SPEECHES: Welcoming remarks prepared for Adv. N. A. Ramatlhodi, (Dr.) (MP) on the occasion of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Africa Regional Conference, Century city, Cape town, 5 May 2016

Date: 5 May 2016

Your Excellencies

Ministers representing Heads of State and Government participating in the OGP Steering Committee

Ministers representing governments participating in the OGP

Honourable Ministers from non-participating countries from the African continent and their representatives

My colleague Minister Edna Molewa

Ambassador for the OGP, Dr. Mo Ibrahim

The CEO of the NEPAD Agency, Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki

Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, Advocate Pansy Tlakula

African Development Bank Special Envoy on Gender, Honourable Geraldine-Fraser Moleketi

National and continental members of civil society participating in the Partnership and those whose countries are yet to join

Representatives of OGP Strategic Partners

Distinguished Delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen

Programme Director

It gives me a feeling of honour and privilege to address you on this auspicious and important occasion. This gathering of the Open Government Partnership comes exactly seven (7) months after the Partnership bestowed upon South Africa the privilege to be the Lead Chairperson of this remarkable initiative.

When the OGP family decided that our country should lead this Partnership in Mexico in October 2015, we made several commitments we are intent on keeping. Upon receipt of this responsibility, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, stated that, and I quote:

"We recognise that open government principles are crucial for achieving a much broader range of sustainable development goals, linking openness to governance for the improvement of the lives of the many vulnerable and poor people around the world. The Open Government Partnership therefore stands to become a cross-cutting enabler that will assist the global community to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."

Your Excellencies

I think I speak for all when I say that the OGP has achieved a lot in the past five since its inception. Not only did the Partnership develop a "Declaration on Open Government for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development", but what is more significant is that this Declaration has been endorsed by more than half of the countries participating in the initiative. This is remarkable as it demonstrates the initiatives recognition of the need to synergize its activities with other multilateral attempts at addressing the challenges of the twenty-first century.

As illustrated by the quote from Deputy President Ramaphosa, South Africa fully recognize the need to ensure that Open Government is linked to the realization of a better life for all citizens of the world.

As we stated in Mexico, the future and sustainability of the OGP will solely lie on its ability to make tangible impact on the transformation of the lives of our people, a majority of whom lack sanitation services, the supply of clean water, reliable electricity, employment, timely law enforcement and other basic services.

Programme Director

As we gather here today we are all aware that 2016 marks the beginning of the implementation phase of the SDGs that were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September last year.

Needless to say that this calls on us to intensify efforts aimed at ensuring that the vision set out in Agenda 2030 is achieved in a sustainable manner but one which is sensitive to the asymmetrical levels of development around the globe.

As a country we reiterate our commitment to this vision and we will ensure that we intensify our efforts of utilizing the OGP as one of the anchors for achieving it.

This last point brings me to the reasons behind our gathering here today.

Your Excellencies

As the OGP Lead Chair we have made a commitment to ensure that we strengthen the role of Open Government in support for Sustainable Development during our tenure by, among other things, creating platforms for engagement with our counterparts from government and civil society, inside and outside the Partnership, in order to explore collective and viable alternatives in improving the lives of our people.

While doing so, we have recognized the need to ensure that no one is left behind! It is our sincere conviction that the OGP as the OGP grows and slouches towards a second decade of existence, it does so conscious of the fact that there are other regions of the world where the concept of Open Government needs to be nurtured and take off. These regions include our own, the African continent.

We are, therefore, gathered here today to explore various aspects of the OGP and seek ways in which we can strengthen the initiative in its content, focus and execution. However, as the title of this gathering illustrate, we intend to do such introspection with a clear focus on beginning a conversation that seeks to search for ways in which the OGP can support Africa's sustainable development agenda.

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is our intention as a Lead Chair that we entice more countries from the African continent to join the OGP by ensuring that this gathering not only provides a platform for reflection and honest deliberations on the state of the initiative for the past five years since its inception, but to showcase the value-add in joining the Partnership.

For us a country that has developed three OGP National Action Plans, we have seen the value of participating in the Partnership. In our commitments we have been able to develop a government information portal that seeks to centralize information for easy access to our citizens in order to ensure that our people are informed of the choices they have and services available to them. This is line with some of the principles of the OGP which emphasises the use of innovation and technology to enhance public participation.

We have further initiated a partnership with software technology companies to resolve day to day challenges facing our people. As part of our participation in the OGP we have developed a Hack-for-Water project with partners such as Code for South Africa, the Innovation Hub, Microsoft and the department for Water and Sanitation.

Distinguished Delegates

The purpose of the OGP Hack-for-Water project is to expand the reach of its awareness and education campaigns, to encourage more responsible use of water in industry, agriculture and within communities. In addition, the project seeks to to encourage communities, researchers, and entrepreneurs to propose "out-of-the-box" ideas for solving water management challenges.

The above project demonstrates the importance of Open Government in encouraging the use of technology in encouraging citizen participation in solving daily life challenges that face our citizens. Indeed the OGP does add value to Good Governance and we encourage more African countries to join the Partnership!

Your Excellencies

It is important to acknowledge that the OGP is new and seeks to strengthen a relationship between government and other sectors, something that needs to be handled in a delicate manner, especially given the fact that political systems are uneven in their development and maturity.

Notwithstanding this acknowledgement, it is our conviction that it will be erroneous for us to harbour the illusion that consensus building means that the views of one sector in the partnership must prevail at all times1 This will be contrary to both the spirit and letter of the OGP.

As a country we believe that we need to navigate the dynamic political space brought about by the uniqueness of the PARTNERSHIP between civil society and government in a manner that is balanced and does not drown the voice of the other but recognizes that each has different expectations, priorities and accounts to different stakeholders.

Programme Director

We also note and appreciate the work done by the OGP Support Unit and the Steering Committee in the preparations for this Conference. In particular we applaud the effort that went into soliciting the topics for discussion.

These topics ranging from open government for sustainable development, financing OGP commitments, the role of open data in development, the role of open parliaments, monitoring and tracking of civic space, the role of innovation and open government at sub-national level, fiscal transparency, aid transparency, open contracting and the implementation of access to information in Africa, were all submitted to the OGP for consideration on the basis of their relevance to the challenges facing the African continent.

We are pleased to notice that there will be a session aimed at exploring how synergies can be established between the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and Africa's Good Governance initiatives such as the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the Africa Governance Architecture (AGA).

In 2016, the APRM turned thirteen. This milestone was preceded by the endorsement of the decision on the Integration of the APRM into AU structures adopted at the 23rd Assembly of AU Heads of State and Government in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, on 28 June 2014.

We believe that the integration process provides an opportunity for the APRM to add-value to the African Union Governance Architecture as well as potential for linkages with the Unions structures such as the Peace and Security Council (PSC), the Continental Early Warning System (CEWS), the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and the African Union Commission Permanent Representatives Council (PRC).

More significantly, the coming of age of the APRM represents an opportunity for taking stock of Africa's new development context and trajectory characterized by Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development Goals.

Therefore, we believe that the OGP and Open Government in general has a huge potential for supporting the implementation of the continents sustainable development agenda and is complimentary to Africa's Governance Architecture and initiatives and that more countries should join the Partnership.

Distinguished Delegates

As we reflect and deliberate on our journey for the past five years let's do so with vigour and conviction and pride that indeed we are part of a noble idea that seeks to improve the lives of our people in the continent and beyond.

On behalf of His Excellency President Jacob Zuma and the people of South Africa, we welcome you and invite you to make sometime to explore the beauty of the Western Cape and wish you fruitful deliberations for the next two days and hope to see you in the near future.

With those few remarks I declare the OGP Africa Regional Conference officially open.


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