The South African - GRULAC Dialogue Forum

The GRULAC (Latin American and Caribbean Group) dialogue forum on SA's relations with Latin American and the Caribbean countries was hosted at the DIRCO (Department of International Relations and Cooperation), OR Tambo Building, Tshwane, on 25 June 2015. With the attendance of the Deputy Minister Landers, as well as significant high level representation on behalf of the South African government and GRULAC missions in South Africa, insights were given on very dynamic efforts at economic development through integration amongst GRULAC members involving the regional blocsof the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), MERCOSUR (Common Market of the South), CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market) and PA (PACIFIC ALLIANCE). This meeting is a significant step for the renaissance and reconfiguration of broader African-Latin American-Caribbean relations, and particularly for South Africa’s relations with Latin America and the Caribbean, building on the 7 countries that South Africa has already paid diplomatic visits to this year.

Serious outcomes, catalytic institutions and new directions have emerged. Trade and investment relations with SA are growing by leaps and bounds in the case of Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. A new embassy will also be set up in Bogota, Colombia during this year. A renewed focus on the Caribbean has also been accompanied with relatively well balanced trade relations and new initiatives to be pursued in the region, particularly with Guyana as a recipient of IBSA Trust Fund financing. It must be applauded that despite the variety and differentiation of the different regional blocs, they converge by having a people centred approach towards development initiatives aimed at the economy, society, environment and governance systems.

Poverty in Uruguay has also seen drastic reduction, thanks to the effective implementation of its social welfare policies. Strong social centred approaches in Cuba, and social similarities of Haiti, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic also highlights these countries as significant partners for SA in the Caribbean, whilst keeping in mind the connection between Cuba and Venezuela and the increasing role being played by ALBA.

Cultural links are growing across the board, albeit at a leisurely pace. The Caribbean due to its demographic and cultural connectivity to Africa serves therefore as a springboard for SA to Latin America, as many of the Caribbean countries have been able to nuance their understanding and positioning within Latin America, from which SA could learn a great deal. The future of the black Atlantic is promising, and can serve as an important common region of interaction and trade, and also as a diversification of markets for SA goods and services.The common region of the Trans-South Atlantic thus looms in the foreground as a source of much needed solidarity.

A “lull in the relationship” between Africa and Latin America, particularly South Africa and Latin America, has been conceived as a result of a “knowledge gap”, however something to also consider is that events and meetings such as the SA-GRULAC Dialogue Forum, ASA Summit and diplomatic visits also encourage increasing connectivity between the regions, as studies in Angola and Mozambique have shown. These studies show that increased diplomatic and government cooperation and cultural exchange systems, aided to improved and increased relationships with Latin America in political, social and economic fields. Therefore the existence of multilateral institutions such as the G-77, G-20, and G-90 allows for interest to be generated in these relations, countries, as well as concepts such as global South and connectedness.

The IGD (Institute for Global Dialogue) partnered and participated as part of its unit on Latin American and the Caribbean Studies, a component of its Centre for Global South Studies. This Centre pursues ways on which the Tricontinental cooperation involving Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean could be enhanced and in what direction. The centre thus contributes to addressing both the knowledge gap and as a catalyst for stimulating interest in these relations between the two continents. In addressing the knowledge gap, the Centre has a new international journal called Global South Dialogue to provide a platform for dialogue on these issues. Watch out for the centre webpage coming soon.

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