South Africa’s Ambassador to Chile, George Monyemangene, came to Chile in early 2020, when the country was about to go into lockdown over the pandemic. Nevertheless, he managed to get to know the country quite well. According to Monyemangene, South Africa and Chile share values, culture, and history.
Arriving just before the lockdown gave the South African ambassador to Chile, George Monyemangene, the opportunity to get to know colleagues and Chilean foreign officials. When pandemic restrictions were implemented, meetings turned virtual, and traveling the country became a lot harder. Nevertheless, Monyemangene, who normally stays on his posts for four years, says he has seen his fair share of Chile. “I must say that Chile is a truly beautiful and really amazing country with a wide array of topographies,” he told Chile Today. “We’ve been to Valdivia, to engage with the regional government. We’ve been to Arica, we’ve been to Concepción. And during all of those visits we were very well received. The hospitality was excellent and we really have a lot of gratitude for the regional governments. And all the regions offer different types of opportunities.”
When visiting the north, Monyemangene met with leaders of the Afro-community in Chile. He recalls it as “a special moment.” It inspired him and his team “to explore the possibility of linking some of the regions with some of our provinces in South Africa and to also link some of the key cities in Chile with compatible cities in South Africa,” the ambassador said. “For instance, when we went to Antofagasta, we realized that the city is very compatible to the Northern Cape, one of the provinces in South Africa which is a mining province, and on the other hand, has a desert. And they have also done a lot of work on hydrogen power.”
Parallels between the two southern countries
One of the main parallels Monyemangene sees between Chile and South Africa is wine. “We recently did a wine tasting with a winery that had a 50/50 partnership with another company in South Africa. And because of that partnership, they are now able to produce the sauvignon blanc here in Chile, while the other company produces Chilean wine in South Africa.”
At first sight, one might say Chile and South Africa are two completely different and incomparable countries – apart from the fact that both countries make wine, that is. The South African ambassador sees it differently. “We strongly believe that we have shared values. We share the same desires, particularly when it comes to democracy and human rights, based on the type of histories that we have had”, Monyemangene said. “I think at another level, we also see both South African and Chile as beacons in their own continents. So therefore, both countries, we believe, provide a very strong platform for connecting the African continent and the South American continent.”
On the subject of human rights, Monyemangene elaborates, connecting the apartheid regime in South Africa with the dictatorship in Chile. “Next year, Chile will be remembering the 50th anniversary of the coup d’etat. On the other hand, on the South African side, we went through a very terrible system that subjugated the majority of the people. So therefore, we come from very similar histories.”
Opportunities between the countries
Ambassador Monyemangene is a man on a mission. He travels Chile representing South Africa and offering possible investors an insight in what the economy of his home country has to offer. From trade agreements to joint trade committees, business between the two countries is already booming. Aspen, Anglo American, and Bitfood are South African companies active in various sectors that already operate in Chile. In the opposite direction he sees many investment opportunities for Chilean companies in South Africa. “In the agriculture and agroprocessing sector, but also in mining and manufacturing. There are real opportunities in energy and particularly in renewables,” Monyemangene said. “Also, opportunities in tourism for those who would like to invest in tourism infrastructure or just in tourism in itself. So a whole span of industrial sectors and business opportunities is available for Chilean investors.”
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.