‘The Giant on the Cape” is a popular metaphor in Germany for the great role and the influence of South Africa in Africa, as well as for its enormous economic potential. South Africa also stands for the superbly organised 2010 Fifa World Cup.
Day after day, the whole world was watching your fascinating country and its wonderful people. My visit is primarily focused on South Africa’s economy and on strengthening co-operation between our countries.
Our bilateral political and economic relations with SA are traditionally good and close. We are engaged in trusting co-operation, and there is a consensus between us on many basic issues. Regular high-level visits at political and parliamentary level, for example by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in May during the bilateral intergovernmental consultations in Berlin, help to consolidate these good relations. My visit forms part of this sequence, and one reason for it is the 60th anniversary of the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce in Johannesburg.
SA is Germany’s most important economic partner in Africa. Last year, our bilateral trade totalled around e5 billion (about R54.38bn). Both German exports to SA and German imports from SA registered encouraging increases, and the trend has continued this year.
The products we import from SA reflect the high degree of diversification of the SA economy – especially in the fields of the automotive industry and services, and also of tourism. This diversity is one reason why SA’s economy is the most modern on the entire continent. SA can be proud of this. Furthermore, it also generates interesting prospects for co-operation with German companies.
We in Germany have noticed for some time that SA’s foreign trade has been shifting its focus. Your country is now seeking to further diversify its trade flows, above all in the direction of the Far East. This implies that, even though Germany continues to be SA’s leading trading partner along with the US and China, our companies need to work even harder to compete on the global market with top-flight products. That is the only way they can survive on the SA market in the face of global competition. By building new football stadiums and renovating existing ones and the infrastructure in record time, South Africans have provided powerful proof of just how efficient their economy is.
These efforts also spotlight the fruitful synergies of German-South African co-operation.
SA will continue to offer German firms great potential in a whole range of fields. Access to your country’s wealth of mineral resources is vital for German firms. We wish to express and cement this via raw materials partnerships. We are glad to see that SA is also pressing ahead with the use of renewables. This makes an important contribution to protecting the environment and combating climate change.
German firms are some of the world’s leading developers and manufacturers in this sector. We are backing co-operation between our countries via our renewable energies and energy efficiency export initiatives.
Education and training are a prerequisite for lasting economic success. Education and training are key elements to improve the situation on the labour market, and they also help to attract further investment. I therefore welcome the SA government’s Green Paper for Post-School Education and Training initiative, with its aim of establishing an education system which will alleviate imbalances in society by 2030.
German companies have gained much experience and success over many decades with their “dual” system of vocational training. They will gladly continue to help SA to train up young workers. A successful example of this is the German Chamber of Commerce’s Builders Training Centre (BTC) in Soweto.
We also want to keep developing the traditionally close co-operation between our two countries in the field of science and technology. That is why we are celebrating the German-South African Year of Science this year. It is not only about Germany’s large companies: our three million-plus smaller firms – the “German Mittelstand” – are also very innovative and pursue many research-intensive projects. They can also offer the SA market high-value products – as well as scope for co-operation.
The German government therefore supports the “German Mittelstand” as it develops new markets. To this end, it uses its instruments to promote foreign trade and investment and development co-operation: these include export credit guarantees, bilateral investment treaties, investment guarantees, displays at trade fairs, fact-finding missions, the network of chambers and delegates of German commerce, as well as programmes funded by German development co-operation.
As a key platform for economic co-operation between German and SA firms, an important role is played by our bilateral chamber of commerce in Johannesburg and its more than 600 members. It represents an investment stock by German firms in SA totalling more than e4bn.
That is an impressive figure. The chamber is celebrating its 60th anniversary today. This anniversary truly marks a milestone in German-South African relations. The fact that Deputy President Motlanthe and many ministers intend to join the ceIebrations is a sign of great trust. I find this especially encouraging.
The fact that the new SA government is maintaining a stable policy course will also help to improve the climate for growth. What’s important now is to build further confidence through fiscal and economic consolidation.
Our German companies are placing their trust in SA as a reliable partner. What this primarily means is the policy environment: SA has it in its power to optimise this.
Ongoing efforts by the SA government to strengthen administration and make it more efficient and to fight corruption are important issues which can help the German business community commit to SA on a sustainable, long-term basis.
This also implies that, with its prominent position in sub-Saharan Africa, SA should play its part in achieving a successful conclusion to multilateral negotiations. Here, the resumption of talks on the Doha Development Agenda of the WTO and the successful conclusion of the negotiations on the economic partnership agreements between the EU and southern Africa would be important steps in the right direction.
An African proverb says: “A tree is known by its fruit”. This expression perfectly captures the importance of the values of consistency and reliability. Consistency and reliability are two key preconditions for the further intensification of economic relations between SA and Germany. I am very confident that we are well on track here in relations between our two countries.
l Philipp Rösler is German Federal Minister of Economics and Technology. He will be on an official visit to SA next week.