South Africa and Iran to Host Business Forum in Pretoria

The Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) together with their Iranian counterparts will host the South Africa-Iran Business Forum at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) offices in Pretoria on Monday, 23 October 2017 from 9am. The forum will be held on the margins of the Joint Commission co-chaired by the Minister of DIRCO, Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and her Iranian counterpart, Mr. Mohammad Javad Zarif.

According to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Rob Davies, the business forum will address amongst others trade, investment, economic development and industry related issues.

“The Middle East features as a pivotal trade and investment partner for South Africa and Iran in particular offers vast trade and investment opportunities for the South African businesses. Iran is the second largest economy in the Middle East region in terms of Gross Domestic Products (GDP) totalling US$438 billion in 2016 and the largest market in terms of population (80 million people). It ranks second in the world in terms of natural gas reserves and fourth in proven crude oil reserves,” says Davies.

Davies adds that the visit also affords South African firms an opportunity to network with key decision-makers from Iran, captivating on prospects and gains presented in both sides. He says the visit by Minister Zarif aims to build on the commitments made during the visit by President Jacob Zuma to Iran in 2016 and reinforcing discussions held by Senior Officials on 18 July 2017.

The Iranian delegation will consist of business representatives from the automotive, agriculture, agro-processing, mining, energy, pharmaceuticals and, oil and gas.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of The Department of Trade and Industry, South Africa.

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Prevention of Torture: UN human rights body suspends Rwanda visit citing obstructions

The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) has suspended a visit to Rwanda due to a series of obstructions imposed by authorities, such as accessing some places of detention, confidentiality of certain interviews and over concerns that some interviewees could face reprisals.

The delegation suspended the visit on day five of their planned seven-day mission because of Rwanda’s lack of cooperation which prevented the SPT from fulfilling its mandate under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). It is only the third time in 10 years that the SPT has suspended a mission.

“We have been barred from completing our work in some places, and grave limitations have been imposed on granting access to certain places of detention,” said Arman Danielyan, head of the SPT delegation. “We have also been unable to carry out private and confidential interviews with some persons deprived of their liberty. Moreover, many of those we have managed to interview have expressed fears of reprisals. We must not place the persons that have cooperated with us in danger,” he added.

The delegation concluded that the visit as a whole had been compromised to such an extent that it had to be suspended as the SPT mandate could not be effectively carried out.

Under the provisions of the OPCAT, the SPT is mandated to visit any of the 84 States parties to the Protocol and can make unannounced visits to any places where people are or might be detained; the visited country must grant the opportunity to the delegation to have private interviews with any persons deprived of their liberty, without witnesses.

The SPT mission to Rwanda had also been due to advise the authorities on the establishment of a national monitoring body, officially known as the National Prevention Mechanism (NPM), which according to the OPCAT should have a similar visiting mandate as that of the SPT and should have already been in place. The delegation also regrets that it was unable to meet with the relevant Parliamentary Committee in order to advise it on the draft NPM Law.

For the SPT, the key to preventing torture and ill-treatment lies in building constructive relations with the State concerned, and its guiding principles are cooperation and confidentiality.

“Now we call on the Government of Rwanda to further its cooperation with us and hope that it will abide by its international obligations in order to enter in a constructive dialogue with the SPT to enable us to resume our visit, including to advise on the establishment of an independent and effective National Preventive Mechanism in the country,” said the head of the delegation.

The SPT delegation comprised the following members: Mr. Arman Danielyan (Head of delegation, Armenia), Ms. Margarete Osterfeld (Germany), Mr. Kosta Mitrovic (Serbia), Ms. Zdenka Perovic (Montenegro) and Ms. Aneta Stanchevska (the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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Africa’s rapid urbanization can be a driver of industrialization

By 2035, half of Africa’s population will be urban, compared to just one third in 1990. This rapid urbanization creates growing challenges in terms of infrastructure and services’ needs, but it can also be a driver of industrial development on the continent, under the right policy framework.

In this context, the latest Economic Report on Africa by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), “Industrialization and Urbanization for Africa’s Transformation”, makes concrete recommendations for harnessing the rapid urban transition.

During the launch of the report by the ECA in Eastern Africa, Ms. Giovanie Biha, ECA’s Deputy Executive Secretary, stressed that “African urbanization has not been driven by improving agricultural productivity or increased industrial output, as has been the case elsewhere”. “On the contrary,” she added, “it has been dominated by the expansion of the informal sector – often services. To foster enhanced growth and poverty eradication, African countries should put in place industrial policies that will generate the skilled jobs and productivity gains needed for the structural transformation of their economies.”

According to Edlam Yemeru, Chief of Urbanization Section at ECA, there is an urgent need to connect policies and strategies for urban and industrial development for better performing cities and industries. “Coordinating urban and industrial development is possible by linking economic and spatial policies in the context of national development planning”, said Yemeru

Speaking on behalf of the government of Rwanda, Mr. Richard Mushabe, Division Manager of National Planning and Research at Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning highlighted that urbanization requires coordinated initiatives. “We need an integrated plan which ensures that our cities can improve the lives of our people and can enhance inclusive growth our economies”, he said.

The launch of the 2017 Economic Report on Africa also provided an opportunity to discuss the challenges of industrialization and structural transformation on the continent and for Eastern Africa in particular. In most of the 14 countries covered by the SRO-EA, the share of the manufacturing sector has been stagnant or declining over the past ten years while the services sector has expanded rapidly.

Despite a weak structural transformation process, the long-term growth outlook remains promising in Eastern Africa. The GDP growth rate is estimated at 5.6% in 2017, the same as in 2016. This is down from the exceptional performance of the past five years, with Ethiopia achieving an average annual growth rate of 9.5% and Rwanda 7.2% between 2012 and 2016, but it remains well above the African continent average of 3.1% in 2017.

Andrew Mold, Acting Director of ECA in Eastern Africa, highlighted some of the growth catalysts such as massive investments in infrastructure or dynamism of some service sectors (such as trading, finance, and tourism). However, these increased investments have also started to stretch budgets and structural constraints remain such as weak credit to the private sector or exchange rate volatility.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

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The United Nations in South Africa opens exhibition at Apartheid Museum

The United Nations in South Africa yesterday launched its exhibition, “The Role of the United Nations in the Struggle for Freedom in South Africa” at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. The exhibition, which was organized in partnership with the museum and Brand South Africa, showcases the UN’s contribution in the fight against apartheid.

The exhibition chronicles the history of the UN’s involvement in South Africa’s political system which began in 1946 when India raised concern at the General Assembly about the treatment of people of Indian origin in South Africa. The timeline displayed at the exhibition details the series of meetings and outcomes of the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid formed in 1962 as well as the impact of various declarations and resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.

During a period that spanned over several decades, the UN first imposed an arms embargo followed by economic sanctions as well as cultural and sports boycott of South Africa in an effort to force it to abandon its policy of apartheid. Footage at the exhibition shows late iconic South Africans such as former President Nelson Mandela, former African National Congress President Oliver Tambo and singer Mariam Makeba addressing the UN on the oppressive laws passed by apartheid South Africa. They all urged the global body to take a strong stance against the regime.

Speaking at the opening of the exhibit, the head of the UN in South Africa, Gana Fofang, shared his personal experiences with the participants about the time he was first introduced to exiled South African anti-apartheid activists while studying in the United States. Zaheer Laher, the Acting Chief Director of the United Nations Division within the South African Department of International Cooperation, expressed his government’s gratitude for the role played by the international community in ending apartheid. The Chief Marketing Manager of Brand South Africa, Linda Sangaret, and Emilia Potenza, the curator at the Apartheid Museum, also paid tribute to the UN for its role in the struggle for freedom in South Africa.

The exhibition runs until January 2018.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN Information Centre in Pretoria (UNIC).

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