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Unisa online - South Africa forges closer ties with Chile

A golden handshake with a difference: Prof Rosemary Moeketsi (Executive Dean: College of Human Sciences) and Fernando Schmidt (Chilean Deputy Foreign Minister)

About 9000 kilometres separate South Africa and South American nation, Chile, but, economic and cultural exchanges between the two countries are about to bring them much closer. Unisa facilitated a programme on 5 July 2012, entitled, “Chile and the Pacific: Opportunities for Africa,” which aimed at doing just that.

Chilean Deputy Foreign Minister, Fernando Schmidt, addressed a delegation consisting of a number of ambassadors and dignitaries to provide greater insight into his county’s role in the global economy and how Africa, and in particular, South Africa can benefit. He drew parallels between Chile and South Africa, with the former being a resource-rich economy and having achieved democracy at roughly the same period as the latter after years of civil strife. “With the speed of globalization, there have been plenty of calls for more democracy and we must focus on strengthening that.”

The Deputy Foreign Minister also spoke of the importance of effective foreign policy. Trade currently accounts for 70% of Chile’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with their main partners being the Asia/Pacific region, Europe and the United States. However, Schmidt lamented the fact that Africa currently accounts for just 0.3% in terms of exports. “We want to strengthen trade relations and even possibly sign a Free Trade Agreement with South Africa. There are major business opportunities for investment in Chile and we are prepared to bring import prices down to zero and even allow companies to fly within our airspace without restrictions,” he says.

Dr Siphamandla Zondi (Director; Institute for Global Dialogue), His Excellency Francisco Marambo (Chilean Ambassador), Fernando Schmidt (Chilean Deputy Foreign Minister) and Prof Rosemary Moeketsi (Executive Dean; College of Human Sciences)

Prof Rosemary Moeketsi (Executive Dean; College of Human Sciences) says the Deputy Ministers visit could give cause to restart the Latin American centre at Unisa.

To this end, Chile is signing a Double taxation agreement with South Africa, which limits tax levies to do business, as well as a memorandum of understanding for trade and investment.

Prof Rosemary Moeketsi, Executive Dean in the College of Human Sciences, explained that the programme was part of a series of dialogues that will introduce the diplomatic corps to interactions with South Africans in the academic, business and other spheres. She says it is vitally important that Unisa hosts programmes such as these, given the university’s links to Chile. “Unisa prides itself on becoming the African university in the service of humanity. Our motto of 11 Cs + 1 includes consultation and cooperation, which we believe both governments can discover. We reach many parts of the world, including Chile!”

Fernando Schmidt (Chilean Deputy Foreign Minister) says Africa and Chile can become strong trading partners and encouraged investors to do so.

Dr Siphamandla Zondi (Director; Institute for Global Dialogue), revealed that Latin American studies are quite prominent in South Africa, which is another reason why Chile should be a strong trading partner.

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