The role of economic diplomacy in a new world- Reprinted from the Sunday Independent
The role of economic diplomacy in a new world- Reprinted from the
By Volkmar Guido Hable
Economic diplomacyhas always been an integral and important part of the
work of a diplomat, and that principle applies equally to South African
The reality, however, is that we have come to live in a dynamic world that
has been changingat a tremendous pace. These changes have necessitated
diplomats to prepare in different ways, as the pressure on them to perform
for their countries has also increased, not only because of the changing
world, but because of the domestic priorities of each country.
Our diplomats aroundthe world are therefore competing to ensure that the
economic levers that allocate the supply and demand of scarce resources
will favor South Africa.
The cabinet acknowledgedthis reality and decided in June 2007 that South
Africa needed to prepare its diplomats for this economic imperative,
instructing the Diplomatic Academy of the Department of International
Relations and Co-operation – through the endorsement of the document
on the Strengthening of Economic Diplomacy and the Challenges of Co-
ordinated Marketing of South Africa Abroad – to develop a curriculum on
Economic Diplomacy. The main aim of this process was to operationalise
the “expansion and continuation of common training” on economic
This instruction was given to the department in partnership with the
Department of Trade and Industry (dti), as the dti has the line function
responsibility for trade and commercial relations. The practical reality,
however, is that the dti only has representation in 26 countries, and
department officials effectively have to perform the economic diplomacy
duties in the totality of 124 South African missions abroad.
Hence, the cabinet instruction was intended for both departments.
South Africa, before its membership of Brics, already had representation in
44 out of 52 countries on the continent.
The actual total currently is 47 missions, with Liberia opening this year and
South Sudan shortly before the declaration of the new representation.
The assertion that we are playing “catch-up and (attempting to) compete
head-on with Brics” is incorrect.
As demonstrated, we have always held a commitment in our foreign policy
to Africa’s development; with the Brics partnership we hope to pursue this
partnership to the benefit of the continent’s development goals.
Referring back to our training programs, the process of developing a
curriculum included the development of an Economic Diplomacy Strategic
Framework, which the Diplomatic Academy did in consultation with the dti.
In an effort to extend economic diplomacy training, a pilot program was
launched at the end of 2009 for South African officials from the three
spheres of the government.
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation works well
with the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on International
Economic diplomacy training workshops included not only officials of the
dti and the department, but also officials from the National Treasury, SA
Tourism, Government Communication and Information System,
International Marketing Council and the Provinces of Gauteng, Eastern
Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Western Cape.
Metros included Tshwane, Joburg, Nelson Mandela Bay, eThekwini as well
as the South African Local Government Association, SA Municipal Local
Economic Development Agency, the Nepad Business Foundation and the
South African Institute of International Affairs, as well as other civil society
The curriculum includes training on the processes, challenges and
opportunities of globalization, South Africa’s domestic priorities, trade and
investment strategies, export marketing and investment assistance, market
analysis, priority markets and indicators, among others.
Furthermore, progress reports are presented on inter alia the EU’s
Economic Partnership Agreements, the Southern African Customs Union,
and the international financial situation.
The views of the private sector (representedby, but not limited to, Standard
Bank, Sasol, Anglo Gold Ashanti and parastatals such as the Industrial
Development Corporation and the Development Bank of Southern Africa)
are also solicitedon how the co-operation between South Africa’s missions
abroad could be improved to better serve the country.
This same curriculum was, simultaneously, included into the residential
trainingprogramof the Diplomatic Academy. Since November 2009 to July
2011, 302 department officials have been trained.
A total of 90 international relations practitioners from other government
departments have attended the four workshops held between November
2009 and June 2011. It is expected that by the end of 2011, a further 120
officials both in the department and other government entities will be
trained in economic diplomacy.
Our training methods and tools continue to improve and will soon include
a toolkit which continues to involve stakeholders in the government and
South Africa is one among very few countries who have a fully fledged
diplomatic training academy and a research and analysis unit, because we
take the trainingof our diplomats seriously, and we pay particular attention
to knowledge management so that the quality of our diplomats can
continue to improve.
Some of our courses are internationally benchmarked and also submit to
national qualification standards.
We apply some of the best brains in the country in teaching our diplomats.
Volkmar Guido Hable is the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Guineain
Vancouver andtakes care of the Department of International Relations and