The German embassy in South Africa expects further technical experts from that country to arrive in South Africa, subject to the approval of the South African government. The first contingent of these experts, sent to help reactivate and upgrade German-owned factories and service companies in South Africa, arrived in the country on July 16 on a special flight operated by German national flag carrier Lufthansa. A second contingent arrived on July 30. Further flights are expected. The total number of German experts that have so far been sent to South Africa is now more than 100.
“At this stage, most of these specialists are engineers, technicians and other experts assisting Mercedes-Benz to upgrade the East London plant to prepare for the global production of the new C-class model,” German ambassador Martin Schäfer tells Engineering News & Mining Weekly. “Mercedes is an economic player in East London and the province at large. We hope indeed that these experts can help secure this important investment in and for South Africa.”
The remaining experts are widely spread. “There is a considerable number of small and medium companies that are amongst the group, some of them with service contracts for State-owned entities such as Eskom,” he explains.
After arriving in South Africa, the experts spent up to 14 days in self-quarantine and each has been tested at least twice for Covid-19. While in South Africa, they will strictly adhere to South African anti-Covid-19 regulations and maintain the highest standards of hygiene. None of them has yet returned to Germany, but, when they do, they will again be tested for Covid-19. If the test is positive – or if, for some reason, they are unable to be tested – they will self-isolate for at least 14 days.
“We hope that each one of the experts will make a little, but nonetheless tangible contribution to kick-starting the South African economy,” affirms Schäfer. “The experts will leave after the end of their assignment and/or the expiry of their visa – each case is different.”
In its press release of July 15, announcing the then imminent arrival of the first contingent of German engineers, the embassy highlighted the roles of South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maasand and South African Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel in making the initiative possible. South African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry president and BMW South Africa CEO Tim Abbott did likewise.
“This [initiative] is a great step forward in advancing large- and medium-scale projects that will have a direct and critical economic impact on the country,” pointed out Abbott. “It is important that the good technical cooperation cooperation between [South African] and German companies continues so that we overcome the corona pandemic and the negative impact on our economy as fast as possible. “We are confident that this early reintegration of German expats will help to get the economy back on its feet as fast as possible and long-term it will protect jobs.”
Ambassador Schäfer travelled to South Africa on the same flight with the first group of German experts. Before leaving his homeland, he emphasised German solidarity with South Africa. “Only if and when the coronavirus is defeated in the north, south, east and west, will we be able to return to a new normal that resembles at least somewhat the lives we lived before the global crisis,” he stated. “We will get there through sharing know-how and experiences, with cooperation and solidarity. The experts of German companies operating in South Africa will hopefully make their valuable contribution to kick-start the South African economy and reigniting exports of high-tech products proudly ‘Made in South Africa’.”