Newsletter 12/10

SADC colloquium in Paris 4th November 2010

The French Committee for South Africa was a guest at the SADC colloquium held at OECD headquarters in Paris on 4th November 2010, on the theme of “Regional integration as a factor for development”.

SADC, the Southern Africa Development Community, is made up of fifteen member States (South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe).

SADC has adopted a pragmatic approach very similar to that which shaped the construction of Europe. The creation of a common market should eventually lead to the introduction of monetary union.

The process of peaceful change experienced in South Africa, Angola and Mozambique has brought stability to this region of Southern Africa, which achieved GDP growth of 4.6% in 2008. The global financial crisis, however, reduced this growth rate to 2.8% in 2009.

The development of infrastructures, particularly in the fields of transportation, energy and of information and communication technology (ICT), is driving economic integration which enables a raise in the standard of living in all the member countries.

Tourism is seen as a key factor in development, and receives particular support from the Regional Tourism Organisation of Southern Africa (RETOSA).

Infrastructure is often funded by a mixture of public and private financing. There is also an international component, mainly from the European Union and China.

South Africa's economy: an abundance of mining resources

South Africa remains Africa's most powerful economy (almost 40% of total GDP for sub- Saharan Africa) and the continent's most developed country. The economy is both modern and diversified, with agriculture, mining resources, industry, trade and services all contributing to its wealth.

In the mining sector, which is the keynote of this newsletter, South Africa ranks as one of the world's leading producers.

Figures highlight the diversity and wealth of South Africa's resources, whether it be in precious metals or base metals and coal. In addition, there is apparently significant potential for further major deposits waiting to be discovered in regions not as yet fully exploited.

The country's economy has thus, quite naturally, developed around the exploitation of its mineral resources. In 2009, precious metals represented 25.2% of total goods exported, fossil fuels 10.1% and other ores 9.6%. The mining industry is also the country's largest employer.

As a major mining country, South Africa's strengths include a high level of technical knowledge and of R&D activities. The country has world-class primary processing equipment covering the carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminium sectors, as well as gold and platinum. It also leads the world in cutting-edge technology, such as a revolutionary process for transforming ultrafine iron ore into superior quality iron- rich metal briquettes.

The South African government has identified this type of raw ore beneficiation as a significant potential source of growth. The mining industry thus remains crucial to South Africa's economy.

A series of documentaries on African independence screened in France

In November, French TV channel France 5 featured a series in four episodes on the history of Africa from the 1885 Berlin Conference, where Africa was divided up between the European powers, to the present day: “Afriques(s) une autre histoire du 20ème siècle” (Africa(s), another history of the 20th century), by Elikia M'Bokolo, Philippe Sainteny and Alain Ferrari).

Also in November, the BDIC Library (Bibliothèque de Documentation Internationale Contemporaine) screened a number of films recounting the disillusionments of the period and showing the contours of a new Africa.

Finally, African independence was examined through the lens of the responsibilities assumed by François Mitterrand as a minister under the Fourth Republic over the period 1954-1962 and by General de Gaulle on becoming President of the Fifth Republic.

(French TV channel France 2: [4th and 2nd November respectively] “François Mitterand et la guerre d'Algérie” (François Mitterrand and the Algerian War) by Frédéric Brunnquell, François Mayle and Benjamin Stora; “De Gaulle et l'Algérie: le prix du pouvoir” (De Gaulle and Algeria: the price of power) by Hugues Nancy).

Social and cultural diversity among Sciences-Po students

The prestigious Institut d'Études Politiques (IEP) of Paris or “Sciences-Po”, as it is more commonly known, which offers top-flight Masters degrees in economics, law, public affairs and social sciences, has made social and cultural diversity one of the pillars of its intake policy. Priority education agreements (Conventions Éducation Prioritaires, or CEP), introduced in 2001 on the initiative of school director Richard Descoings, represent partnerships between Sciences-Po and high schools categorized as priority education zones (Zone d'Éducation Prioritaire, ZEP).

Thanks to the CEP scheme, students from the partner ZEP high schools can access a parallel procedure for admission to Sciences-Po, enabling them to avoid the potential obstacles posed by the competitive written entrance examination. Lack of resources and information, and even self-denigration, risk limiting equality of opportunity via a competitive examination, a situation that the CEP is designed to remedy. Students follow a one-year preparatory course, then undergo a two-stage selection process: first to determine eligibility for admission, followed by an oral examination to select the successful candidates.

Despite attracting considerable media coverage and much criticism, the system has proved its worth. The number of CEP agreements has risen from 7 in 2001 to 74 at present, and 603 students have been enrolled. The dropout rate among these students is very low (around 5%), and their academic results are comparable to those of their mainstream fellow students. Lastly, three quarters of students admitted under the scheme qualify for state grants, and two thirds have at least one parent not born in France. The CEP system appears to represent a means of actively promoting social and cultural diversity in an elite higher education institute.

Release of Aung San Suu Kyi

On 14th November 2010, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest.

The Committee greeted the news with great satisfaction. The courage of this remarkable woman is an inspiration to us all.

Paris Photo 2010

The 14th edition of the annual photography fair was held at the Carrousel du Louvre from 18th to 21st November 2010.

The fair has an international reputation as one of the most important annual events in the world of photography.

This year it attracted artists from 25 countries and 106 exhibitors (galleries or publishers).

The theme this year was Spotlight on Central Europe (Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia and Poland), with 90 artists representing a third of the galleries.

The avant-garde movements of the 1920s- 1930s and of the early 21st century provided a vivid illustration of the vitality of photography in this part of Europe.

South Africa was represented by the city of Cape Town.

In the next edition, the spotlight will be turned on the African continent.