There is further room to increase bilateral trade and investment and expand cooperation between South Africa and France, particularly in energy and infrastructure, President Jacob Zuma said on Monday.
Zuma, currently on his second State visit to France to meet with French counterpart President François Hollande, indicated that increased industrialisation, localisation, job creation and skills development linked to the large infrastructure and energy contracts secured by French companies remained a top priority.
“French companies have acquired lucrative contracts in South Africa in the infrastructure and energy programmes, amounting to billions of rand,” he said.
In a joint statement, the Presidents commended the significant participation of French companies in the development of a sustainable energy mix, including renewable and nuclear energy, in South Africa.
To this end, France’s Agence Française de Développement and South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation partnered to finance a new green credit line with Nedbank to promote the development of renewable-energy in South Africa.
“France and South Africa place great importance on cooperation in the energy field within their strategic partnership and, as signatories to the Economic Partnership Agreement, France and South Africa must take advantage of the vast opportunities that exist within the bilateral trade and investment landscape,” Zuma said.
With inadequate infrastructure one of the main factors inhibiting intracontinental trade, integration and economic development, infrastructure development would be a major driving force in unlocking growth potential across Africa.
“Within this context, I am championing the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative and herein lie opportunities for France to partner with us in specific aspects of the North-South corridor,” Zuma said.
In addition to energy, cooperation, in line with the priorities of both governments, would expand further into the areas of maritime, agriculture, science and technology, education, arts and culture, health, defence and development.
“France has been supporting South African reconstruction and development programmes since 1994, including the implementation of the South African National Development Plan – Vision 2030. Both countries welcome the signature of a new Partnership Framework Document for the 2016 to 2019 period, focusing on crucial development sectors.”
Further, several new agreements were signed during the State visit, including a new programme of cultural cooperation in the fields of arts and culture; a declaration of intent to strengthen cooperation in higher education, training and skills development and accelerate student mobility between the two countries; and a bilateral agreement on maritime cooperation in areas adjacent to the French Southern and Antarctic Territories, Marion Island and Prince Edward Island, in the Indian Ocean.
Meanwhile, a cooperation protocol between Business France and Invest South Africa was also signed when the South Africa-France Business Forum convened on Monday.
France remained an important trade, investment and tourism partner for South Africa, being one of the biggest sources of inward tourism to South Africa.
Investments from France reached in excess of R24-billion last year, creating more than 4 000 jobs, with the overall volume of trade totalling R33-billion.