30 years after restored independence Georgia expands its global partnerships into Africa
By H. E. Mr. Beka Dvali
Ambassador of Georgia to the Republic of South Africa, also accredited as non-resident Ambassador to Angola, Botswana, DRC, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe
In 2021, Georgia marks 30th Anniversary of the restoration of independence. Georgia’s statehood, in a form of a Kingdom, dates back to millennia, however it was only on 26 May 1918, when the first Democratic Republic of Georgia was born. It brought to all Georgian citizens equality of rights and freedoms, still rare commodity globally in those times. First Georgian Republic and its promising prospects for Georgian nation lasted only three years. In 1921 the liberty was crushed by Soviet invasion, however, on 9 April 1991 Georgia managed to restore its independence and democratic republic, following the demise of the Soviet Union.
30 years on, despite traditionally challenging geopolitical environment and continued threats to its sovereignty and territorial integrity from revisionist former colonial power, Georgia as a historical guardian of the easternmost frontier of Europe and its values, managed to persevere, consolidate democracy and move forward. Never before in history, has Georgia – with its unique culture and Christian heritage, distinct language and alphabet – has been integrated so broadly with global community and never before this Nation had so many friends and allies in its neighborhood and beyond. We progress steadily on the path of European and Euro-Atlantic integration and position ourselves as important energy, trade and transport hub at geopolitical crossroads, already hosting major oil and gas pipelines as well as railway route linking East and West.
Georgia stands out regionally and globally in comprehensive and continued reforms, ease of doing business, media freedom, democratic credentials and anti-corruption drive. Dramatic improvement of state services has also proved exemplary and been recognized widely as a blueprint of possible structural state reforms for any willing nation.
Independent and democratic Georgia has seized historical opportunity of forging ties, also throughout African continent, with the entire area of Southern African Development Community (SADC) including South Africa. Georgian Embassy in Pretoria is focused on active and well-calibrate engagement with South African and Georgian business communities to promote bilateral trade and investment that would be of added-value for the economies of both countries. Tourism has emerged naturally as important sector of mutual interest and key facilitator of people-to-people contacts. We also share soft spot for rugby hence we have recently seen promising institutionalization of rugby ties. Georgia, being the birthplace of wine and having 8,000 years of proven uninterrupted tradition of wine-making has been keen to exchange its wine traditions and skills with South Africa. Georgia-South Africa Winemaker Exchange Programme initiated and managed by Southern Africa Georgia Chamber of Commerce (SAGCC – www.sagcc.biz ) and its Chairman Mr. Marius Heyns, in collaboration with Georgian National Wine Agency and select wineries of the both Countries, has proved exceptionally successful. In the coming years, we hope to multiply similar projects under the umbrella of existing cooperation between Cape Winelands District Municipality and Georgian wine Region of Kakheti, as well as to promote specific forms of cooperation between Georgian Capital Tbilisi and the City of Tswane, also facilitate twining between Durban and Georgian Port city of Batumi. Honorary Consuls of Georgia in Cape Town – Dr. Gerald Wolman, in Johannesburg – Mr. Roger Latchman and in Durban – Triveshan Naidoo are also important contributors to building bridges between Georgia and South Africa.
Covid-19 Pandemic has been quite a challenge to the nascent relations of Georgia with African peers, but as 2021 progresses, new opportunities start to unlock. Hospitality and Real Estate, IT/Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Apparel and Footwear, Electronic Equipment Components, Automotive & Aerospace Components, Logistics, Energy, agriculture have been identified as areas of mutual interest.
From February 2021 Georgia has been one of the first to open its doors, without any restrictions, for all covid-19 vaccinated citizens of all countries. This came as addition to already existing special Covid-19 era opportunity – “Business Visitor” and “Working from Georgia Remotely” permits ( www.stopcov.ge/en/protocol ). Apart from this Covid-19 temporary regulation, South Africans are granted visa-free entry into Georgia, where they enjoy world-renowned Georgian hospitality, unique cuisine and wine as well as distinctive cultural experience.
Georgians have always been guided by the precept enshrined in the 12th Century Georgian Renaissance poet Shota Rustaveli’s eternal poem “The Knight in the Panther’s Skin”. Rustaveli said: “Who Seeks Not a Friend, is His Own Foe”. I am delighted to observe clear reciprocity my country is getting on this principle from our newly found friends and partners throughout Africa.