South Africa – United States 11th Annual Bilateral Forum (ABF)
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation hosted the 11th Annual Bilateral Forum (ABF) on 9 and 10 September 2020 under the theme “A Strengthened SA-US partnership for post-COVID-19 Economic Recovery.” The ABF was co-chaired by Ambassador Maud Dlomo, Deputy Director-General: Americas and Europe at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), and United States Ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks.
The purpose of the ABF is to review progress in sectoral cooperation, identify challenges, and make recommendations for future cooperation that advances the interests of both countries. The ABF, which took the form of a hybrid virtual/in-person meeting, was attended by senior officials from several South African Government Departments and their counterparts from the United States Embassy, who discussed current and future cooperation in areas such as trade and investment, health, basic and higher education, agriculture, energy, water, environment, transportation, science and innovation, as well as safety and security.
The meeting participants discussed the current COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating impact it has had on the economies of South Africa and the United States, as well as the unprecedented levels of anxiety and suffering it has caused around the world. In this regard, the meeting resolved that both countries would work to address challenges and identify opportunities in the bilateral trade and investment relationship, with a view to increasing the levels of trade and investment to assist in economic recovery. The meeting further noted the potential and the need for enhanced cooperation in the areas of scientific research and innovation, with a particular focus on public health to better prepare for possible future pandemics.
The South African Government used the opportunity to acknowledge and thank Ambassador Marks and the United States Government for the support provided to the Government and the people of South Africa with the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and technical assistance to contain the spread of COVID-19. These included, amongst others, a donation of 1,000 ventilators, 729,000 protective masks, equipment for field hospitals and hand washing stations, and deployment of technical experts and epidemiologists across the country. This collaboration builds upon years of partnership in public health to address the HIV epidemic, with the support of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has invested over $7.25 billion in South Africa since 2004. While the COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to these efforts, the meeting affirmed the commitment to reaching HIV epidemic control as soon as possible.
The Forum’s participants also reflected upon the important cooperation taking place in the area of education to support South Africa’s priorities in basic and higher education, and also acknowledged the ongoing support for and positive impact of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). The meeting further exchanged views on how to enhance support for the YALI alumni in their respective areas of focus.
The parties welcomed the progress made in increased Government-to-Government channelling of development assistance. Both parties look forward to the implementation of USAID’s new 5-year strategy. The strategy is in the final phases of development and will serve as a high-level visionary document.
The meeting further noted progress in areas such as health, environment, water, energy, defence, science and innovation, and safety and security during the period under review, including collaboration with South Africa in international human clinical trials with Janssen aimed at finding a vaccine for COVID-19. The parties also agreed on the need for international cooperation toward a COVID-19 vaccine.
The parties agreed that the ABF remains an important platform to review and strengthen sectoral cooperation between the two countries and also emphasized the need to use the Forum to enhance communication that can help both countries to better understand each other’s priorities and challenges with a view to agreeing on the most effective implementation strategies to accomplish strategic objectives and goals.
South Africa and the United States reaffirmed their mutual desire for an even stronger partnership that recognises the need for enhanced cooperation in regional and multilateral fora in the post-COVID-19 global environment; and to continue promoting their shared values for increased peace and prosperity for all, human rights, and to support efforts for the recovery of the global economy.