we visiting today, knows that it also has a role to play in the development of the BRICS educational Programme. The BRICS University Network is therefore an important structure that will undertake the research that is needed to inform the overall BRICS collaboration and how it must evolve.

There are pockets of excellence in all our universities and our goal should be to benefit all.

Ngiyabonga!!!

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic of South Africa: Department of International Relations and Cooperation.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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