Jean-Jacques Cornish

A salutary lesson in reconciliation

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by Jean-Jacques Cornish

Essential for survival in Africa is being able to take the rough with the smooth.

So, after British Premier Boris Johnson told an investment conference in London that  a post-BREXIT Britain would be able to open its borders to Africa there was hardly a blink about US President  Donald Trump tipping off the Wall Street Journal in Davos that he is about to add four African countries to those subject to US travel bans.

Johnson believes the continent with some of the fastest growing economies in the world should be courted by Britain to make up on business it is losing by leaving the European Union.

Trump, by contrast believes there are redneck American votes to be won by adding Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan and Eritrea to his list of majority-Muslim countries whose subjects find it increasingly difficult to visit the U.S.

Understandably this dichotomy from two of the continent’s oldest Western friends will drive many Africans even further behind the Great Wall of China.

Beijing’s burgeoning links with Africa are based on non-interference in the affairs of the countries with which they are doing business.

This is an extremely attractive quality among those African leaders who undemocratic, authoritarian and corrupt practices and human rights violations put them beyond the pale of traditional European partners.

A very strong message of support came from two of these this week.

France and German celebrated the anniversary of the signing of bilateral friendship treaties in 1963 and 2019 in an unprecedentedly novel way.

In South Africa, they exchanged ambassadors for the day.

German Ambassador Martin Schäffer and his French counterpart Aurèlien Lechevallier  gave an upbeat  media briefing about swapping desks for the day.

They said it was more than a  symbolic nod to the  reconciliation between the two engines of the European Union.

“Without German French reconciliation there could not have been a united Europe,” asserted Schäfer.

It was also a salutary lesson to African about the lasting value of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Both ambassadors noted this was particularly germane  to  South Africa with its troubled history.

The Franco-German example was particularly relevant at this time of commercial tension between the United State and China.

Africa needed a more robust, more united and stronger Europe to be a reliable partner.

“This is the right moment to show the convergence between Germany and France,” said Lechevallier.

“We are moving together with Africa creating investment and economic opportunities.

“There already are many French and German companies creating tens of thousands of jobs and we want South African companies to invest in France and Germany.

“Schäfer added: “It is a simple fact that Europe – and Germany and France are an integral part of that is by far Africa’s biggest read and investment partner.

“We do not come and make a quick buck.

“We come and we stay and we become corporate citizens.”

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.