South Africa, Thailand forge ahead together
text size

South Africa, Thailand forge ahead together

The bilateral relationship of 30 years is yielding good outcomes in agriculture

HE Mr Darkey Ephraim Africa.
HE Mr Darkey Ephraim Africa.

Bilateral relationships between Thailand and South Africa have yielded good outcomes, especially in the agricultural sector, according to South Africa's Ambassador to Thailand Darkey Africa.

Mr Africa gave the Bangkok Post an exclusive interview to mark the 30th anniversary of freedom and democracy in South Africa and three decades of the South Africa-Thailand bilateral relationship.

"Thailand and South Africa's relationships over the past 30 years have been positive," Mr Africa said.

The ambassador said the long-standing relationship resulted from Nelson Mandela's visits to Thailand in 1997 and 2004, which were driven by Mandela's vision to expand connections with many countries, especially in Asia.

The positivity is evident through cooperation between the two countries at the global level and attempts to boost bilateral trade, he said.

Mr Africa said many agreements have been signed over the years, with the areas of tourism, sport, culture, and agriculture being key focuses.

The ambassador highlighted the agricultural sector, which has seen South African fruits being imported to Thailand while Thai fruits, such as mangosteen and durian, are exported to South Africa.

He said he'd also love to introduce beef and wine from South Africa -- regarded as some of the world's best -- to Thailand. However, the exchange of agricultural know-how is more important to Mr Africa.

Thailand has an excellent agricultural background, and the exchange of expertise could be beneficial to South African farmers, he said.

Gaps in tourism

Cooperation in tourism, however, can be improved, Mr Africa said.

Only 2,000 people travelled between South Africa and Thailand in 2022, he said. The number should be increased, he said, adding there have been meetings between South African officials and tour operators in Thailand to discuss ways to make this possible.

One of the barriers is a lack of direct flights between the two countries.

"We hope Thai Airways and South Africa Airways, which are national carriers, would consider the prospect of connectivity between the two countries," he said.

He added that state authorities should help make such an idea economically viable for the airlines.

The implementation and monitoring of agreements have challenged the bilateral relationship, he said.

Mr Africa said many collaborative schemes and frameworks signed between the two countries have not yielded results. He suggested there should be a monitoring mechanism to ensure those agreements are implemented and their results monitored.

"It is only through results that the benefits of the relations between two countries are fair by the people," he said.

Mr Africa said trade figures from 2023 showed that South Africa's export value to Thailand was 7.31 billion rand (14.45 billion baht), while it imported goods and services worth 59.97 billion rand (118.5 billion baht) from Thailand.

"The figures showed an imbalance of bilateral trade in favour of Thailand. We bought more from Thailand while Thailand bought less from us," he said.

Peace to the world

Mr Africa said that since the end of the apartheid, marked as April 27, 1994, South Africa has removed the discrimination created by the apartheid system to consolidate a nation with diversity.

Now, South Africa can proudly stand tall in the global community and defend democracy and human rights across the globe, he said.

"Before 1994, [most] people could not have a chance to vote or represent the country as an ambassador," he said.

"Today, South Africa has one of the best constitutions in the world, which guarantees human rights to everybody regardless of differences. We are now able to talk about non-racial South Africa with positive prospects of prosperity and development," he said.

Mr Africa said the country is working on improving its economic transformation and de-racialisation while empowering women and children.

"It is to ensure the suppression will never happen again, and people can enjoy freedom," he said.

"We cannot teach other countries. We can only learn from each other through exchanging viewpoints. Given the fact that Thailand and South Africa have a bilateral relationship, it indicates that we have lots in common and can share and learn from each other," he said.

Mr Africa commented on the new Nelson Mandela Centre at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, launched on March 21.

"The centre is a platform to share experiences on how to resolve conflict, address and prevent atrocities, and promote peace, not only between two countries, but the world," he said. "It demonstrates the two countries' determination to work on critical areas to enhance global peace."

Do you like the content of this article?