State visits as a tool of economic diplomacy: Bandwagon or business sense?

"Economic diplomacy has become a priority for South Africa’s foreign policy with the specific objectives of improving market access and trade with bilateral partners, increasing foreign direct investment, positioning South Africa as a preferred tourism destination and marketing South Africa abroad. At the heart of this approach is the relationship between the government and private sector. The broad concept of economic diplomacy encompasses the achievement of specific business objectives through commercial diplomacy initiatives. To accomplish this, however, there is a need for regular consultation and a shared vision of South Africa’s foreign policy.There has been significant interest shown from a diverse selection of businesses in participating in state visits as a result of the strong commitment from the presidency to include the private sector in events that were traditionally the domain of officials. The paper explores the benefits and challenges of using state visits as a tool for economic diplomacy from the perspective of both government and business. It identifies, at a general level, the practices used in a number of other countries that pursue similar objectives. Finally, the paper makes recommendations for a possible new model that could be explored by South Africa to maximise the potential of business participation in state visits."