JAMAICA and South Africa have begun bilateral discussions on a number issues of mutual interest to both countries.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and South African President Jacob Zuma made the disclosure at a joint press briefing which followed their first 45 minutes of discussions at Jamaica House yesterday.
The leaders started talking just over two hours after President Zuma and his wife, Ma-Ntuli Zuma, arrived at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston, a day later than planned. The delay, after his plane landed in Brazil to refuel on its way to Kingston, was attributed to weather conditions created by tropical storm Ernesto.
President Zuma and his delegation were greeted with a royal salute before he inspected a guard of honour. Due to the delay his two-day itinerary — which included visits with Governor General Sir Patrick Allen and Opposition Leader Andrew Holness as well a tour of the Bob Marley Museum, lunch with the South African High Commissioner and the Independence Grand Gala at the National Stadium — was surpressed into a 24-hour programme, which was already one hour behind after the briefing.
At the briefing, Simpson Miller and Zuma confirmed discussions on issues such as increasing trade between both countries, increased South African investments in Jamaica, as well as increased "people to people" relations in areas such as culture, science, education and tourism.
Zuma said that both countries would discuss agreements and Memoranda of Understanding in terms or sports and recreation, science and technology, defence and security, bilateral air links and public works.
He said that his government was willing to discuss "encouraging South African businesses to invest in Jamaica, resulting in the steady growth of trade and investment between the two countries".
He and Simpson Miller also agreed on the need to reform the United Nations, particularly the Security Council, and institutions born out of the Bretton Woods Agreement — specifically the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank — to take into account the problems of highly indebted nations like Jamaica, as well as the relationship between climate change and development imperatives.
Simpson Miller also disclosed their interest in the African Diaspora Forum and support for greater cooperation and solidarity between the African continent and the African Diaspora, and greater involvement of the African Diaspora in the continent's development.
Zuma also congratulated Jamaica on its two gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics stating that it is clear that Africans in the Diaspora and on the continent were making their presence felt.
Zuma was scheduled to leave Jamaica yesterday evening at 10.55 pm to return to South Africa.