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South African President’s State visit to France

Publié le March 7, 2011
Speech made by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the Republic, during State dinner held in honour of Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa
Paris, March 2 , 2011


Mr President, cher Jacob,

I’d first like to bid you a very warm welcome. We hope the memories you have of your stay among us will be as vivid and fond as the memories Carla and I have of our stay in your country exactly three years ago.

Cher Jacob Zuma,

We’re honoured by the State visit to France you begin today.
We’re honoured by your visit because you are the outstanding leader of an outstanding country.

You entered the fight against apartheid when still very young, were imprisoned for 10 years on Robben Island with “Madiba” [Nelson Mandela] and later played a major role with him in the peaceful advent of a free, democratic and reconciled South Africa. This fast-developing South Africa owes you a great deal.

You are now at the helm of a country that commands admiration and respect worldwide.

Admiration and respect, first, for what it embodies in the hearts of so many men and women on all continents: the fight for freedom, justice and human dignity. Admiration and respect also because South Africa is a young, modern and enterprising country who believes in her future, is aware of her responsibilities and is determined to play a full role in Africa and in the world.

South African businesses are very successful well outside Africa. Your research centres are renowned in all fields, and young South African talents are acclaimed on the world’s art scene.

This vitality, this creative drive was felt worldwide last year during the Football World Cup. What we saw then was South Africa’s tremendous organizational ability and her state-of-the-art infrastructures, which our companies are proud to have helped build. Above all we saw a united, welcoming, enthusiastic South African people determined to overcome the immense challenges of history.


Mr President,

South Africa is on the move. At the crossroads of Africa and the group of major emerging countries, in all the forums where the planet’s future is in the making, she speaks with a voice that is crucial and is listened to.

Your country again sits on the United Nations Security Council. Let’s work together on the issues of peace and security, and above all let’s work together to enable Africa to be properly represented at last in this institution, among countries holding permanent seats!

Cher President, in nine months’ time you will be hosting the 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban. The Conference could not be in better hands: you showed your personal commitment in the fight for the environment at the time of the Copenhagen summit and when you agreed to co-chair the United Nations Panel on Sustainable Development.

Cher President, we’re counting on you in our G20 presidency. And everyone is aware that Africa’s major return to the international stage, as announced a few years ago by Nelson Mandela, is under way. By 2050, Africa will be a demographic giant. By then, it will have much higher economic growth rates than in the most developed countries. Regional integration is making progress, and your organization, the SADC, is actively contributing to this.


In this context, I was keen to set out France’s new African policy in Cape Town three years ago. And you did us the honour, Mr President, of being one of the leading speakers at the Africa-France summit in Nice last June. And it was very exciting for France to receive, at the Africa-France summit, a great non-Francophone country, South Africa.

Our relationship must grow even closer. For France, you are a strategic partner.

Many large French businesses have chosen to be “citizens” of South Africa, by taking action to support historically disadvantaged populations. Their chief executive officers are with us here tonight. I’m pleased that you yourself are accompanied by a large delegation of South African business people. I invite them to invest more in France and work with our companies in the rest of Africa.

A number of French groups have been doing business in South Africa for a long time now. I hope we continue to develop that comprehensive, confident and responsible partnership.

Sixteen years ago we chose to support your strategy for development and poverty reduction. Today, France is one of your country’s leading partners. We’re making sure our action is utterly consistent with the five “pillars” you have defined for the development of South Africa, namely job creation, education, health, rural development and the fight against crime. So France today welcomes a friend. Just now, when we were talking, you said to us, “the world has changed”. Well, yes, it has changed. Jacob Zuma, who represents South Africa, was in prison for 10 years, the prisoner of a system that oppressed people for being the “wrong colour”. Well, this prisoner, who fought alongside Nelson Mandela, is today President of South Africa. We’re welcoming a huge country and a great president.

Mr President, Madam, thank you for accepting our invitation. Long live South Africa, long live France, and long live the friendship between our two countries!./.

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