President Niinistö on the state visit to South Africa: “We need international cooperation, and Africa is playing a rapidly increasing role”

President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa greeting President Sauli Niinistö. Photo: Matti Porre/The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa greeting President Sauli Niinistö. Photo: Matti Porre/The Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö made an official visit to South Africa on 25–26 April 2023.

On Tuesday 25 April, President Niinistö met with President of the Republic of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria. In addition to bilateral relations, the discussions between the Presidents focused on the geopolitical situation and common global challenges, such as climate change.

“It’s very important that we do not find ourselves living in a world which is divided into very deep differences, into two or more parts. All the work to enhance understanding between peoples and between people is now valuable, and I have a deep feeling that we have, in our discussions today, done our best in that direction”, President Niinistö said at a joint press conference after the discussion.

During the state visit, Finland and South Africa signed a Letter of Intent on cooperation in mediation.

In the afternoon, President Niinistö and President Ramaphosa participated in a roundtable discussion on joint opportunities for the countries to use smart, safe and sustainable solutions to promote sustainable growth. The event was also attended by representatives of Finnish and South African trade and industry.

Keynote speech and discussion with students in Johannesburg

On Wednesday 26 April, President Niinistö gave a keynote speech and took part in a discussion at the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) in Johannesburg. The topic of the speech was responding to common challenges in the era of shifting geopolitics.

In his speech, President Niinistö said that Africa is playing a growing role in the world and that South Africa has influence on the international stage. Africa is a continent with some of the fastest growing economies of the world, whose population will by 2050 amount to more than a quarter of the total world population.

“To save and strengthen effective multilateral cooperation with the UN at its core, we need African leadership,” President Niinistö said.

“From whatever corner of the world we are looking at the global situation, we see growing challenges. To untangle the knot of crises we are faced with, we need to come together.”

In his speech, the President also addressed the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine. “With its actions, Russia is making a mockery of the UN Charter that requires member states to refrain from the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”, the President said.

The President also stressed the importance of engaging young people and involving them in decision-making. “I am optimistic that in the younger generations, there are again leaders in the making who have the ability to bring people together. Leaders, who will make us focus on what unites us”, President Niinistö said as he concluded his speech.

On Wednesday 26 April, the President also met with South African foreign policy experts.

President Niinistö last visited South Africa in 2013 when he attended the memorial service for President Nelson Mandela.

State Visit to Namibia

On Thursday 27 April, President Niinistö will continue on a state visit to Namibia, where he will meet President of Namibia Hage G. Geingob. The previous presidential visit from Finland to Namibia was made by President Tarja Halonen in 2011.