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Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma has returned from a two-day state visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the presidency said on Wednesday.
In his first ever visit to the country, Zuma held bilateral discussions on political and economic co-operation with DRC president Joseph Kabila, spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.
“The visit also took place at a time when the DRC is experiencing relative stability as a result of the role of the Intervention Brigade which South Africa is part of.”
Maharaj said the presidents agreed to prioritise key areas of co-operation, such as trade and investment, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, transport, science and technology, and security co-operation.
“In their discussions, the two heads of state paid particular attention to the peace and security situation in the DRC, particularly in the eastern part of the country,” he said.
Zuma and Kabila condemned the destabilising activities of rebel movements, in particular M23, while commending the work done by the DRC army and the United Nations Stabilisation Force, of which the Intervention Brigade forms a part.
“A key outcome of this state visit has been the signing of the Grand Inga Treaty. This treaty outlines the development of the Grand Inga Hydro-electric power complex currently estimated at US100 billion,” Maharaj said.
The project, based on the Congo River, had the potential to generate over 41 000 megawatts of clean energy, enough to supply the African continent and possibly the potential export of energy to south western Europe.
Zuma said: “This agreement is significant, since the Grand Inga Project has been in the pipeline for a very long time.
“As South Africans, we are proud that we will be partnering with the people and the government of the DRC in the development of this project.”
Zuma also addressed the DRC's national assembly, where he praised Kabila for initiating the recently finished process of national consultations in pursuit of fostering national unity among the Congolese people.
“The growing bilateral economic co-operation between South Africa and the DRC received added impetus through a two-day Business Forum on (Tuesday and Wednesday) in Kinshasa,” Maharaj said.
“The forum was aimed at devising appropriate mechanisms to expand economic co-operation and investments between the two countries.”
Total South African investment in the DRC between 2006 and 2012 was estimated at R12.5 billion, with over 4000 jobs created from the investment projects.
Zuma stressed the importance of intra-African trade.
“African growth rates will average six percent in 2014. In comparison, growth in the developed world will average 3.6 percent,” he said.
“The DRC is estimated to grow at 8.2 percent in this year alone. Against this backdrop, any investor would be hard-pressed to find higher rates of return elsewhere in the world.”
However, intra-regional trade and sustained growth on the continent had to be preceded by the necessary technical and transport infrastructure being put in place.
“We are pleased with the outcomes of our deliberations. The outcomes of our discussions reaffirm our continued commitment and resolve to put our bilateral co-operation and partnership to higher levels,” Zuma said.
He was accompanied by International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Energy Minister Ben Martins, Co-operative Governance Minister Lechesa Tsenoli, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, and Transport Minister Dipuo Peters.