19 September 2012
President Jacob Zuma has invited the 27-nation European Union to partner with South Africa as it launches a massive infrastructure drive aimed at transforming the country’s socio-economic landscape while boosting Sub-Saharan African economic integration.
South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan announced in February that the government aimed to spend R3.2-trillion over the next three years on at least 40 major infrastructure projects in the country.
‘Further potential’ to be tapped
Addressing the 5th South Africa-European Union Summit in Brussels, Belgium on Tuesday, Zuma said SA had “invited the EU, its member states, and the European Investment Bank, to partner with South Africa on this work”, which included the development of infrastructure for water, rail, and electricity.
Zuma said that Tuesday’s discussions had reflected “the growth and depth of the strategic partnership between South Africa and the European Union,” adding that SA and the EU had, over the past five years, established “a solid technical framework” for increasing cooperation.
“To further strengthen the bilateral partnership, we believe that we have to enhance trade relations, and tap further the potential that still exists to cooperate in infrastructure development, especially energy and transport.”
South Africa’s successful bid to host the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope also offered investment possibilities in the development of radio astronomy infrastructure, Zuma said.
SA’s biggest trade partner and investor
South Africa is one of only 10 countries with which the EU has what are called strategic partnerships.
According to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, the 27-nation bloc remains South Africa’s largest trading partner, largest investor, and largest donor of development assistance.
According to figures released last week by the EU Commission, the value of EU exports to South Africa reached a peak of €26.6-billion in 2011, while imports from SA rose to €20.5-billion, though still off the peak level of 2007, resulting in a €6.1-billion trade surplus in favour of the EU.
EU foreign direct investments in South Africa stood at €7.1-billion in 2010, compared with €8.6-billion in 2009 and €3.2-billion in 2008, the EU Commission said.
Regarding the finalisation of the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Zuma said he had expressed his concern, during Tuesday’s talks, that several key issues in the negotiations remain unresolved.
“Although some progress was made during the negotiation round held during June 2012, a positive outcome to the negotiations is still very much dependent on the need to show more understanding and flexibility,” Zuma said.