By Frederick Philander KEETMANSHOOP In a joint statement on Friday, the Northern Cape Provincial Government of South Africa and the Regional Council of Karas reconfirmed their commitment to a twinning agreement that was signed in 1999. “Delegations from the Regional Council of the Karas Region, led by Governor Boois and the Provincial Government of the Northern Cape, led by Premier Dipuo Peters, met in Keetmanshoop from the 30th October to 01 November 2006. The purpose of the engagement was to assess the implementation of the provisions of a twinning agreement entered into between the respective governments in September 1999,” the joint statement reads. The objective of the visit was to promote and strengthen cooperation around key areas of delivery to further consolidate the partnership between the Karas Region and the Northern Cape. “Several working sessions were convened, covering different themes relevant to both regions. The meetings received a range of presentations across a spectrum of areas relevant to the twinning agreement, and had extensive and productive discussions on these. Both delegations agreed that the underlying principles that precipitated the conclusion of the twinning agreement remain relevant, and that more and urgent work should be done to ensure prompt implementation of the provisions of the agreement,” the press release says. The two sides also agreed that rapid global integration as well as the encouraging developments on the African continent provide the possibilities and momentum for both regions to take the comprehensive development of the respective regions to a qualitatively higher level. “The meeting noted that advances in both the Karas Region and the Northern Cape Province provide the momentum for increased levels of cooperation and the shared advancement of the development and transformation agenda in both regions. In view of this, the meeting agreed on specific areas of partnership to consolidate the implementation of the twinning agreement, for the benefit of the people of both regions,” it says. The sectors concerned are: Tourism and Conservation; Agriculture and Water Affairs; Mining; Fishing and Aquaculture; Sports, Youth, Arts and Culture; and Education, Safety and Security. “A variety of initiatives were agreed on to enable enhanced implementation, and these are clustered into matters for immediate attention, medium to long-term interventions and those matters that impact on the regions, but require the engagement of the governments of both Namibia and South Africa, through existing frameworks,” the statement announced. In the area of tourism and conservation, it was resolved to ensure that work should be done to ensure ease of movement of tourists between the two respective regions through improved customs and immigration arrangements, and the improvement of border posts. “Emphasis should be placed on the economic potential of tourism in the areas of cultural and eco-tourism, for the benefit of our disadvantaged communities. Joint marketing strategies will be embarked on through the respective tourism promotion agencies, and focus will be given to the consolidation of work already done on the Orange River Mouth RAMSAR Site and the Richtersveld Ai-Ais Transfrontier Park.” The meeting also acknowledged the vast and yet underdeveloped tourism potential of the Lower Trans Gariep region, and has re-affirmed the belief that trans-national cooperation in ecosystems’ management such as the trans-frontier conservation area, has proved itself as a high priority area in both regions to reap optimal benefits and rewards from opportunities derived from the 2010 World Cup to be hosted by South Africa in 2010. “As a result of this, a mechanism to promote cross-border tourism in the targeted TFCA complex, as a means of fostering socio-economic development, will soon have to be in place and will receive urgent attention from both regions.” In agriculture and water affairs, the development of the karakul industry, ostrich farming, the irrigation possibilities derived from the Orange River, the commercialization of goats and exchange around veterinary services were identified as focus areas for implementation. The meeting further resolved that mining remains an area that requires attention. “Opportunities exist for the exploitation of various commodities, and knowledge development and research, product profiling, technology development and training and development become critical in this context. Apart from the diamond industry, there exist opportunities for the further development of both ferrous and non-ferrous metals, as well as dimension stone. Key to the further development of the mining sector in both regions is the need for beneficiation and value addition, in order to maximize the benefits of the sector.” The region of Karas and the province of the Northern Cape share historical bonds with regard to its history, people, and cultures. This provides a solid platform for engagement in the social development arena. To this end, some of the areas identified for further action are: the education and training sector, with the focus on ensuring that best practice is shared in skills development for economic growth, the further development of the Nama language and culture, exchange of learners’ support material and teacher development programmes. Sports development interventions include school sport, policy development and management systems experience-sharing and improving the standards of football through hosting exchange matches between the two regions. “Through the agreement, both regions will identify common heritage sites, with a view to further strengthening understanding of neglected heritage and to ensure the protection thereof. “The music industry, especially around the indigenous Nama language, bears the potential for exploitation. In this regard, joint programmes around community radio will be explored, especially with the Namakwa District in the Northern Cape. The arts and culture field, especially the craft industry, has the potential for economic upliftment of poor communities, and will be pursued. “Cultural exchanges will be embarked on to ensure that efforts are enhanced around the preservation of the cultural links between the regions.” According to the statement, the challenges facing young people received special attention during this visit, and cooperation around broader youth development in the form of youth resource/advisory centres, skills development and national youth service and volunteerism will be pursued. “We are pleased to announce that the first Youth Exchange Programme will take place in June 2007, and coordinated through the agencies responsible for youth development of the two governments. Work will be done to strengthen the existing cooperation on safety and security, and all relevant stakeholders in this regard will be engaged to form part of this process.” The meeting emphasized the need for more direct contact and partnership between the Karas Region and the bordering Namakwa and Siyanda districts in the Northern Cape. “The partnership will be coordinated through the following mechanisms: a Joint Political Committee, to serve as the mandating structure and meeting once every two years; a Joint Coordinating Committee, to agree on the broad framework of the Cooperation Agreement, and issue mandates to the joint technical committees. Reports to the political structure will be processed through the JCC. Various technical committees will be established in line with the thematic focus areas identified, and will be responsible for the implementation side of the twinning agreement. All relevant stakeholders on national, provincial/regional and local level will be included to ensure alignment and synergy with regard to implementation and coordination.” A comprehensive action plan with clearly set objectives, focused outcomes and with the appropriate monitoring and evaluation systems will be developed in order to concretize the agreements reached.