On Wednesday, 05 October 2016, the Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, honourable Des van Rooyen held a meeting with His Excellency, Ambassador Mikhail Petrakov from the Russian Federation.
The meeting was part of the ongoing programme and efforts by government to build strategic relations with international partners across the world for development.
This meeting took place at the time when the relations between the two countries (Russia and South Africa) is strong, especially within the context of BRICS. As strategic partners, it is without doubt that this meeting between the Minister and the Ambassador had strategic significance as it will go a long way in contributing to development in our country.
The Minister expressed appreciation at the opportunity to meet with ambassador and indicated his commitment to strengthen relations that will assist with development, especially for our local government, cities and provinces.
The discussion between the two leaders looked at the issues around the inter-regional and inter-city cooperation between Russia and South Africa. The Russia-South Africa intercity cooperation is framed by and occurs within the BRICS Friendship Cities and Local Government Cooperation (FCLGC) Forum, which was formed during the BRICS Leaders meeting of 14 April 2011, held in Sanya City, China where it was formally agreed that the BRICS Friendship Cities and Local Government Cooperation (FCLGC) Forum be established as a new area of cooperation.
The FCLGC forum was established with the purpose of strengthening collaboration between BRICS member cities and to enable the local government sector in member countries to exchange and share information. The primary participants of the FCLGC Forum are municipalities and their Associations, with other stakeholders playing a secondary role.
Since COGTA is responsible to facilitating and coordinating South Africa’s participation in the BRICS FCLGC Forum and the BRICS Urbanisation Forum, the meeting between the two leaders was important. A number of cities and provinces in our country have entered into agreements and signed memorandum of understanding with those from the Russian Federation. The challenge is however that this relations do not function at an optimum level, hence the importance of strengthening relations with the Russian embassy at the level of CoGTA. With key programmes identified and funded though such cooperation, our country can definitely make headway in moving forward.
To ensure strong relations between the two countries, the ambassador has been visiting provinces in our country accompanied by teams including business. This visits have assisted in understanding the work taking place in the Provinces and how the country can benefit in strong and improved relations for development between Russia and South Africa. This visits have also provided an important opportunity to learn from the Russians whose institutions have been existence for years and manage about 80 provinces as compared to ours which are fewer.
The Minister raised issues relating to ensuring the well-coordinated programme of intercity cooperation. “This programme should focus on among things, urban management, investment, local economic development, employment creation, innovation, trade, tourism and peer learning”, said Minister van Rooyen.
The meeting resolved to continue engaging and also ensuring better coordination of key programmes and activities. To this effect, a team comprising the representatives from the Russian Embassy and CoGTA will be constituted to coordinate all areas relating to the discussions and agreements by the Minister and the Ambassador. The team will also be a monitoring platform for the implementation of the programme of action that will be decided between CoGTA and the Russian Embassy. The team will also ensure that the embassy interact with the institution of traditional leadership and other key sectors in an effort to build and strengthen working relations.
The meeting ended with the commitment by both the Minister and the Ambassador to continue meeting and finding solutions to pertinent issues, especially those related to development at local and provincial spheres across government.
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