State Luncheon Hosted by His Excellency Jacob Zuma, President of the Republic of South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday, May 21, 2013
It is a pleasure for Sharon and me to be here in South Africa. We are so grateful for the warm reception we have received wherever we have gone. It is a testament not just to the kindness of South Africans, but also to the great friendship that exists between our two countries.
Although this is not my first visit to South Africa—I have been here before to attend conferences—I am excited to see the country with fresh eyes.
Since arriving here, I have had the opportunity to speak with business leaders, innovators, students, educators, and Canadians who are working side by side with their African counterparts to create better lives and new opportunities for both our peoples.
But it was our first stop on this State visit that set the tone.
We visited yesterday the Slave Lodge museum, one of Cape Town’s oldest buildings, with much historical significance. From the 17th to the 19th centuries men and women from Asia and Africa were brought here as slaves. It is daunting to contemplate how many years the people of this land were excluded from lives of liberty. But their perseverance led ultimately after 400 years to the successful struggle against apartheid. As you know, this struggle included President Zuma, as well as Nelson Mandela, whose link to Canada as an honorary citizen of our country and an honorary Companion of the Order of Canada is well known. Let me take this opportunity to send Mr. Mandela the thoughts and warm wishes of all Canadians for good health.
As we surveyed the history of oppression presented in the Slave Lodge, my thoughts turned to the tenacity and determination shown by those South Africans in our time who literally put their lives on the line to bring freedom and democracy to this great country.
To know, with mind and heart, that the cause they were fighting for was just. To hold onto their beliefs in the face of such adversity— this took courage and strength. This is what South Africa and its people show us each and every day.
You have shown us that full equality, the cause for which both our countries continue to struggle, is a worthy aspiration.
Your determination and your support of this and other values, such as democracy and the rule of law, create a strong bond between Canada and South Africa. I hope that my visit here affords us all the opportunity to create even more lasting ties between the people of our countries.
And you have shown that determination again and again while dealing with the most pressing issues of the day.
For example, the economic situation in South Africa, like that of many countries around the world, is a struggle. More than a quarter of South Africans are looking for work. But your government has risen to the occasion, crafting a forward-thinking vision that vows to create five million additional jobs by 2020.
Above that, you aim to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.
These are all lofty and inspirational goals. And I think that Canadians and South Africans can work together to achieve them.
Allow me to focus on one area in which we can collaborate that strikes a chord with me personally: innovation.
Innovation has been identified as one of the ways to improve the economy in South Africa, which comes as no surprise. You know what so many others know: that the successful ideas of tomorrow will only come to be if we invest in those ideas today.
But let me add another thought, because we must not only invest in ideas, we must also encourage the sharing of ideas.
I have always said that the sharing of knowledge, across borders and across disciplines, is vital to creating success.
And we are working together in many different ways to achieve this.
I had the opportunity to talk with Africans working at the fishing ports, for instance, where Canadians have lent their expertise. This enabled South Africans to learn new ways of managing and conserving fish stocks.
The exchange of ideas across borders was the impetus for change, which itself led to more economic success for the region. Economic success can then lead to the potential for increased trade between our nations, building on the well over one billion dollars in bilateral trade our countries engage in every year.
This type of relationship is so beneficial, and it begins with people sharing with each other. And we have so many opportunities for sharing, given the more than 12 000 South Africans living in Canada.
It is no accident that I am the second governor general to visit this country in less than a decade. It is a sign of our friendship, our bond across the ocean as two different, yet linked peoples.
I would now like to reaffirm Canada’s commitment to democracy and good governance; to equality, innovation, and trade; to education and friendship; to South Africa.
I think about the Canadians who are investing and volunteering in South Africa, the South Africans contributing to Canada—and it makes me proud.
But we must be mindful that there is still so much more that we could and must do together.
Let us strive to do so because we live in a world where isolation is not an option; the key to our success is collaboration. Let us support each other, invest in each other, share with each other, give our peoples the opportunity to succeed together.
And so, I would like to raise a glass, to our future collaboration and to the people of our great multicultural nations.