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President Bedie and Mrs Bedie
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed a distinct privilege and honour to welcome you and your delegation to our country.
Your visit provides a good opportunity for our two countries to advance the development of our peoples and our continent.
The strategic position of Abidjan on Africa's transport routes has afforded us the opportunity on a number of occasions in recent years to visit your country, however briefly, to discuss matters of common concern. Whatever minor differences there may have been at times in the past, we count Cote D'Ivoire amongst the firm friends of liberation and transition to democracy in South Africa. Above all, the people of Cote D'Ivoire have had an unbroken chain of solidarity and friendship with the majority of South Africans, in their quest for freedom and justice.
The defeat of the system of apartheid which liberated all the people of South Africa has also allowed all the peoples of Africa to join hands and affirm the bonds of our common African destiny however far apart our countries may be.
It is therefore a great joy to host this first visit by an Ivorian Head of State to South Africa at a time when Africa faces great challenges and opportunities whose fulfilment depends on continental co-operation and diplomacy.
Mr. President, we appreciate the role your country has played in promoting the peaceful resolution of conflicts within the West African region.
We think of your active engagement in the search for peaceful solutions to the complex problems of both Liberia and Sierra Leone; the deployment of your peace-keeping troops with the United Nations peace-keeping mission in the Central African Republic; and your strong support for the establishment of a West African regional mechanism for the prevention, management and resolution of conflict.
Cote d'Ivoire is rightly seen as a force for peace and a pillar of stability in the West African region.
As our regional and continental organisations, SADC. ECOWAS and the Organisation of African Unity succeed in providing frameworks for Africa's nations to co-operate with each other to promote peace and democracy they will also be strengthening the climate for development and the upliftment of our peoples without which democracy will remain a hollow shell.
They will be enhancing the conditions for the reconstruction and development of our continent, for the African Renaissance whose time has come.
Your country's impressive growth rate over recent years encourages us all as we strive for sustained growth under the difficult circumstances of integration in a global economic system from which the imbalances and disparities of the past have still to be removed.
This is a challenging time for a continent with a legacy of terrible poverty that blights the lives of millions of her children. But it also brings the possibility of changing this condition if we stand together as Africans, forging bilateral relations and strengthening our regional organisations as building blocks of continental co-operation for development.
The South African Government therefore actively promotes the expansion of economic ties between South Africa and other African countries. As two of the larger economies of Africa, growing links between South Africa and Cote D'Ivoire will not only bring us mutual benefit but will also have a wider impact.
The recent Ivorian trade and business exhibitions in South Africa, and the visit to your country of a South African trade and investment delegation show that our private sectors are ready to work with government to seize the immense opportunities that are there. The signing today of a letter of intent on the promotion of investments will give added impetus to this process.
Your visit will help deepen the mutually supportive relations between our countries that have grown so rapidly in the few short years of our freedom.
I have no doubt that during your stay in South Africa your will experience the warmth of our people towards you as the representative of your people.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you to rise and join me in a toast to President Bedie and to the flourishing of relations between the people of Cote d'Ivorie and South Africa.
I thank you all.