By Tyrone Seale
President Cyril Ramaphosa has commended German business leaders on their continued engagement with South Africa and pledged that government will sustain economic reforms aimed at facilitating greater investment as a key to addressing poverty, unemployment and inequality.
President Ramaphosa participated in a CEO Roundtable in Berlin, Germany, on Thursday, 26 August 2021, under the auspices of the German-African Business Association.
The President had a two-hour engagement with senior executives of leading German firms with a presence in South Africa, which accounts for half of German investment in Africa.
The President is on a working visit to the Federal Republic of Germany at the invitation of Chancellor Angela Merkel for a meeting of the G20 Compact with Africa (CwA), which is co-chaired by Germany and South Africa.
The G20 Compact with Africa (CwA) was initiated under the G20 German Presidency in 2017 to promote private investment into the African continent.
Currently, 12 African countries have joined the initiative: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia.
South Africa, which is the only African member of the G20, co-chairs the initiative alongside Germany.
The Berlin meetings include a G20 Investment Summit, as well as a separate meeting of Heads of State and Heads of Government, where discussions will take place on ways in which to improve the business environment and increase investment in Africa.
The conference will also discuss vaccine production in Africa, which is key to enabling African countries to build back stronger, faster and more inclusively, and ensuring that the post-pandemic African economies become more resilient and equitable.
At the business roundtable, President Ramaphosa engaged with the leadership of BASF, Bayer, B Braun, Bosch, Enertrag, HSH Software and Hardware, Hensolt, Lufthansa Consulting, Mühlbauer ID Services, SEON, Siemens, Siemens Energy, SUNFarming, Veridos and Volkswagen.
German investment in South Africa ranges from global industrial giants that have been active in the country for more than a century, to a start-up whose first venture outside Germany is in South Africa.
The President addressed the CEOs as “friends of South Africa” and welcomed “your commitment to continue investing in South Africa”.
The President said structural reforms initiated by government in areas such as energy, infrastructure, telecommunications and rail and ports were designed at enabling investors to operate even more effectively in the South African market.
Chief executives assured the President of their continued interest in South Africa as a market in its own right and as a gateway to other African economies, and provided feedback on current operations as well as investment plans.
A number of the business leaders expressed their interest in South Africa’s just transition from carbon-based energy sources to planet-friendly alternatives. Executives indicated how this transition could spawn new industries and opportunities for smaller businesses that would entail a new skills base for the country and create new jobs.
Business leaders also indicated their interest in digital transformation in South Africa, including such areas as digital identity management, digital identities as well as vaccination passport solutions.
Other proposals include renewable energy generation which can be pursued alongside agriculture and unlock new entrepreneurial activity, and ventures in agritech, where technology and technological innovation enable greater production efficiency and food security.
Executives briefed the President on their corporate rollout of vaccination for staff and broader communities; their uptake of the Youth Employment Service, and skill development in a variety of sectors.
The President welcomed the prospects of expanded investment, transfers of knowledge and technology, greater employment in existing industries and the creation of jobs for the economy of the future.