PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa welcomes Her Excellency German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Union Buildings yesterday. Merkel is on an official visit at the invitation of Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS
Pretoria - Energy security, jobs, training and the conflict in Libya topped the agenda in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s bilateral discussions with President Cyril Ramaphosa in Tshwane on Thursday.

With energy security dominating the national discourse as households and businesses battle to manage frequent power cuts, Ramaphosa said both countries would co-operate on energy issues.

“South Africa is on a journey to ensure mixed energy where coal will still play a key role in our economy, but renewables will also play an important role,” Ramaphosa said.

“Germany has moved away from coal to renewables and is looking forward to 2038 when coal won’t be used, whereas in South Africa we are 89% reliant on coal.

"We can learn from Germany’s experience of transition and what happened to coal-fired power stations. We need to ensure that as our old coal-fired power stations come to the end of their life, we ensure workers and communities have a just transition.”

Accompanying Merkel is a large delegation of senior business executives looking to exploit investment opportunities in the country. A total of 600 German companies are operating in South Africa, and Ramaphosa expressed the need for German businesses to expand their footprint.

One of Merkel’s priorities was to address the issue of youth unemployment and offer German assistance.

“There are skilled people in South Africa that need jobs, and the 100000 jobs in our 600 companies based in South Africa is not enough,” Merkel said. “We would like to assist in education, professional training, technical colleges and outline what our vocational training can look like.”

In terms of a major take-away from the visit, a joint initiative on skills development aimed at reducing youth unemployment was launched.

As South Africa and Germany prepare to chair their respective continental bodies - the AU and EU - they are looking for ways to support each other.

“We are joined at the hip because we have mutual interests,” Ramaphosa said.

The issue of silencing the guns in Libya was a hot topic in the wake of Germany hosting the Berlin conference on Libya, which drew criticism from some quarters for the fact that deliberations were not driven by the AU and held in Africa.

“We would like to see Africans taking the lead on Libya, and we are pleased that our partners are prepared to listen,” Ramaphosa said.

“As Africans we would like to see African solutions to African problems. The Libyan problem is unique because of the number of other countries involved that are bringing in fighters and weapons.”

Ramaphosa highlighted the fact that an AU-led meeting on Libya was recently held in Congo Brazzaville, where President Denis Sassou Nguesso was mandated by the AU to lead the process.

“This has to be looked at through the prism of finding African solutions that are owned, implemented and led by Africans,” Ramaphosa said.

Merkel sounded a different but conciliatory note, saying: “Germany is engaged in Libya and we are dependent on all those who can contribute to the solution Libya is not only an African problem as there are so many outside actors. We mustn’t impose a solution on them.”