Deputy Minister Thabethe speaks at the International Handicrafts exhibition in Cameroon. Yaounde, 25 January 2012

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Let me at the outset express our warm felt gratitude to HE Laurent Ngoa, the Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises, Social Economy, and Crafts for inviting us to participate in this highly competitive international exhibition of handicrafts. We thank His Excellency for his goodwill to the people of the Republic of South Africa. We thank the Government and the people of Cameroon for all their warm hospitality and all courtesies extended to me and my delegation of officials and crafts exhibitors. All this underscores the warm and growing relations between our two countries.

Indeed in December we participated in the biggest exhibition of this region in the form of Promote 2011. We are here once again as per the courteous invitation of the Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises, Social Economy and Crafts. We have given necessary support to our Small and Medium Enterprises as the Department of Trade and Industry to take part in these initiatives. This is out of our belief that through relevant incentives, we can use this as an effective platform to enhance market access and economic empowerment.

We are back in Cameroon because we acknowledge the importance of this market in the region of Central Africa, and the opportunity it offers us to showcase our work, exchange our skills and expertise as small and medium enterprises. As crafters, we present to the world unique products that tell our story as Africans. If you look at the diverse and rich products that are in this exhibition from other regions of Cameroon, one gets to appreciate the rich social capital Africa possesses. As such, we are mindful of the need to move beyond just production and selling in our small corners, but to take our work to international level. This comes with its own challenges, which is why it is important to organise ourselves much better to meet the possible demands of higher production output. We must as Africa begin to address with all frankness the challenge of exploitation of intellectual property our handicrafts, and how it gets to be protected. This means infusing certain technologies in moving our production output to a higher level as such exhibitions continue to open new markets for us.

The Cameroonian economy presents enormous trade and investment opportunities for South African business, and that is why we have identified this country as a strategic partner. South Africa and Cameroon have a number of agreements meant to facilitate better economic cooperation and enhance market access. Under these framework agreements, the two countries are further moving to establish the Joint Trade Committee aimed at mapping interventions to accelerate bilateral economic cooperation. This seeks to address trade imbalance between our two countries by leveraging on these agreements, and building on the opportunities for investments.

Cameroon is endowed with modest resources that present great opportunities to small and medium enterprises. At government level, we shall continue to strengthen economic relations with Cameroon aimed at advancing our developmental agenda in the rest of Africa. Through interventions and bilateral meetings with our Cameroonian counterparts and private sector, key sectors offering profitable economic opportunities in Cameroon have been identified. The realisation of these opportunities should and must be anchored on the necessary support to small and medium enterprises as true drivers of the economy.

We thank the support and industrious work that our mission is doing in Cameroon under the leadership of Her Excellency Ambassador Ntshadi Tsheole. They have worked tirelessly to ensure that our previous economic missions have been a success. We believe that with our participation in Promote 2011 and now the 3rd International Handicrafts Exhibition, we have once again placed ourselves on the frontier of development through our Small and Medium Enterprises. Ambassador Tsheole has also ensured that we not only promote traditionally known entities, but we live up to the diversity of our country. We trust as well that besides such exhibitions, we will be able to innovate and utilise other key platforms like the South Africa Day.

I thank you.

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