Lopatka: "Important year for Africa – eye-level partnership with Lesotho"
Memorandum on closer cooperation signed
Vienna, 25 April 2013 – "The African continent is gaining importance in terms of foreign policies and is a future market for Austria. This is why we are aiming to intensify our political and business relations with the region. We have already increased our contacts with a number of African countries this year. The most recent agreement has been reached with Lesotho and relates to cooperation in tourism, agriculture and forestry, the energy and training sector", State Secretary Reinhold Lopatka said after signing a declaration of intent in a working meeting with Mohlabi Kenneth Tsekoa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lesotho. Foreign Minister Tsekoa accompanied King Letsie III on his official visit to Austrian President Heinz Fischer.
Lesotho is a pioneer in southern Africa in terms of public sector reforms. "We support Lesotho in its efforts to reduce poverty and do so by bringing leverage to bear on the interface between development and business. The tools we employ range from soft loans and business partnerships to the co-financing of NGO projects in Lesotho. The second element is cooperation in education and training. We offer trainings for diplomats and college places for tourism courses", the State Secretary said. Lesotho is also interested in Austria's expertise in the construction of power stations and in water management. Concrete business opportunities will be explored at a business forum to be held at the Austrian Economic Chamber.
Sustainable energy is a core issue of the cooperation between Austria and Lesotho in the framework of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). "Small and medium-sized states have the power to stir and achieve great things in multilateral forums. We would therefore like to win Lesotho over as a partner in the International Anti-Corruption Academy. Opening a representation office of the African Union in Vienna would be a further means to create more awareness of African interests here. With this in mind, I presented Foreign Minister Tsekoa our proposal for supporting the development of such an office", Lopatka said.
2013 is an important year for Africa. On 13 May 2013, the Austrian Ministry of European and International Affairs together with the Federal Economic Chamber and the Municipality of Vienna will hold an Africa Day to mark Africa's unification 50 years ago and invite the ambassadors of African countries accredited in Austria to attend the event. "There is huge potential for joint initiatives between Austria and Africa; this potential needs to be used for a partnership on eye level", Lopatka concluded.
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