"Important to further strengthen the relations between SA and Sweden"
Anders Hagelberg was appointed Sweden’s new Ambassador to South Africa, on 29 January 2013 when he presented his Credentials to President Jacob Zuma.” My role as an Ambassador is to create an impetus to the deepening of the relationship between South Africa and Sweden. Sweden will always try to have as close a relationship as possible with South Africa,” says the newly appointed Ambassador Mr. Hagelberg. He will also be appointed Ambassador to Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and SADC.
Mr. Ambassador, it is not your first time in SA but it is the first time that you will reside here; what is it that you like about South Africa?
“Ever since my wife and I visited the country for the first time ten years ago, we have had the intention to come here and stay more permanently. It is a fascinating and exciting country. And it has a special relationship to Sweden that was founded in Sweden’s support in the transforming of South Africa.”
Sweden was a strong supporter of the anti-apartheid movement, something which led to a strong relationship between Sweden and South Africa after apartheid was ended. How would you describe the relations between SA and Sweden today?
"The historical background is still of most importance, we have reason to be proud of what the Swedish Government and the people were doing during those years. We stood up for what we believed was the right thing. This is not a matter of nostalgia but a fact that has brought us together. That interest from the Swedish side has been as important after 1994. Of course as South Africa is developing the relationship between the countries has to be up to date, but our historical background is still a part of that relationship.
"Also, South Africa as a global, African, and sub-regional player including its role in BRICS makes it important for Sweden to have a close relationship with it. From an economic and commercial point of view, there are approximately 100 Swedish companies represented in South Africa and South Africa is approximately the 20th biggest recipient of Swedish export. South African goods are becoming more popular in Sweden, especially the wines. And the number of tourists from Sweden visiting South Africa is also increasing. Every tourist visiting becomes a form of Ambassador for South Africa back in Sweden.
"I think that South Africa knows what Sweden stands for. The trade profile also indicates that close relationship, in fact compared to the size of the two countries, the trade is quite impressive. Swedish companies are providing commodities, services, infrastructure and supplying industries to the mining sector. These are some of the more important aspects, the total range of Swedish contribution is more diverse."
In what areas can Sweden and SA learn from each other?
"First of all both our countries have so much to learn from the values that we and the ANC were driven by during the difficult years. We have learnt to communicate with those values as a basis and these values should be in the forefront in our countries today and in the future. Since we developed a very close relationship from the beginning it brought us together which is now very helpful in the daily concrete cooperation between the countries."
Could you say something about the future of the relations between the two countries?
"Sweden will always try to have as close relationship as possible with South Africa. What we will most likely see in our ever more globalized world is that there will be more players involved; BRICS will have a huge importance. I am sure that South Africa’s importance in Africa and globaly will be on the center of the agenda. The Swedish model, what Sweden stands for and not least what the Swedish companies can contribute with will be of great importance and this will create the fundament of the future relationship, including the relationship between our governments.
"On the other hand traditional development cooperation will not be as important in the future as it has been before. The future relationship will remain a political one but also trade will become more important. From a Swedish point of view our engagement will also be a constructive force within the European Union to contribute to the EU – South Africa relationship."
What is your role, or your mission as an ambassador in SA, what do you want to achieve?
"My role as an ambassador is to create an impetus to the deepening of the relationship. It is important to me to inspire different Swedish actors in this respect to create synergies between actors and at the same time being in the forefront.
"I really hope that I and my wife, the Swedish Embassy staff members and also my residence can contribute to this. And if you have any suggestions and proposals on how to deepen and widen our bilateral relationship I most welcome you to contact us."