I VISITED SA this week to heighten our economic partnership and further strengthen our already rich relationship.
SA is a key player in Africa’s economy, a model for democracy and a major emerging power. We are aware of it, and this is why the rainbow nation is our first economic partner in sub-Saharan Africa.
More than 300 French companies, employing close to 30,000 people, are based here.
Some great successes, such as the Alstom contract with the Passenger Rail Agency of SA, which will create more than 30,000 new jobs, illustrate the dynamics for the greater benefit of our two nations.
France is also represented by its expatriate community. More than 9,000 people strong, it is incredibly dynamic and provides a connection between our two nations.
In various sectors, France can support SA and help it address its development challenges.
The transport sector, one of France’s sectors of excellence, is paramount to South African ambitions regarding urbanisation and sustainable development. There are huge opportunities to strengthen our partnership in that respect.
Energy represents a crucial challenge for the South African economy. France has extensive expertise in this field, especially regarding renewable energies, and French companies are already involved in the South African programme.
The same applies to the nuclear sector, with the Koeberg power plant built by France.
Agribusiness is a vital sector for both our countries. Our markets must remain mutually attractive and regulations must be relaxed.
Since we can still learn from each other, continuing education is a key factor of our co-operation.
The future creation of a bilateral higher agricultural training institution, F’SAGRI, is an outstanding example of this common will.
Obviously, this co-operation must take place in accordance with South African rules.
Our companies are very committed to the training and broad-based black economic empowerment requirements defended by South African authorities.
Otherwise, our relationship would have no meaning.
But we can still do better and increase our co-operation. It is also the goal of my visit.
France is the world’s sixth-largest economy and represents a dynamic market of close to 70-million consumers. Yet, few South African companies have decided to set up business in France. We must welcome South Africans better.
When we speak of France, we always think of tourism. As the first world’s destination, and second European destination for South Africans, France and especially Reunion Island, so close to SA, are yours to visit. Come and discover it.
Likewise, France is only the fourth European supplier to SA, even though your country is experiencing full economic expansion.
We must do more. During my visit, I participated, with (Trade and Industry) Minister Rob Davies, in a meeting during which French and South African companies shared their commitment and paid tribute to their partnerships.
It is our joint responsibility to continue coming together.
My trip allowed me to reiterate France’s ambitious objectives about climate change in the context of the Conference of the Parties-21, taking place in Paris in December.
Our motivation can only be compared with that of SA, and together we shall join forces to mobilise the international community and obtain an ambitious agreement.
It is my hope that this profitable dialogue between our two countries will strengthen our relationship. Indeed, my coming to SA must be seen as a step, a link in the chain that unites two friendly nations.
Let us work together to consolidate this connection.
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