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Unisa DIPLOSpeak attracts foreign ambassadors

Brazil’s ambassador to South Africa, His Excellency Ambassador Pedro Luiz Carneiro de Mendonça, delivered the keynote speech at Unisa’s DIPLOSpeak Roundtable, held on Wednesday 19 September 2012. Brazilian foreign policy towards Africa was in the spotlight during the discussion.

Among the attendees were ambassadors and embassy representatives of Colombia, Belgium, Hungary, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Syria, Serbia, China, Uruguay, Spain and United States of America; representatives of organisations such as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID); and representatives of the private and public sector.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Prof Mandla Makhanya with Ambassadors

At the roundtable, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor Prof Mandla Makhanya, stated that the idea behind the series of roundtables is to create a space where contemporary issues or themes related to international relations and South Africa, as well as the African continent, are investigated and debated. “It is also a place where ongoing strategies, thoughts, and insights on international relations are solicited,” he said.

“It is important for Unisa to focus on Brazil’s foreign policy,” said Makhanya, “because as one of the growing countries in international relations and multilateralism, Brazil elicits some modes of multilateralism that might not have been normative prior to the year 2000.” He added that understanding these dynamics requires ongoing studying. “The study of Brazil’s foreign policy was provoked by the interests on the policy implications it will have for South Africa and the continent at large,” concluded Makhanya. South Africa is part of the India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) grouping and the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) grouping, thus it is expected that institutions like Unisa remain abreast of the latest developments in these partnerships.

Ambassador de Mendonça said that Brazil’s relations with South Africa started in the 18th century. “In 1837 we had formal diplomatic relations.” He mentioned the importing of evergreen grass as one of the significant milestones marking this relationship (evergreen grass is a type of drought resistant grass found in Brazil). He further noted the high increase of imports and exports between Africa and Brazil and the participation of South Africa in IBSA and BRICS.

Student leadership representatives at the event

The event attracted high-level participation by ambassadors from different consuls around Tshwane. Professor Puleng LenkaBula, the Program Director and organiser of the DIPLOspeak, expressed her joy that at least 23 ambassadors from different embassies/consuls around the area attended the event, demonstrating an immense interest by the diplomatic corps in enriching knowledge on international relations, South Africa and Africa.

The session was concluded with a robust debate on current affairs issues relating to Africa and Brazil. More events and discussions aimed at understanding international relations, multilateralism and policy issues from other countries and regions will be held in 2013.

*Written by Trevor Khanyile

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