France is supportive of South Africa’s nuclear energy plans, assures French Foreign Ministry secretary-general Pierre Sellal. The European power is a leader in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. (Secretary-general is equivalent to a director-general in South Africa.)
“Our industry is ready to contribute to the nuclear programme to be launched by the South African government,” he says. This would not just be a matter of selling reactors but would also involve “comprehensive cooperation” which would encompass training and the involvement of South African industry.
“We strongly believe that nuclear energy has to remain and will remain an important element of the world energy mix,” affirms Sellal. “This is a decision we have made in France.” He points out that governments had to meet three objectives when they formulated their energy policies. These were competitive- ness (ensuring that their business sectors could compete internationally), security of supply and sustainability. “We strongly believe that nuclear energy meets these three objectives.”
He acknowledges that the Fukushima crisis in Japan last year had eroded public trust in nuclear energy. “We think it is important to discuss these questions in order to define, in front of the population, these issues as logically as possible. It is important that our two governments demonstrate that they are committed to addressing the issues raised by nuclear energy, such as safety.” A key contribution to convincing the people would be transparency.
Regarding science and technology cooperation, in general, Sellal observes that it “is a very important chapter of our strategic partnership”. This cooperation between the two countries is governed by a bilateral agreement concluded a few years ago. “We believe it will be important to have a science and technology component in the cultural seasons which will take place in South Africa and France,” he states. (There will be a season of France in South Africa this year, followed by a season of South Africa in France next year.) “It is important to show our cooperation in this domain, to show the capacities of the partners in these areas, [and to show] what illustrates the best capacities of the two partners.”
The two countries have a strategic relationship, and South Africa is one of only seven or eight countries outside Europe with which France has an annual high- level dialogue. “We have so much in common: we have many values in common – democracy, [and] human rights. This relationship is based on common principles and common interests.”
Regarding the wider economy, he reports that France sees Africa and South Africa as important to the future of the world economy. As for Chinese investment on the continent, this is nothing to worry about – indeed, the investment attention is good for the continent. “What is important is [for foreign investors] to follow the rules of the game,” he affirms. “[This investor interest] is a reflection of the confidence of many countries in the world today in Africa.”