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The role of economic diplomacy in a new world- Reprinted from the Sunday Independent

Economic diplomacy has always been an integral and important part of the work of a diplomat, and that principle applies equally to South African diplomats.

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The role of economic diplomacy in a new world- Reprinted from the Sunday Independent

  1. 1. The role of economic diplomacy in a new world- Reprinted from the Sunday Independent 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 diplomats. 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 diplomacy. 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.
  2. 2. 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 Relations. 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 organizations. 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.
  3. 3. 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 beyond. 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 Co-operation