Address by Mpumalanga Premier, Honourable RM Mtshweni-Tsipane, at the hybrid seminar on “The Role of Vietnamese and South African Women in National Economic Development: Building Partnerships Towards Shared Prosperity”

16 August 2023

Programme Director;
Representatives of the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam;
Her Excellency, the Ambassador of the Republic of South Africa to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Ms. Vuyiswa Tulelo;
The South African delegation present with me today;
Leadership of the Vietnam Women’s League;
The Director General of the Department of Support to Women in Economic Development, Ms. Pham Thi Huong Giang;
The Member of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress , Cde Febe Potgieter-Gqubule;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good Morning;

Programme Director;
  1. It is a singular honour for me to participate in this Hybrid Seminar and to deliver remarks on “the role of Vietnamese and South African women in National Economic Development: Building partnerships towards a shared prosperity”.

  2. It is indeed a privilege to lead our outbound mission to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, a country with such a rich culture and magnificent landscapes that can truly rival our own in South Africa.

  3. We have taken the opportunity to include in our working visit the chance to familiarize ourselves with some of your acclaimed landmarks, temples and other artefacts that reflect your rich heritage.

  4. Without a doubt we will indulge in some of your culinary delights and cuisine that have attracted many a visitor to your shores.


    Programme Director,

  6. As other Speakers have noted, today’s event is a timely one taking place as our two countries celebrate the 30th founding anniversary of our diplomatic ties.

  7. Together with other peoples of the Global South, the people of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam share with South Africans a history of struggle against the injustices of colonialism and imperialism.

  8. Over the past 30 years our ties have grown in leaps and bounds. It is a remarkable achievement that Vietnam is South Africa’s 9th trading partner within the Asian region, and South Africa is Vietnam’s largest trading partner in Africa.

  9. This is a direct result of the tireless efforts of the Joint Trade Committee to enhance bilateral trade and solidify the relationship between our great nations.

  10. Programme Director,

  11. This Seminar and the topic you have chosen for us, “the role of Vietnamese and South African women in National Economic Development” is quite apt when one considers the fact that August is women’s month in the Republic of South Africa.

  12. It is a month where we celebrate and pay tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the President’s offices in the administrative Capital city, known as the Union Buildings, on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women. This was a system meant to control women even further and reduce women to passive beings, at the mercy of men.

  13. It is this great heritage that has defined who we are, as South Africans and as people from the Province of the rising sun.

  14. Mpumalanga geographical and economic background

    Programme Director

  15. Mpumalanga Province is located on the eastern portion of South Africa. The name Mpumalanga is derived from our location and literally means the place of the rising sun.

  16. Our Province is strategically located between two countries, which are the Kingdom of eSwatini and Mozambique. We also border the economic hub of South Africa, which is Gauteng Province.

  17. Our extensive road and rail network position us as a strategic corridor for the freight movement and logistics sectors.

  18. We are home to just over 4 million people spread across 3 district municipalities and 17 local municipalities. Large parts of the province comprises extensive rural villages that form part of areas that recognise traditional authorities.

  19. Our economy is the fourth largest in the country.

  20. Our economic landscape is underpinned by the following sectors;
    • Agriculture
    • Tourism
    • Mining; and
    • Manufacturing

  21. We have a number of investment opportunities for female led enterprises. Key amongst which is the Nkomazi Special Economic Zone.

  22. The Nkomazi Special Economic Zone is designated as a multi sectorial industrial zone focusing on Agro Processing covering: citrus and subtropical fruits, Aromatic plants and ground and tree nuts.

  23. Furthermore, the Nkomazi Special Economic Zone shall also house facilities that shall enable the refining of nutraceuticals and processing facilities for various other agricultural commodities.

  24. The total infrastructure capital investment required for the finalisation of the construction and operationalisation of the Nkomazi Special Economic Zone is estimated at R8.4 billion (around 438 000 000 US dollars) with the projected return on investments of R6,1 billion(around 318 000 000 US dollars) by the 10th year of operationalisation.

  25. We are also in the process of finalising the construction of the Mpumalanga Fresh International Fresh Produce Market (MIFPM).

  26. The MIFPM is being constructed to ensure the export of produce from Mpumalanga to markets such as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This will ensure a stable source of produce for the people of Vietnam and ensure food security.

  27. We want the MIFPM to produce success stories similar to that of the meteoric Esther Mhlongo, who has joined this session virtually.

  28. Ms. Mhlongo is one of the biggest macademia producers and exporters in Sub-Saharan Africa with a distribution network that encompasses Europe, Asia and the gulf.

  29. Programme Director, a significant another significant arena wherein we must consider collaboration is within the tourism sector.

  30. With the opening of new tourist attractions in Mpumalanga such as the Graskop gorge lift along the Panorama route, camping and caravan sites in Manyeleli Natural reserve and the proclamation of the Makhonjwa mountains as a world heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), we urge our counterparts from the Soviet Republic of Vietnam to continue to identify South Africa as a tourism investment destination of choice.

  31. An untapped area with significant growth potential is Business travel, including conferencing, adventure, heritage and cultural tourism. This will require investment in infrastructure and product development within the Province.

  32. The recent decision by Eurowings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa airlines from Germany to schedule direct flights from Europe to Mpumalanga is an indication of our unique appeal as a business and leisure tourism destination of choice.

  33. We will extensively lobby Vietnam airlines to consider direct flights to Mpumalanga to take advantage of an increase in tourists from East Asia to Mpumalanga Province.


    Programme Director

  35. Mpumalanga has historically been at the heart of the South African energy and industrial complex and is still heavily reliant on the mining and burning of fossil fuels.

  36. The Mpumalanga Provincial Government has been proactive in exploring opportunities in the Green Economy and pursuing a just transition to a low-carbon economy which secures the future and livelihoods of workers and their communities.

  37. Achieving such a just transition would require an integration of economic opportunities in sectors outside of energy and mining. The economic opportunities are boundless.

  38. We have established the Mpumalanga Green Cluster Agency to facilitate and monitor this nascent industry in our Province.

  39. Mpumalanga is ready for business. We have state owned agencies that are strategically positioned to collaborate with potential investors to remove bureaucratic red tape and ease the burden of doing business in our Province.

  40. One such agency is the Mpumalanga Economic Growth Agency (MEGA). MEGA is a provincial development agency specifically tasked with driving economic growth in various sectors of the provincial economy.

  41. As the country and the Province gradually recovers from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, MEGA’s role has become more important as we have amended its operational strategy to position it as the centre of post-Covid economic recovery efforts that are focused on boosting demand, providing replacement income, and facilitating new investments.

  42. MEGA will assist as part of our welcoming efforts and supportive business framework for all potential investors from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

  43. MEGA will ensure that qualifying investors are matched with investment incentives offered by different institutions such National Treasury, the Department of Trade Industry and Competition (DTIC), Department of Small Business Development (DSBS) and the various agencies of these departments such as SARS, IDC, NEF, and SEFA.

  44. These incentives include tax incentives, matching funding and concessional loan facilities and may be used to construct a ‘package’ of appropriate support.

  45. Government’s initiatives to amplify the role of Women within the National Economic Development

    Programme Director,

  46. Our revered icon and former President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela once reminded us of the importance and benefits of affording women an opportunity to participate fully in society through advancing gender equality.

  47. In a speech on Women’s Day in 1996 he said (and I quote); “the legacy of oppression weighs heavily on women. As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, human rights will lack substance. As long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure”.(end quote)

  48. In the search for prosperity and sustainable economic progress, Vietnam and South Africa cannot afford to pay “lip service” to the advancement of gender equality and the cause of women emancipation.

  49. Women play multiple roles in society, such as reproduction, household and market-related work. They are there as mothers or housewives, caregivers, workers or even business owners

  50. Therefore, when their worth is not fully recognized a society, as a whole, loses out.

  51. Various analysts have also noted that “Investing in women’s economic opportunities is good business for all, because when more women work, economies grow”.

  52. Unfortunately, the global picture of progress on gender equality is worrisome. The recent report of the Secretary-General to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, in July 2023 ,was quite disturbing.

  53. It indicated that the world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030. At the current rate of progress, “it is estimated that it will take up to 286 years to close gaps in legal protection and remove discriminatory laws, 140 years for women to be represented equally in positions of power and leadership in the workplace, and 47 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments”.

  54. Whilst this is the picture “globally”, I take some comfort in the progress that South African women are making and their role in the economic development of our nation

  55. As well articulated by our President His Excellency Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa, on the occasion of this year’s celebration of Women’s Day; “all South African women have the right to vote, the right to work, the right to have control over their bodies, the right to property, to equality”. (end quote)

  56. We are working harder to ensure the full implementation of these rights. We all agree that these rights must be worth the paper they are written on. Inequalities remain and are evident in access to education, health care, and services. We are also worried about the upsurge of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), particularly since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

  57. Nevertheless, on a brighter note, our President captured our sentiments as gender activists, policy makers and analysts when he reflected that (and I quote); “In every part of this country, women are taking charge of their destinies, inspiring others and driving change. They are excelling in areas once closed to women; as engineers, scientists, managers, pilots, farmers, judges, magistrates, athletes, marine pilots, and soldiers” (end quote)

  58. Perhaps I can say more about the interventions our government is undertaking in an attempt to advance women’s emancipation and economic opportunities

  59. It is important to note that women do benefit from policy interventions that are intended for all, including macroeconomic policy, industrial policy, sector support policies, Education and Training, and policies advancing Small, Medium, and Micro-Enterprises (SMMEs), to name a few.

  60. But there are policies that target women’s role in the economy more directly. These are policies that respond to structural factors that deliberately hinder women specifically, for example in unequal access to land, capital and markets.

  61. One example of support to women in the economy, by national government is through public procurement.

  62. As our President also reported recently, there is a commitment to allocate at least 40 per cent of public procurement to women-owned businesses.

  63. In our province of Mpumalanga, where I serve as the Premier, we have adopted various programmes to accelerate the incorporation and participation of women owned enterprises in the mainstream economy of the Province.

  64. A significant gamechanger has been the launch of the Premier’s Youth Development Fund just under 3 years ago.

  65. This initiative has provided funding as well as post funding operational support to the youth of Mpumalanga Province, with a specific focus on women owned enterprises.

  66. Since its inception, the project has empowered 97 youth-owned businesses across the province and funding to the tune of R140 million (around 7,3 million US dollars) was allocated to them.

  67. These youth and female owned enterprises are within sectors that are inclusive of mining, agriculture, manufacturing, transport and logistics.

  68. The beneficiaries of the Fund are spread all over the province and across all 17 local municipalities in Mpumalanga.

  69. The impact has been phenomenal and I’ll cite a few practical examples.

  70. Maradebe Pty (Ltd) in Victor Khanye Local Municipality in Nkangala District, is a mining company owned by Ms Mbali Poolo, specialising in yellow plant hire. Ms Poolo is also operating the Grader which was funded by the Premier’s Youth Development Fund.

  71. The company managed to create a number of sustainable and permanent jobs. The socio-economic status of these young people has changed for the better through the support of the Premier’s Youth Development Fund.

  72. Another success story is that of the Barberton Vegetable farm, owned by Ms Nontokozo Shongwe from Barberton. This farm, funded by the Premier’s Youth Development operational funding produces cabbages, lettuce, Spinach, Beetroot, Green Pepper and Sweet Potatoes, and supplies established grocery chains with fresh produce on a daily basis.

  73. We also have the inspiring story of , Ms. Lebogang Mashego who has, through the Premier’s Youth Development Fund, opened her own 26 000 capacity poultry layer farm for egg production. This resulted in the creation of significant employment opportunities for her community.

  74. We have also funded Ms Ennie Ndlovu, who operates one of the fastest growing recycling companies in the Province, which is primely positioned to take advantage of the commercialisation of the Nkomazi Special Economic Zone I alluded to earlier.

  75. In essence, Programme Director , we have quite a number of initiatives that seek to advance the development of women across our Province.

  76. For example, we have in place the Siyatentela Roads Maintenance Programme which has achieved thousands of work opportunities for poor local households.

  77. We also have in place the “Women in construction program (Sakhabakhi) which is aimed at ensuring better inclusion of women in this emerging sector

  78. Agriculture and Tourism are other sectors where we have programmes that target women for involvement through incubation, such as the Fortune 40.

  79. Recently, we launched a “jobs massification and enhanced skills development” programme targeting the creation of thousands of work opportunities in the public sector, many of which will benefit women.

  80. But we cannot rest and readily acknowledge that the role of women in national economic development in South Africa needs to be elevated.

  81. To this end we have committed to bring on board the private sector, other spheres of government, and state-owned entities as we seek to create an inclusive value chain for the benefit of the people of Mpumalanga Province.


    Programme Director

  83. Our two countries are celebrating the 30th founding anniversary of diplomatic ties in a post-pandemic world with increased economic uncertainty that calls on us to be resilient as we seek to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

  84. As we arrived in your country we were able to see for ourselves your economic achievements and your strategic vision as a country over the years.

  85. Rising like the phoenix over the ashes of war and destruction your country now has one of the fastest growing economies in your region.

  86. We have much to learn from your strategies that have seen your country grow its manufacturing sectors despite heightened global competition
  87. It is in the context of these achievements that the topic of “building partnerships towards shared prosperity” is most interesting to us, particularly as women.

  88. We would like to see increased trade between our two countries, beyond the value of 1.3 billion USD, as achieved in 2022

  89. Let us also ensure that more women are involved as business people either as importers or exporters in the interactions between the two countries

  90. Many women entrepreneurs in our country are to be found in the small business or the informal economy. As we ponder the next phase of our diplomatic and trade relations it could be possible to do more to exchange knowledge and enhance women’s participation

  91. Our two countries can also share notes on the growing challenge of climate change and the “just transition”. Women can lead these interactions as evidence has often shown them to be the ones that will be most affected.

  92. We are convinced that the two countries will benefit in supporting the advancement of gender equality and be an example to other people and regions in the world

  93. Programme Director,
  94. As I conclude, let me note that despite the ending of Apartheid, the impact of the scars of the past was massive.

  95. As a result, in order to build a better country where women and men live equally side by side and with similar opportunities, it has been recognized that more can be done to make women assert themselves and take their rightful place.

  96. We are convinced that a partnership with the women of Vietnam can only enhance the contribution of women to the new struggles for a better life.

  97. As I conclude Programme Director, I wish to implore women in business to consider investing in Mpumalanga Province.

  98. The fact that, your neighbouring country, the People’s Republic of China is Mpumalanga’s second largest export destination means that we have an extensive and professional value chain that will serve only to benefit business women from this beautiful country.

  99. Through our ambassador, Her Excellency Vuyiswa Tulelo, we will extend an invitation to business women from Vietnam to come and experience the warmth , beauty and unity in diversity of the people of Mpumalanga. I am certain that you will agree that Mpumalanga is not only ready for business but is an investment destination of choice.

  100. I thank you.
^ Back to Top