State visit to South Africa: Official Banquet
Mr President and Mrs Zuma Ministers Ladies and Gentlemen It is a great pleasure for the Queen and me to be back in South Africa. We visited your beautiful country in 1998, and the warm welcome we have received today has brought back fond memories of our visit then. It is exciting to be back nearly 12 years later, and we are looking forward to seeing and learning more about how South Africa is developing and changing.
Since 1998 your country has been faced with the daunting task of both maintaining and transforming the very core of society. Truth and reconciliation took on a new meaning for the rest of the world. We witnessed the way the South African people dealt with its past. We have followed developments since then and are impressed with the achievements you have made. Today the South African democracy is firmly founded on the basic principles of freedom and participation, which provide a good basis for dealing with the larger issues of economic and social development for all.
South Africa is increasingly taking its rightful place on the international stage. You have contributed significantly to the development of the African Union and strengthened its ability to deal with peace and security. The role you have played in conflict-ridden countries like Burundi and Sudan, both diplomatically and through peace-support operations, has enhanced the AU’s ability to deal with conflicts that have had such negative effects on the larger region. In several conflict areas our two countries have worked together, both through governmental and through non-governmental channels.
The links between South Africa and Norway go back a long time. Norwegian sailors arrived here in the 1700s, Norwegian missionaries were active in KwaZulu/Natal from the 1840s, and Norwegian businesspeople and whalers came in the early 20th century.
From a geographical point of view, South Africa and Norway might not seem like natural trading partners. However, in a globalized world geographical distance is of less importance. An increasing number of Norwegian companies in the ICT sector have set up shop in South Africa. Norwegian companies have established shipping terminals in Durban. Furthermore, Norwegian businesspeople see opportunities for cooperation with South African partners on supplying and serving the oil and gas sector in neighbouring African countries. They also see the potential for a closer link between South African and Norwegian energy companies. But there is room for more trade and investment. I hope that the business seminar in Cape Town and Johannesburg tomorrow and Thursday will contribute to that.
Oil has permitted Norway to establish an international Pension Fund and this fund has invested around 10 billion Rand in companies registered on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The Pension Fund pursues a cautious investment policy. The level of investment in South Africa is an expression of confidence in the economic and political stability of your country.
Last year about 23 000 Norwegian tourists visited South Africa, and I understand why. Meeting the people of South Africa, with its rich mosaic of cultures and languages, and visiting your National parks are memorable experiences.
At the same time, we are glad to see that an increasing number of South Africans are traveling to Norway. We are gradually gaining a better understanding of each other.
South Africa and Norway are “neighbours” in the Antarctic. In 2005, the Queen inaugurated the Norwegian research station “Troll” as a year-round base. She also had the pleasure of visiting SANAE research station, a trip she remembers vividly. The South African base in the Antarctic is still known by the name “Vesleskarvet”, a reminder of the time it was used by the Norwegian Polar Institute. Today, our experts are contributing jointly to a deeper understanding of the complex mechanisms influencing global weather systems. Both our countries are major producers of fossil fuels. Reducing CO2 emissions from coal, oil and gas is a challenge. Norway will continue to focus on environment and climate in our future oil and gas activities. We are developing a new technology for capturing and storing carbon emissions, known as CCS technology. I am very pleased to see that this cooperation is progressing, and that a partnership has been established around the South African CCS Centre.
Many Norwegian artists have been inspired by South Africa’s history and its people. We asked the musician Mari Boine to accompany us with her band on this State visit. She recently released a CD that has not only been recorded in South Africa, but was also inspired by South African culture and music. It was made in cooperation with Madosini, Dizu Plaatjies and the Abaqondisi Brothers.
Sport is something that unites peoples. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate South Africa on being chosen to host the 2010 soccer World Cup. This will be the first time the world’s largest sports event takes place in Africa. This event will be watched by hundreds of millions around the world. I will be one of those watching.
I will express our gratitude for the reception we have been given, and reiterating how impressed we are by the changes that have taken place in this country since our last visit. The bilateral relations between our countries go back a long way, but they are forward-looking and focus on common interests and areas where we can cooperate in order to make a difference.
I now ask you all to join me in a toast to the President of South Africa and Mrs. Zuma and to the people of South Africa.