On 16 June, YPFP Brussels will host it's first "Ambassador Series" with an African nation. The South African Ambassador, Mxolisi Nkosi, will speak about "The Role of Youth in Development and Security in Southern Africa." On this occasion, Shari Cupido, a South African diplomat in Brussels spoke to us about her career path, lessons learned and what advice she gives to aspiring diplomats.
Q: YPFP members are aspiring leaders in foreign policy. You have made a big step by successfully entering the South African diplomatic service: What inspired you to apply?
A: I am very patriotic. The main reason I applied to the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy was because of the love I have for my country. I wanted a career that is meaningful and I saw diplomacy as a way to contribute to South Africa.
Q: You started your post in Brussels in 2012. How would you describe the past few years and how have you been welcomed as a young, female diplomat in Brussels?
A: I am often the youngest person in a meeting or at a conference, meaning I am in a room with more experienced professionals. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the new environment and wealth of knowledge accumulated by my colleagues and counterparts throughout the years, I listened to them attentively and made time to learn from them, they became my mentors. I doubt they realized it!
Q: What would your advice be to YPFP members aspiring to enter into the foreign service of their respective countries?
A: In my opinion, being a diplomat is very humbling and rewarding profession that exposes you to a magnitude of issues and wide variety of subjects matters. Every country I work with is different. This allows me to always be in a dynamic environment which that me on personal and professional level. I would advise YPFP members interested in diplomacy to advance their foreign language skills and continue to sharpen their area of interest in foreign policy studies, especially if it is an area of strategic importance to your Foreign Ministry.
Q: Finally, as a South African you see the EU with the vantage point of an outsider. How do you see the future of EU-African cooperation?
A: As outlined by the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, the African Union and the European Union share one vision where the European and African people can prosper in peace on both continents. Both Africa and Europe have mutual concerns in terms of global security, climate change and the post-2015 development agenda. In light of these common interests, I am convinced that Africa-EU relations will thrive from strength to strength especially in terms of economic cooperation and sustainable development.
Interview given by Shari Cupido, Diplomat at the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and the Mission to the European Union.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of their employer or Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.