E. Jorge Rubio
Peruvian Ambassador to South Africa
Excellency, please share some of the highlights of your personal and professional experience in South Africa thus far?
I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Peru in 1982, but my first steps into Africa were only in November, last year, when I arrived in South Africa for the first time. I’ve worked in many countries prior to this posting, including countries in North and South America, as well as Europe, but this is my first experience on the African continent. It is very impressive, and my wife and I are happy to be here.
What is the current status of bilateral relations between Peru and the Republic of South Africa?
We began our diplomatic relationship in 1994. We recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding on political consultation, in March last year, and we have many other new agreements that we hope to sign in the future.
Our relationship is a very important one when it comes to multilateral affairs – we are both members of the United Nations Security Council; and we have many other global areas of interest in common. This multilateral political connection influences our bilateral relationship, and we are increasing the work we have to do in many areas of our direct relations now as a result. We are particularly looking at increasing commercial trade between our countries.
What business opportunities does your country offer to South Africans? Do you have a chamber of commerce, or a trade office?
Peru is a free market economy, and we have an open border for investment. There are many South African enterprises that have important investments in Peru, particularly in the mining sector. South African companies invest a lot of money in gold mining in Peru. Hans Merensky Holdings is a very important enterprise that invests in Peru. They have bought land that is used to export products to Europe.
There are business opportunities for Peruvians here too. I often work with enterprises from Peru that are interested in investing in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and South Africa.
Is there a presence of the African diaspora in Peru?
Peru is a multilingual, multicultural country, and is associated with all races. We have a very important Chinese population; we have a very important European population; and we also have a very important African population.
The African population has been in Peru for almost 300 years. They have had a very important influence in our culture, especially in terms of food, and sport. Many of our sportsmen and sportswomen are of African descent – our football players, our athletes; many of our great dancers, and dance groups, are also of African descent. Dance is now also something that has become popular all over the world, and we have some great dancers.
Peruvian cuisine has a uniqueness, and your food is becoming more and more popular too.
Yes, we have seen an explosion of our foods around the world in the last 20 to 30 years. There are now Peruvian restaurants in some of the world’s biggest countries – if you go to Madrid, Paris, Buenos Aires, London, or many places in the United States, you are bound to find new Peruvian restaurants. Our food is being exported more frequently.
There is a very important group of Peruvians in South Africa, and it would be great to have Peruvian restaurants here in the future as well.
Machu Picchu is one of the most visited landmarks. What does Peru offer as a tourism destination?
About 2000 South Africans visit Peru each year. This is a significant number, but I still do not think enough people in South Africa truly know what Peru can offer as a tourism destination. Those who do visit are usually avid travellers, who have been elsewhere in the world. I would like to encourage the society in South Africa and the society in Peru to get to know each other better, and to know more about each other’s countries.
Peru is a country with a very ancient civilisation. Our first civilisations began in 3000BC – so we are talking about 5000 years of different civilisations in my country. The people know about the Incas, but the Incas lived towards the end of the ancient period, and was the last built ancient civilisation in Peru.
We have three different types of regions in the country. We have a coastline stretching over 3000km, offering beautiful beaches for holidays, and surfing; we have the mountains, where most of civilisation is; and we have the jungle, about 60% of our territory is jungle. We offer a great diversity, and as a multicultural, multilingual, and multiracial country, we have many things in common with South Africa.