President Cyril Ramaphosa hosts Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta, left, on a state visit at the Union Buildings in Tshwane on Tuesday. Picture: Alon Skuy
President Cyril Ramaphosa hosts Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta, left, on a state visit at the Union Buildings in Tshwane on Tuesday. Picture: Alon Skuy

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday that SAA and Kenya Airways had agreed on a partnership aiming at the creation of a pan-African airline that would draw on the capabilities and advantages of the two airlines.

This was among the many strategic arrangements the countries agreed on when Ramaphosa met Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta and his delegation at the Union Buildings in Tshwane.

“The decision of our respective national airlines to deepen their collaboration is further testament to the growing ties between our two countries,” said Ramaphosa during a joint media briefing. “President Kenyatta and I have reaffirmed the strategic importance of bilateral relations and reiterated our desire to elevate the nature of the relationship, which would include the conclusion of a strategic partnership agreement.” 

Ramaphosa said the countries broadened and deepened the areas of co-operation through the signing of a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding in the areas of diplomatic consultations and training, transport and air services, health, tourism, migration and the return of nationals who are refused entry. 

The two used the meeting to take stock of the state of their bilateral relations while exploring other areas of mutual interest.

Ramaphosa said Kenya was one of SA’s largest trading partners in Africa outside the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

“We are committed to increasing the volume and broadening the composition of trade between our two countries. We want Kenya to see SA as a growing market for goods and services,” said Ramaphosa. 

He added that the countries will be working together to identify Kenyan export products for which there are great growth opportunities in SA. 

“We are also committed to investing more in each other’s economies.” 

As part of efforts to promote intra-African trade, Ramaphosa said the countries would continue to look for opportunities to procure goods and services from each other before considering suppliers outside the continent.

Ramaphosa acknowledged progress made in tourism and immigration, including the introduction of e-visas for Kenyans travelling to SA.

“We are committed to exploring further measures to ease travel between our countries as an important part of strengthening trade, investment, tourism and cultural ties.

“We are pleased to announce that a task team at the level of the two presidents, President Kenyatta and myself, will be set up to improve ease of travel and address any visa-related challenges between our countries,” he said.

Both presidents want an update on the matter within six months.

“Those that can be solved immediately such as business travel, medical and students, they should find solutions and have those implemented but in any event report back to us in six months,” he said.

During their meeting, the two presidents also reflected on developments in their respective regions, particularly in Mozambique, Sudan and Ethiopia. 

“SA aligns itself with the Sadc position to support Mozambique in dealing with instability in the Cabo Delgado area. Sadc continues to be seized with the situation in Mozambique and a consolidated regional approach in dealing with the matter is being pursued,” Ramaphosa said. 

Regarding Sudan, he said: “We strongly condemn any unconstitutional change of government and call on all the parties to engage in constructive, good faith and peaceful dialogue to restore the country’s constitutional order”.

The presidents addressed the grave situation in Ethiopia, expressing “our conviction that there is scope for dialogue among the warring parties and that there is an urgent need for all parties to the conflict to commit to an immediate, indefinite, negotiated ceasefire and an inclusive political dialogue.” 

Ramaphosa and Kenyatta reiterated that the need for long-lasting peace and security on the continent “has become more urgent as African countries operationalised the historic African Continental Free Trade Area agreement on January 1 this year.” 

Ramaphosa said SA and Kenya stand together with the rest of the international community in support of freedom and justice for all people.

“We have reiterated our principled stance that the people of Palestine have an inalienable right to self-determination and nationhood. Unless the root causes of the conflict are addressed, in this case the illegal occupation by Israel of Palestinian land, there will never be enduring peace in the Middle East.” 

He agreed with Kenya that it was important for the UN Security Council to support the work of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara. 

“Like Kenya, we are concerned at the delay in holding the referendum, which is necessary for the realisation of the right to self-determination for the people of the Western Sahara.” 

The two heads of states expressed concern at the inadequate protection of the human rights of the Saharawi people. “I have assured President Kenyatta of SA’s continued support for Kenya’s tenure as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2021-2022.” 

On Covid-19, Ramaphosa said: “We have agreed that SA and Kenya, as like-minded countries, should work together to build consensus on how our continent should emerge from this crisis. We have consistently advocated an equitable and transparent distribution of vaccine doses to developing economies.”

Furthermore, he said, both countries have proven capacity and expertise in vaccine manufacture. “However, we need support to enhance and scale up this capacity, including through technology transfer.”

Kenyatta, whose programme includes a visit to Transnet Engineering in Koedoespoort and Aspen Pharmacare in Gqeberha, echoed Ramaphosa’s sentiments.

“It is only by working together that we can achieve our desired outcomes for closer bilateral co-operation and strategic partnerships. We have today made very good strides, however we believe there is scope to do even more.” 

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