As German chancellor Angela Merkel began a state visit to South African on Thursday, president Cyril Ramaphosa called for greater cooperation between the two nations on clean energy, low carbon growth and skills training.
Speaking after bilateral talks with Merkel, Ramaphosa said they had agreed to work together to bring more German investment into South Africa, which would in turn bring a skills transfer that would address dire youth unemployment.
"We agreed that there is a need for German businesses to deepen their presence in South Africa and expand their operations, and that we should cooperate to see greater levels of German investment in South Africa, " he said, adding assurances that the country was trying to stem corruption and make itself more business friendly.
The two heads of state signed a joint initiative on the promotion of vocational training in South Africa, where unemployment stands at 29 percent and more than half of those in the age group 15 to 24 don't have jobs.
"I have made addressing the high rate of youth unemployment in our country a foremost priority of this administration," Ramaphosa added.
He said the government was focusing on ensuring that young people acquired the skills required by companies and made the transition "from learning to earning at a much faster rate".
"We know that Germany has one of the most admired and successful training systems in the world, and we look forward to finding ways for us to learn from each other’s experiences and build a world-class skills development system for young people in South Africa."
Germany is Europe's biggest economy and South Africa's second largest trading partner. Ramaphosa said the trade balance between the countries was narrowing. There are some 600 German companies with a foothold in South Africa and Merkel is accompanied by a strong business contingent on her trip.
After a business forum, where South African officials engaged with senior German executives, Ramaphosa said direct German investment was vital to ensure government reached its goal of attracting R1.2 trillion in investment over five years.
German investors in 2019 pledged R11 billion (about 740 million euros), mainly in the automotive and advanced manufacturing sectors.
Ramaphosa said Thursday's talks should contribute to more trade and investment, as well as full implementation of the economic partnership agreement between the European Union and the Southern African Development Community.
He stressed that government was working to repair the damage entrenched corruption had caused to the country's state-owned enterprises, and to resolve an energy crisis that had seen power utility Eskom return to loadshedding and warn that it could continue for 18 months.
Eskom relies predominantly on coal-fired plants. Ramaphosa said he would like the country to collaborate on clean energy with Germany, a leader in the field.
"I will be particularly keen to see how Germany and South Africa can collaborate in the field of clean and renewable energy.
"Low-carbon growth that is climate change resilient is a fundamental tenet of our National Development Plan and we look eagerly to the enhanced collaboration between local companies and their counterparts in Germany in rolling-out appropriate technologies in pursuit of that objective."
He added: "As we work to address the immediate challenge of power shortages, we are taking steps that will fundamentally transform our energy landscape into the future."
The visit has been in the pipeline for two years, since Ramaphosa took office in February 2018. Diplomats have noted that Merkel kept a distance from the administration of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, because of perceptions of corruption.
But in November 2018, German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited South Africa and expressed support for Ramaphosa's stated mission of rooting out graft and bringing about political renewal.