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Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis to visit three southern African countries in first visit to the continent

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The main goals of the trip are to strengthen economic and political relations with these three southern African countries, including by signing an agreement on air transport with Zambia, and to visit projects supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), particularly in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

In South Africa, Mr Cassis will meet with Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Zweli Mkhize and Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni. These talks will strengthen ties between Switzerland and South Africa, a member of the G20 and Switzerland's largest trading partner in Africa. Mr Cassis will stress how important a favourable investment climate is for Swiss companies. There are about a hundred Swiss companies in the country, employing up to 80,000 people.

During his stay in South Africa – a nation of 57 million inhabitants – Mr Cassis will also meet prominent South Africans and Swiss nationals based in that country. He will have the opportunity to visit several joint projects and initiatives that underscore the wide range and diversity of Switzerland's relations with South Africa.

Before visiting South Africa on Thursday and Friday, Mr Cassis will travel to two other southern African countries where Switzerland is seeking to strengthen its presence: Zambia and Zimbabwe, each with a population of 25 million.

On Tuesday Mr Cassis will hold official talks with Zambian President Edgar Lungu and sign an air transport agreement with Minister of Transport and Communications Brian Mushimba in preparation for the possible opening of a direct air link between Switzerland and Zambia. Mr Cassis will also explore possibilities for strengthening economic ties, which although relatively modest are set to grow, judging by the optimism of a Swiss business delegation that visited the country last October. On Monday Mr Cassis will also visit Mopani Copper Mines, a company located in northern Zambia whose main shareholder is Swiss-based Glencore. Mr Cassis will have the opportunity to observe working and employment conditions in this sector, which accounts for 15.4% of the country's GDP.

On Wednesday, Mr Cassis will travel to Zimbabwe, where he will meet Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Sibusiso Moyo in Harare to discuss, among other things, a peace programme launched by Switzerland to foster political dialogue in the country. The programme aims to support a peaceful transition following the resignation in November 2017 of Robert Mugabe, who led the country for 37 years. Zimbabwe is also an SDC priority country in Africa. Mr Cassis will visit the Newlands Clinic, run by the Ruedi Lüthy Foundation with financial support from the SDC. The clinic treats HIV/AIDS patients, works to prevent the spread of the disease and shares its expertise (best practice) with other clinics in Zimbabwe.

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