Expectations are high that Ramaphosa will play an important role in African relations

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When President elect Cyril Ramaphosa takes the oath of office on Saturday, the rest of the continent will be keen to hear what his policies on Africa are.

From tough visa restrictions for Africans entering South Africa to xenophobic attacks against fellow Africans living in the country, expectations are high that Ramaphosa will help thaw relations with the rest of Africa and help the African Union be more people centered when he takes over the rotational chairmanship of the continental body next year.

President Ramaphosa will take over the helm of the African Union next year. After the first democratic election, the late President Nelson Mandela set out the country’s role in Africa as a peace-builder, presiding over the Burundi peace talks and brokered an agreement that ended a 12 year civil war in the East African nation.

As Deputy President, President Ramaphosa presided over peace building efforts in South Sudan. Experts on Africa say as the African Union Chair in 2020 and one of the three African representatives on the UN Security Council, South Africa has a chance at promoting peaceful and constitutional transfer of power in Africa.

At the African Union, President Ramaphosa will take over from Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el Sisi.  Their predecessor Rwanda’s Paul Kagame presided over reforms at the continental body.

Law Lecturer at Nazerene University, Dr Duncan Ojwang however says South Africa should use its position to change how the African Union relates with the rest of the world with the aim of making it more assertive.  “To lead the continent, to speak with one voice and as we face globalisation, you have Africa map its interest very well and to negotiate its interest.”

He also proposes that even as South Africa, a signatory to the African Continental Free Trade Area, pushes for continental integration; it must look inward and begin by opening up its borders to Africans.

“Ramaphosa being one of the arm bearers during the struggle should understand that South Africa can play an important role in regional integration, their words have been that but their cautions, have been lagging,” says Ojwang.

These are pointers to the crafters of South Africa’s foreign policy in what the rest of Africa expects from a big brother.