Beneficial UK State Visit solidified relations

Thursday, November 24, 2022

South Africa’s two-day Royal State Visit to the United Kingdom was beneficial and helped solidify already strong relations between the two countries, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.

This was on Thursday confirmed by the President during a press briefing in London, ahead of returning to South Africa.

President Ramaphosa was the first Head of State to be hosted for a State Visit by His Majesty Charles III this week.

On Tuesday, 22 November, President Ramaphosa was officially welcomed by His Majesty King Charles III at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Later that day, the President addressed a Joint Sitting of the Houses of Parliament, before being hosted to a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace.

On Wednesday, the President, accompanied by the Earl of Wessex, participated in a roundtable on climate change and biodiversity. Thereafter, the President visited the Francis Crick Institute, the largest biomedical research institute in Europe, where he was briefed on the partnership between South Africa and the UK in the area of science.

The programme included an engagement with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street.

President Ramaphosa then participated in a bilateral business roundtable at Lancaster House where economic cooperation was deliberated by South African and UK Ministers and Secretaries of State respectively, officials as well as business leaders.

“We had a really great meeting with the Prime Minister. I had a tête-à-tête with him first. We touched on a number of important issues that had to do with the relationship between the United Kingdom and South Africa in our working lunch,” he said.

During these engagements, President Ramaphosa said he and Prime Minister Sunak also deliberated on trade, investment, and the Just Energy Transition.

“We put our message very strongly that we want investments to be upgraded and that more and more British companies invest in South Africa. That message was very well received and we saw evidence of that when we went to the business forum,” he said.

It was at this business forum that several UK business leaders pledged to invest more money in the sectors of energy and infrastructure. Among these was a company that pledged to make investments of £13 billion into renewable energy construction in South Africa. The company, he said, was successful in the recent bid window and would soon start construction.

While it was in the renewable energy space that government had the greatest investment attraction, other companies had expressed interest in the green and hydrogen energy sectors which, he said, they see South Africa playing a very big and critical role in.

“They said they are prepared to work with South African companies. Some of them even added a very wonderful element that (they) will also be focusing on community development, on where (they) are invested, on how to support communities where their companies operate. That was for me very important,” he said.

Regarding trade, the President said the two countries agreed that they would like to see this increased further.

“We stressed that there are constraints on certain items, such as wine. We want to send more wine to the UK – it needs to double per quarter. We want to bring more sugar to the UK – the quarter should also double. Canned fruit as well. We have canned fruit manufacturing companies in South Africa that are struggling right now. So with an increased quota, we will be able to export more.”

On the Just Energy Transition (JET), which the UK was a part of, President Ramaphosa said the South African government wanted this to be “more underpinned” by increased grants.

“We calculated the grant component of the $8.5 billion. It only amounts to 2.7% and we would like that to be upgraded largely because South Africa already carries a huge debt burden. The JET should be a transition that should be able to ensure that we address the challenges that workers are going to face and the challenges that communities, where our fossils fuel generating power stations are, as we transition from those power stations into renewable energy and as we build new industries,” he said.

The visit, he said, had been “most beneficial” and consolidated the foundation that was first built by former President Nelson Mandela when he went to the UK in 1992. –