70th Anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution of the 23rd of July 1952

Pictured cutting the celebratory cake are (l-r) Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Ambassador of Eritrea Salih Omar Abdu, Minister Lindiwe Zulu, Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Ambassador Elfadly and Habiba Abdelrazek

25 July 2022

On the 23rd of July this year Egypt celebrated the 70th anniversary of the 1952 Revolution. At a reception in Pretoria to mark this occasion, Ambassador Ahmed Elfadly of Egypt welcomed guests and said that the day also coincides with the centennial of Egypt’s modern diplomacy that began when Egypt became a newly independent state in 1922. It also coincides with 80 years since the establishment of the first South African Mission in Egypt in 1942.

South African dignitaries present included Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, Phumulo Masualle, Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises and Randall Williams, Mayor of Tshwane.

As the oldest nation state in the world, with over 7000 years of history, as well as multiple revolutions, preceding and succeeding the 1952 revolution, Elfadly explained why this specific Revolution is commemorated. “The 1952 Revolution led by the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser was a major catalyst in asserting the Arab identity of Egypt, then enhancing her African identity in the 1950s, while leading a policy of non-alignment amidst the Cold War as of the 1960s. In this context, Egypt was a leading force behind the Pan-Arab, Pan-African and Non-Aligned Movements, supporting liberation movements throughout the Arab world and the African continent.

“In the post-Cold War era, pursuing sustainable development as a peace dividend became a major challenge in this emerging global village. Hence, it was incumbent upon Egypt’s diplomacy to adapt to new challenges, such as water security, food security, climate change, cyber-security, illegal migration and other forms of organized crime. Upholding the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations, mutual respect, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts became paramount and have been basic tenets of Egypt’s diplomacy,” said Elfadly.

Relations between South Africa and Egypt are historic and run deep and Elfadly spoke about, amongst other matters (read Ambassador Elfadly’s full speech below), Africa's integration, the road from Cape to Cairo, trade and investment, cooperation in international organisations, increasing tourism, sporting exchanges and the deep historical bonds shared by South Africa and Egypt.

Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, addressing guests about South Africa – Egypt relations, spoke about the 9th Egypt – South Africa Joint Commission for Cooperation (JCC) that was chaired by Ministers Naledi Pandor and Sameh Shoukry from 23-25 May 2022 in Cairo. 18 South African government departments engaged their Egyptian counterparts on programs and projects across all their different fields of expertise and Motsoaledi said that South Africa and Egypt have “embarked on a vibrant new path that will significantly widen and deepen our bilateral and multilateral cooperation.”

In November this year Egypt will host the African COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh where Africa will have an opportunity to make its voice clearly heard. Motsoaledi conveyed a message from Minister Barbara Creecy who wished Egypt well as it “assumes the important role and responsibility of the Presidency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP27.”

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Ahmed Elfadly, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to South Africa, Botswana & Lesotho on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of The Egyptian Revolution of the 23rd of July 1952
(Egypt House – Tuesday 19 July 2022)

Welcome to the House of Egypt.
And thank you for bringing this beautiful sun with you.

It is an absolute privilege and pleasure to receive you on this very special day to commemorate the 70th anniversary of our 1952 Revolution, which also coincides this year with the centennial of our modern diplomacy that began when Egypt became a newly independent state in 1922. It also coincides with 80 years since the establishment of the first South African Mission in Egypt in 1942. Today, we also meet at a time where uncertainty appears to be the prevailing sentiment at this critical juncture of modern history in our “global village”.

Overnight, the once alarming news of COVID-19 with its lockdowns and loss of lives have been replaced by equally disturbing reports of military confrontations, economic sanctions and additional refugee crises, while the destructive effects of climate change are spreading across the globe.

Amidst these circumstances, and as the oldest nation state in the world, with over 7000 years of history, as well as multiple revolutions, preceding and succeeding the 1952 revolution, some may wonder why are we commemorating this specific revolution in particular?

The 1952 Revolution led by the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser was a major catalyst in asserting the Arab identity of Egypt, then enhancing her African identity in the 1950s, while leading a policy of non-alignment amidst the Cold War as of the 1960s. In this context, Egypt was a leading force behind the Pan-Arab, Pan-African and Non-Aligned Movements, supporting liberation movements throughout the Arab world and the African continent.

In the post-Cold War era, pursuing sustainable development as a peace dividend became a major challenge in this emerging global village. Hence, it was incumbent upon Egypt’s diplomacy to adapt to new challenges, such as water security, food security, climate change, cyber-security, illegal migration and other forms of organized crime. Upholding the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations, mutual respect, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts became paramount and have been basic tenets of Egypt’s diplomacy.

As we are currently embarking on establishing a New Republic in Egypt under the leadership of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, we are firmly reasserting our African identity. Consequently, we are witnessing a renaissance in Egypt’s relations with her African brothers and sisters, particularly in the areas of peace and security, economic integration and development assistance.

The extensive Egyptian diplomatic presence in Africa helped precipitate this recent renaissance. To date, Cairo hosts 140 foreign embassies, and Egypt maintains diplomatic relations with 186 countries through 159 Resident Ambassadors and Consuls. In several capitals, Egypt is often the sole Arab and/or African voice by virtue of its extensive diplomatic representation.

As such, Egypt continues to play an instrumental role in peacekeeping operations in the world, and particularly in Africa, to protect civilians and rebuild peace, in spite of the numerous associated risks. Egypt is now the 7th largest troop and police contributing country to UN peacekeeping missions. It is also a major contributor to the African Peace and Security Architecture, with around 3200 Egyptian men and women deployed in harsh areas in various places in the world. In addition, last December, the African Union Center for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development was launched in Cairo, as a means to help prevent relapse into conflicts in the continent and as a contribution to “Silencing the Guns” in Africa.

We cannot simply honor the Founding Fathers of our African Union, such as Nasser, Nyerere, Nkrumah and others, by remembrance functions alone. We need to live up to their principles and ideals, guided by our common history of struggle against colonialism, the bonds of friendship and solidarity, and a common vision for the Africa We Want.

In this spirit, Agenda 2063 remains central to that vision and integrating the continent is key in achieving it. Presidents Ramaphosa & El Sisi see eye to eye on many continental challenges and opportunities in this regard. Testimony to that is the smooth transition of the Chairmanship of the African Union from South Africa to Egypt in February 2020, and South Africa’s support to Egypt’s membership in the New Development Bank of BRICS last year.

The Cape to Cairo road is another case in point. This developmental project is championed by President Ramaphosa and strongly supported by President El Sisi. It connects nine countries amounting to one third of the continent’s population and one half of its GDP. It is therefore a rare opportunity to redefine Africa according to its own interests, accelerating economic integration while boosting trade, investments and tourism, while bringing Africans closer together.

Both Presidents are also pioneering the continent’s effort to ensure Africans gain access to COVID vaccines, as well as the production of mRNA vaccines. I wish to also humbly recall President El Sisi’s initiative to provide medication to treat one million Africans suffering from Hepatitis-C ... an initiative that is currently implemented or in planning phase in a number of African countries, including South Africa.

In addition, this November, Egypt will be honored to host COP27 on behalf of Africa, in Sharm El-Sheikh. It will be an opportunity for Africa to make its voice clearly heard, because our continent suffers from the most adverse impacts of climate change although it is not responsible for the current crisis, and we have seen it here recently with the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal. It also matters because Africa’s developmental gains and plans are at stake. But Egypt is already working hard, with its partners in the continent and beyond, to ensure that concrete climate action, is taken, for the benefit of the peoples of Africa and the entire world.

I am honored and blessed to serve as an Ambassador of Egypt to South Africa at a time where our leaders currently share a similar outlook to the continent and beyond. This was neither the case when South Africa was established as a nation state in 1910, nor when Egypt witnessed its 1952 Revolution.

South Africa opened its first Consulate General in Egypt in 1942. Egypt reciprocated in 1949. Then South Africa closed its mission in Egypt objecting to Egypt’s support to the liberation movements in South Africa in the 1950s. Later, Egypt formally severed relations with South Africa in 1960 for that same reason. It is no secret that Alfred Nzo, South Africa’s first Foreign Minister in the post-apartheid era was the head of the ANC Bureau in Cairo in the 1960s. Hence, it was only natural that these relations resumed after the demise of this apartheid regime and the onset of democracy in 1994.

However, after this long march to freedom, we have not yet achieved the Africa We Want. Africa has yet to build production capacities in its journey towards industrialization and the creation of wealth in accordance with Agenda 2063, instead of continuing to manage poverty. As we celebrated the Nelson Mandela Day yesterday, we are reminded by Madiba that “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb “. But Madiba ... as we were busy climbing the next hill, we lost one of your disciples two days ago, and a good friend of Egypt as well ... Comrade Jessie Duarte, the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC.

I broke bread with Jessie a few months after assuming my Ambassadorial post in Pretoria. I admired her candor, her wit, her passion for her country and her strong belief in the importance of strengthening the bilateral relations between Egypt and South Africa. May Allah rest her soul in peace. I would also kindly request a moment of silence in her honor.

Honoring the people we cherish takes more than standing in moments of silence. In this spirit, allow me to share with you a number of developments in our bilateral relations with South Africa over the past year.

Trade and Investment have been at the core of these developments. Fully aware of the empowering potential of Intra-African Trade Fairs, H.E. Mrs. Nevein Gamea, Minister of Trade & Industry led 41 Egyptian companies to the Second Fair that took place in Durban last November. Egypt’s pavilion was the largest, in support of KZN, as this was the first major event to be held in South Africa after the civil unrest there in July 2021. Last April, Egypt resumed its participation in the 128 year old Rand Show and has been awarded the best international pavilion for this year.

We intend to triple our exports to Africa by 2025, from approximately $5 billion to $15 billion ... Likewise, Egypt is the largest export market for South African goods and services in North Africa. Despite COVID-19, the volume of trade between both countries has already increased 61% in 2021 ... and we expect more in the years to come, as the AfCFTA is operationalized and non-trade barriers are removed, particularly in the agricultural and pharmaceutical sectors.

Investment has its share of positive results as well. Last January, Vodacom Group has received minority shareholder backing to acquire a 55% stake in Vodafone Egypt for $2.7 billion. This transaction further’s the group’s ambition of becoming one of Africa’s leading telecos. Last May, South Africa’s Sanlam & Allianz announced that they are merging their operations in Africa via a joint venture worth $2 billion. This shall mark Sanlam’s first entry into Egypt. Congratulations Vodacom and Sanlam!

Our investors have also been present in South Africa ... mainly as production centers not service providers. For example, MCV has been manufacturing commercial vehicles in South Africa since 2007, with a production capacity equivalent to 20% of domestic production in South Africa. You may have seen one of their buses on display as you entered. Feel free to check it out again! We salute MCV for staying the course as an important Egyptian production site on South African soil, despite increasing challenges in that sector. Other companies are considering entering the market in South Africa, namely in the power, pharmaceutical and construction sectors.

Sustaining these positive developments and more, shall require strong government to government relations and strong people to people relations.

In this context, I am pleased to indicate that the 9th Joint Cooperation Commission that took place in Cairo 23-25 May 2022 was a success. It was headed by Ministers Naledi Pandor and Sameh Shoukry after 12 years of inaction since the 8th JCC was held in 2010. Our two Ministers agreed to propose to their Principals the elevation of bilateral relations to the highest level possible.

As for people to people relations, allow me to share this anecdote : South Africans used to traditionally support the Zamalek football team, partly because they thought it was in the Zamalek neighborhood that housed the African Association ... the Association that supported African movements in exile. But as of October 2020, South Africans “defected” to support Zamalek’s main rival : Al Ahly. That was when Pitso Mosimane became the first African to coach Al Ahly ... and the first South African coach in the Egyptian Football League. During his tenure, Pitso earned the support of 60 million fans of Al Ahly ... and the vast majority of South Africans. As he chose to end his contract a few weeks ago, South Africans can now freely choose which Egyptian football team to support.

Free movement of people is equally important in people to people relations! As such, Egypt announced that as of 1st April 2022, South African nationals are eligible to obtain a visa upon arrival. Of course, we are aware that 1st of April is April Fool’s day ... but I assure you it was not a joke! In fact, South Africa became the first African country to enjoy this privilege. I sincerely hope that the Government of South Africa can reciprocate soon.

Ever since, our Egyptair flights, have been flying four times a week between Cairo and Johannesburg, and have been fully booked for weeks. Hence, we intend to work on expanding and deepening the presence of Egyptair in South Africa, which by the way celebrated its 90th anniversary a few months ago.

Tourism has also been on the rise. I am glad that South African influencers like Lerato Kganyago have visited Egypt and have enjoyed their trip there. We encourage everybody to visit the cradle of civilizations ... and look forward to seeing you visit the Grand Egyptian Museum after its expected inauguration later this year.

In people to people relations, the diasporas in both countries play an important role. The increasing presence of Egyptian citizens in the diaspora to about 10 million citizens over the past five decades has also been an important asset in Egyptian diplomacy.

Finally, I would like to thank the Embassy Offices and staff for their efforts in organizing today’s event, always with a big smile on their faces … I don’t know how! Last, but not least, of course … a special warm thank you to my better half … Habiba Abdelrazek … who without her, one would not have been able to continue climbing the hills that Madiba reminds us of.

Once again, thank you everybody.

TDS and Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Pretoria