_: International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Marius Fransman is scheduled to arrive in the Republic of Panama today, 9 September 2012, ahead of his two-nation visit to Panama and Cuba.
Deputy Minister Fransman visits Panama at the invitation of his Panamanian counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Francisco Alvarez de Soto.
Deputy Minister Alvarez de Soto visited South Africa in April 2012, the first high-level bilateral visit from Panama to South Africa since full diplomatic relations were established on in January 1995.
The Government of Panama opened an Embassy in Pretoria in August 2000. South Africa is non-residentially represented in Panama from Mexico City, Mexico, with an Honorary Consulate in Panama.
The visit by Deputy Minister Fransman will provide an opportunity to continue bilateral discussions between the two Deputy Ministers, with a focus on strengthening economic relations.
It is expected that Deputy Minister Fransman will also meet with Panama’s Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industry, the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economics and the Chamber of Commerce, Agriculture and Industry.
Deputy Minister Fransman is also expected to meet with the CEO and Board of Directors of Panama’s COPA Airlines to discuss cooperation with SAA through code sharing, to create direct links for passengers between the two countries. Panama is a hub for air traffic in Latin America.
The Deputy Minister will visit the Panama Canal and the Colon Duty Free Zone to witness and be informed first-hand of the opportunities and advantages for shipping access to the Pacific and trade in general offered.
The visit will also include a tour of the City of Knowledge, an institution providing facilities and support to programmes in education, research, technological development and innovation, while promoting integration of institutions and business, as well as being self-sustainable.
The visit promises to provide impetus to South Africa’s already solid bilateral and multilateral relations with Panama, a prominent maritime country and a hub for trade with a strong economic growth.
Following his visit to Panama, Deputy Minister Fransman will visit Havana, Cuba, on 12 to 14 September 2012, where it is expected that he will meet with Deputy Minister Rogelio Serra, responsible for Africa, the Middle East and Asia in the Cuban Foreign Ministry. The two Deputy Ministers will hold bilateral discussions on issues of mutual interest.
Deputy Minister Fransman is expected to deliver a lecture at the Superior Institute of International Relations (ISRI) in Havana on the upcoming International Solidarity Conference in South Africa and on the commemoration of the ANC centenary, amongst other issues.
Relations between South Africa and Cuba remain excellent. The Governments of both countries share similar interests in relation to addressing the socio-economic needs and aspirations of the peoples of South Africa and Cuba.
Cuba is an established key partner of South Africa in Latin America and the Caribbean.
South Africa is a beneficiary of Cuba’s ongoing assistance in the form of scholarships for our youth. There are currently 408 South African students studying medicine in Cuban universities. A total of 323 South African graduates from the Cuba programme work as medical doctors in various South African hospitals. In addition, 74 South African students are currently doing a one-year internship in South Africa after finishing their studies in Cuba this year, 2012.
From October 2012, South Africa will begin to train 1 000 students in medical science at Cuban universities.
On the economic front, authorities of both countries have in the past few years increased efforts to enhance bilateral trade and commercial relations.