Chancellor Angela Merkel,
Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to begin by thanking you, Chancellor Merkel, for bringing to our country such a distinguished group of German business leaders. Germany is an important partner of South Africa: politically, socially and economically.
Our bilateral relations are strong and long-standing. Germany is our largest trading partner in Europe.
At our second South Africa Investment Conference, held in November last year, German companies together made investment commitments of nearly R11 billion – or 740 million Euros – into our economy, mainly in the automotive and advanced manufacturing sectors.
From our discussions earlier today, it is clear that there is solid political will from the leadership of both our countries to ensure that we deepen economic ties. As South Africa, we are on a drive to position our country as an investment destination of choice. As we move ahead, we want to see investment commitments translating into concrete projects that will have a long-lasting impact, and will transform the lives of our people.
Our deliberations today should contribute to greater trade and more investment opportunities. They should contribute to the full implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Southern African Development Community. The Economic Partnership Agreement ensures that South Africa and German firms benefit from enhanced market access, which in turn enables producers and suppliers to tap into regional value chains.
It also provides for a number of protective measures to facilitate cross border trade and investment in a manner that assures predictability and certainty.
I am pleased that your discussions will centre on leveraging investment opportunities presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, especially in strategic sectors like mining and energy. I will be particularly keen to see how Germany and South Africa can collaborate in the field of clean and renewable energy.
Our collaboration is all the more critical as we strive to meet our obligations under the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. 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.
South Africa has established a Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution to guide our transition to the economy of the future. We are eager to explore the ways in which emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology and many others can be harnessed in pursuit of industrialisation and growth.
As I discussed with Chancellor Merkel earlier today, the acquisition of critical skills is among our foremost priorities as we prepare our workforces to adapt to the changing world of work. The knowledge and skills transfer that will come with greater German investment in South Africa will play a key role in propelling our economy to greater heights.
In this regard, we would like to make a call to German companies that are operating in South Africa to partner with our technical and vocational colleges to develop the skills that you need to make your businesses thrive. As the incoming Chair of the African Union, South Africa has prioritised the acceleration of economic development through the forging of private sector investment partnerships. We have prioritised African economic integration through the development of continental north-south rail and road links, expanding ports and energy capacity, and developing the skills necessary for the rising knowledge economy.
These present investment opportunities for German companies. Through public private partnerships, we can take advantage of the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area and develop cross border investment projects that will, among others, facilitate infrastructure development and technology transfer and boost intra-Africa trade.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
South Africa remains committed to our path of economic reform. We are taking clear and decisive measures to ensure policy certainty and reduce the cost of doing business.
We are committed to regulatory efficiency, legislative reform, fiscal consolidation and pursuing prudent macroeconomic policies. Through these reforms we will assure our position as an investment-friendly destination. To that end, we are working with the World Bank and key stakeholders to improve the business environment and the ease of doing business in the country.
We are implementing governance and operational reforms to strengthen our state-owned companies and ensure they are financially sustainable. We are focused in particular on measures to ensure the stable supply of electricity, including the accelerated introduction of new generating capacity by independent producers.
We are working with the leadership and management of our power utility, Eskom, to stabilise its finances, improve its operational performance and achieve a sustainable business model. 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.
As I conclude, I wish to reiterate that South Africa is open for business, eager to attract higher levels of investment from Germany and to increase our bilateral trade. A recent IMF report has noted that FDI inflows to South Africa have increased substantially over the last two years.
This confidence is aptly demonstrated across sectors and companies, including by German companies and their subsidiaries with a longstanding presence in South Africa. The South African business delegation is committed to working with you to ensure a mutually productive and profitable experience for companies who invest in and trade with our country.
With around 600 German companies in South Africa, employing more than 100,000 people, German investment has a firm base. This should be used to open up more opportunities in other emerging sectors with high growth potential, not only in our market but in the broader region and the continent as a whole.
Let me thank you once more for your attendance here.
I have the utmost confidence that our deliberations will result in concrete and tangible outcomes.
I thank you.