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China, South Africa to strengthen new energy investments, cooperation

Chinese and South African flags

Photo by Creamer Media

13th June 2023

By: Schalk Burger

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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China and South Africa will deepen cooperation, trade and investment in new energy technologies to help South Africa overcome its energy challenges and reignite its economic growth.

During the China-South Africa New Energy Investment and Cooperation conference, held in Sandton, on June 13, South Africa's ambassador to China Siyabonga Cwele emphasised that the countries had reached a consensus on several global issues, including green, or sustainable, development; the digital economy; the just energy transition; technology exchange and skills required for the future.

This consensus was reached during the bilateral meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Bali, Indonesia, in November last year and reaffirmed on June 9. The conference is part of the implementation of the goal to deepen and strengthen ties and mutual support between the two countries on issues of mutual interest, Cwele said.

“A green economy and sustainable development have become the global consensus and our two countries enjoy key opportunities for stronger new energy cooperation. Our two countries now both have a historical task of energy transition and sustainable economic development,” said China's ambassador to South Africa Chen Xiaodong.

“It is therefore very timely for us to cooperate more in new energy investment. Electricity [is necessary for] development, and a green and low-carbon approach will be the future,” he said.

The conference brought 50 leaders of 24 Chinese enterprises in the energy value chain to South Africa. There are already 200 Chinese companies active in South Africa, either in joint ventures or operating independently.

“Renewable energy cooperation will become a new driver of the countries' economic and trade cooperation.

“China is currently actively pursuing high-quality development at home. We are vigorously developing renewables,” he said.

South Africa is also working on an ambitious just energy transition, which incorporates new energy as a means to resolve the power crisis and create a prosperous green economy.

“President Ramaphosa pointed out that the overriding priority of South Africa is still to end load-shedding and achieve energy security. China and South Africa have common development aspirations and strong complementarities in new energy,” emphasised Chen.

Further, China produces more than 50% of all wind turbines worldwide and more than 80% of all solar photovoltaic panels worldwide. China is also the world's leading country in terms of installed capacity of hydro, wind and solar power, he noted.

“South Africa is willing to learn from China in terms of green development and energy transition. Cooperation can make a tangible contribution to addressing our energy challenges and starting our economic recovery,” said Cwele.

The two countries are working to deepen cooperation on international affairs and jointly to address global challenges, including climate change and energy challenges, he added.

Bilateral trade between China and South Africa reached $57.6-billion in 2022, which was a 5% increase and a new record high. South Africa exported about $13-billion worth of products to China during this time.

“The question of cooperation on new energy is also crucial for how South Africa will compete in the context of the changes unfolding in the world around us,” Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan stated during the conference.

South Africa has to face its own transition reality in which more than 80% of its power is derived from coal, but there is a fast-developing industry for renewables and low-carbon energy including gas, he added.

“How South Africa's transition occurs between 2023 and 2050 must take into account our circumstances, the global changes and the level of adaptability that needs to be created to achieve our Nationally Determined Contribution goals for the goal of combatting climate change on the planet,” he said.

Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa highlighted opportunities for Chinese energy companies to become involved in South Africa's energy development, including in new energy projects in solar, wind and energy storage, converting existing power stations to gas and, crucially, developing transmission and distribution infrastructure.

Mobilising more stakeholders to participate in South Africa's new energy industry and providing assistance for alleviating the power crisis will inject new momentum into the practical cooperation between China and South Africa, Chen added.

Cooperation on new energy issues, which builds on 25 years of China-South Africa relations, will set an example of the relations China wants to foster in Africa and serve as an example of South-South cooperation to ensure a sustainable future, he said.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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