Pretoria, 24 March 2023 (TDI): The King of Belgium, Philippe Léopold Louis Marie is in South Africa for a five-day state visit. Queen Mathilda is accompanying him. It marks the first Belgian state visit ever to the African country.
The Royal Family’s visit aim to discuss political, economic, and academic talks and participation in cultural events, as well as visits to historical sites.
Additionally, the Royal Family will also discuss Russia-Ukraine Conflict, climate, migration, diamonds, and vaccines with South African leadership during the visit.
Belgium’s Ambassador to South Africa, Paul Jansen said: “The state visit is a reflection of the strength of the relationship that exists between Belgium and South Africa.
“The warm friendship that the two nations enjoy and the status of both countries as strong trade partners.”
“South Africa is an attractive investment destination for Belgian companies & an alluring business and leisure tourism destination,” Jansen said, noting that the African country is the largest economy on the African continent with significant growth potential.
During the visit, the Royals are accompanied by 140 Belgian officials including Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa welcomed the Royals and praised the collaboration between both countries while receiving them.
Ahead of the meeting with King Philippe, President Cyril highlighted the effects of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict and said, “We look forward to sharing our perspectives on the conflict during our meeting, and to learn more about Belgium’s stance.
It is also important to consider the impact of the conflict on the international economy, especially with regard to global food and energy security,”
Belgian Foreign Minister said “Belgium understands South Africa’s stance on the war in Ukraine and urged South Africa to use its “channels of communications to advance on a path toward peace.”
“We have always looked up to South Africa as a key partner for peace and the defense of human rights and basic international principles,” said Foreign Minister Lahbib.
Furthermore, King Philippe will visit and discuss projects that are running in the country, such as the operations of the biotech company Afrigen.
Afrigen in collaboration with Belgian scientists develops its own vaccines to lessen dependency on third countries, a need that was also highlighted during the Covid-19 crisis.
Another item high on the royals’ agenda is climate change. South Africa is among the most vulnerable countries when it comes to climate change, with temperatures in the region at risk of rising by 4 degrees in the coming decades.
Together with South African partners, Belgian companies are helping to find solutions. While there are many economic interests in the royal couples’ itinerary, King Phillipe also finds the themes of apartheid, racism, and reconciliation of great importance.
The couple will visit historical sites in South Africa where they will reflect on the painful history of apartheid.
Notably, South Africa is also home to the largest Belgian population on the African continent, with 10,000 Belgians living there.