I am delighted that the British government has asked their royal highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall to visit South Africa as part of a Commonwealth tour that starts today.
The Prince of Wales will first visit the Gulf states before travelling down to southern Africa in a trip that will also include a visit to Tanzania.
The Commonwealth tour comes straight after the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which the Queen attended in Australia with David Cameron, the Prime Minister, and William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary.
The visit’s focus on South Africa needs little explanation: South Africa has a hugely important role within Africa and more widely within the international community as a key member of the G20, the AU and the UN.
The partnership that the UK has with South Africa is in the “premier league” of our international relations.
Visits like those by Cameron in July and their royal highnesses this week highlight the importance we place on maintaining and enhancing the strength of our partnership.
The visit will also focus on the strength of the trade relationship between South Africa and the UK.
South Africa is UK’s largest export and import market in Africa.
In 2009 South Africa alone accounted for 25 percent of the UK’s total exports of goods and services to Africa and 34 percent of the UK’s imports of goods and services from Africa.
Our bilateral relationship is worth £8 billion (R96bn) per annum in goods and services.
The visit of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will help support the recovery of Britain’s economy.
In Johannesburg, the Prince of Wales will meet a group of young entrepreneurs benefiting from a programme supported by UK Trade & Investment and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office to enhance their future success.
In addition to creating high-level networking opportunities for British business at a number of different events, the Prince of Wales will bring together senior business leaders to share best practice in corporate approaches to climate change.
The timing could not be better: the Durban Climate Summit – COP17 – opens in South Africa later this month.
The Prince of Wales will be giving a speech on these issues at the University of Cape Town.
I am delighted that their royal highnesses will visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation, where they will meet Mrs Graca Machel, who will show them some of the extraordinary archives which chronicle her husband’s years of imprisonment on Robben Island.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will also be introduced to some of the children who have benefited from the work of the Mandela Children’s Fund in some of the townships around Johannesburg.
The work of the Department for International Development will feature prominently given the UK government’s commitment to the development of South Africa and Tanzania, both Commonwealth countries.
In South Africa the value of the British Development Assistance Programme is £76m (R912m) over the next four years.
The Department for International Development’s Southern Africa office (DFID-SA), based in Pretoria, manages a South Africa bilateral programme, a southern African regional programme and a small global partnership programme.
From 2011 to 2015, DFID-SA is planning to spend a total of £335m on these programmes.
Their royal highnesses will be visiting a project supported by the World Wildlife Fund – the Prince of Wales recently became president of the World Wildlife Fund in the UK – which is principally about avoiding extinction of the black rhino.
Built around this core objective, their royal highnesses will learn more about an interesting and successful transfer of land rights from the former white landowners to the local black community.
We will be highlighting the way this works as a successful partnership.
The royal couple will have a busy but rewarding schedule in a packed programme that highlights the strength, depth and warmth of the partnerships that exist between our two countries.
l Dame Nicola Brewer is the British High Commissioner to South Africa.