SA, Belgium partnership has potential for mutually beneficial partnerships

Friday, March 24, 2023
RSA President Cyril Ramaphosa with King Philippe of the Belgians.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has outlined several areas where South Africa and Belgium can collaborate to create mutually beneficial opportunities.

Addressing the Business Forum on the occasion of the State Visit by Their Majesties, The King and The Queen of the Belgians, President Ramaphosa said both countries have vibrant, diverse and growing economies, and there is a wealth of opportunities for businesses looking to expand into new markets.

“By leveraging our respective strengths and exploring new avenues of collaboration, we can create mutually beneficial partnerships. We are a country with enormous potential for growth and development, and are also advantageously placed for companies looking to expand into the rest of the African continent.

“Belgium, on the other hand, is a leading European nation with a strong presence in global markets, particularly in sectors such as technology, healthcare, renewable energy, ports, and logistics.

"Belgium’s central location in Europe, excellent transport links, and highly skilled workforce make it a gateway to the European Union (EU) market. It is up to us to seize this opportunity and take our relationship to the next level,” the President said.

The Business Forum took place at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Convention Centre in Tshwane.

“Firstly, we can create new markets for our goods and services, expand trade and in the process create more jobs.

“South Africa has a vibrant and diverse agricultural sector, with an established presence in several markets in the European Union (EU). Certainly, we want to see greater market access for our agricultural goods, products, and services in Belgium,” the President said.

President Ramaphosa noted that in 2020, South African wines were the second largest export category to Belgium, from the wine-producing region of the Western Cape.

“Belgium has a strong track record in agribusiness and has several companies that have developed solutions to improve efficiency and productivity in the sector. These technologies can be adapted to suit the unique challenges faced by South Africa's agricultural sector, such as climate change and water scarcity. Belgium has strong manufacturing and logistics sectors, as well as expertise in technology and innovation,” the President said.

He said Belgian companies will find there are innumerable business opportunities to manufacture products in South Africa, utilising the country’s excellent industrial experience and capabilities.

“We do want to move from being a large importer of manufactured products to being a major exporter, as we have shown with our auto industry. There are also significant investment opportunities between our two countries in energy, infrastructure, and healthcare.

“South Africa has ambitious plans to modernize its infrastructure by investing in the expansion of ports, rail, and road networks. These projects will require significant investment, and there are opportunities for Belgian companies with expertise in these sectors to come on board,” the President said.

He affirmed that the country is on a path to revolutionise the energy sector in pursuit of low-carbon, climate resilient development, and is actively seeking investment in the energy sector, with a particular focus on renewables and green hydrogen.

“Belgium has a proven track record in developing and implementing innovative renewable energy solutions. Together, we can create sustainable and environmentally friendly energy solutions that benefit both our countries.

“In this regard, a global just-energy transition requires multilateralism in dealing with climate change. We are concerned at the impact of unilaterally-introduced measures, such as the proposed carbon border adjustment mechanism that will affect exports of products from the global south; and we look forward to working with Belgium to address these concerns,” Ramaphosa said.

South Africa and Belgium can also collaborate on research and development projects and share knowledge and expertise.

“By working together, we can create value chains that are mutually beneficial, leading to job creation and economic growth. Ultimately the growth of the South African economy will support the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area that opens access to a market of over 1.3 billion people. African economic integration is no longer a pipe dream, but becoming a reality,” the President said.

He described the mutually beneficial partnership as being about trade and investment and not about benevolence or charity.

“It is about doing business, in a favourable climate, that leads to economic growth, job creation and prosperity for both our respective countries. To this end, our focus now must be on building stronger business relationships, promoting cultural exchanges and tourism, and creating a favourable business environment.

“It is about streamlining bureaucracy, reducing trade barriers and other forms of protectionism such as those currently against South African citrus products. We also need to promote education and training to develop a skilled workforce that can meet the needs of the modern economy,” the President said. –