President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Remarks at the closing session of the Saudi Arabia-South Africa Investment Conference on the occasion of the State Visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 15 October 2022
Minister Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Investment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,
Minister Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition South Africa,
Ministers from Saudi Arabia and South Africa,
Business leaders from Saudi Arabia and from South Africa,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to voice my appreciation to the wonderful relationship that has evolved between our two countries and particularly to thank His Majesty the King and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince with whom we have developed a warm and close relationship that has formed the foundation of this growing partnership between our two countries; and also the warm relationship between our various ministers who have joined in to really ensure that this relationship is the type that bares enormous fruits for both our countries.
I feel very fortunate to have been able to join this concluding session of the Business-to-Business engagement between the private sectors in Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
We have here this afternoon many Saudi firms, and a delegation of more than 100 South African business people representing multiple sectors of our national economy.
Back home last week, South Africa hosted a Saudi government and business delegation in our capital city, Pretoria. We also successfully launched the Saudi-South African Business Council and our two Ministers held the 9th Session of the Joint Economic Commission.
I am encouraged by the positive feedback we received from these events, the warmth in the business relationship and the great appetite by the private sector from both countries for deeper partnerships.
Trade between our two countries already totals USD 5 billion and we think we can increase it further in the next few years.
South Africa stands particularly ready to increase the overall export of a basket of goods with Saudi Arabia, to bring greater balance to the trade account.
The current flows of investment between our two countries are very promising. One such company, from Saudi Arabia, is active in the renewable energy space, one of the catalytic sectors for South Africa.
South Africa has unparalleled opportunities that await investors with the financial capability and appetite.
Just as Saudi Arabia is positioned as the gateway to the Middle East and to the region, South Africa is the gateway to a dynamic continent with great prospects. Africa is growing its output, rapidly urbanising and has a young population.
We already know that Saudi business sees itself as being part of Africa’s success story. You have an opportunity here today to develop the relationships that can improve two-way capital flows.
South Africa is a leading mining economy, and mining has been an integral part of our economic history for over a century.
Local and international companies are active across many different value-chains, from iron-ore to platinum and palladium, gold, diamonds, coal, chromium and many more.
If it could be said that oil is the lifeblood of the Saudi economy, such is mining to the South African economy.
We have the mineral resources, but also the capability, capacity and above all the solid experience.
Saudi Arabia is interested in developing its own substantial mining resources and we look forward to engagement between our respective companies.
We can offer expertise in mining services, in technologies and in a range of equipment and components used in the mining industry. There are many opportunities as well for joint venture partnerships.
South Africa leads the way on the continent in terms of advanced manufacturing, science and technology that drives the export of our goods and services.
Our firms can benefit from sharing ideas, technologies and market knowledge in fields as diverse as green hydrogen, petrochemicals and pharmaceutical products.
South Africa is a favourable, reliable and stable place to conduct business.
We have sophisticated financial systems and Africa’s deepest capital market, with a robust and strong rule of law, as well as protection of contracts and property rights.
I want to call on Saudi business to be part of the renewed momentum of international investors coming to South Africa.
Through a targeted outreach to global and local businesses we have so far attracted investment commitments to the value of approximately USD 70 billion, and this number is growing.
Over the past two months I have attended the launch of new investments across South Africa in a wide range of fields such as automotive, manufacturing, green economy, packaging and many others.
This positive investor sentiment is in part owing to the process of ongoing regulatory and legislative reform we are driving to make our economy more competitive, to attract more investment and to create more jobs for our people.
These far-reaching reforms are taking place in energy, transportation, telecoms, water, rail, ports and across the network industries.
Next year, I will host the 5th South African Investment Conference that will take place in the first quarter of the year. I want to use this opportunity to extend an invitation to the Saudi business community to join us.
Several the world’s leading multinational corporations have a footprint in South Africa, and our own companies are active in a number of global markets.
This is as suppliers of food, cars, chemical products, precious metals and many others.
By equal measure, Saudi companies have access to capital, know-how and markets.
There are many opportunities for joint ventures and industrial partnerships between the two business communities to foster greater trade and investment.
For example, we can do partnerships in fertiliser production, chemicals, and can supply a wider range of food products to Saudi markets.
South Africa’s services sectors and professional skills are highly regarded across the Middle East.
Our engineers, doctors and teachers have already made a mark here. We also have filmmakers, entertainment entrepreneurs, bankers, insurance firms, tourism companies and information and communication technology businesses who are ready to partner with you.
Tourism is another huge sector and I too should say it is embarrassing that we do not have a direct flight from South Africa to Saudi Arabia and with both of us being embarrassed I think it creates a great opportunity to ensure that we do ensure that we connect the two countries.
South Africa is a leading tourism destination, including for visitors from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Our wildlife tourism is a particular drawcard for tourists from the region. Beyond the need to facilitate greater tourism between our two countries, there are many investment opportunities for Saudi businesses in the tourism sector, again as I said, in the wildlife tourism sector such as game ranching.
Linked to this whole process are the other reforms that will bolster and continue to bolster our tourism industry and to ensure that as we grow our own tourism industry, we deepen and extend security to make sure that there is adequate security that can make our country even more attractive.
Last, but certainly not least, South Africa is blessed with vast tracts of arable land, one of the world’s longest coastlines, and an average of 2,500 hours of sun every year.
Of course, the latter is no comparison to sunny Saudi Arabia, but this abundant natural resource, and temperate climate, is a firm basis for investment in agriculture as well as in renewable energy.
Given all that South Africa has to offer, and all that Saudi Arabia has to offer the South African investor, the themes you have chosen are quite appropriate.
Firstly, mining and industry, which includes of course health products, chemicals, steel, automobiles and many others.
Secondly, agriculture and food processing.
Thirdly, tourism and hospitality which can include services.
Finally, energy and renewables.
I look particularly forward to welcoming more of your renewable energy firms and technologies to enter our market. We hope to see you partnering with South African firms as we increase our renewable energy generation footprint and manufacture green energy components.
An area of potential synergies I want to particularly refer to is the green hydrogen economy.
We have all been following with great interest the ambitious and spectacular Neom project on the Red Sea Coast.
With plans to source 100 per cent of Neom’s energy from renewable sources, including hydrogen-based power, Saudi investors will find substantial opportunities to leverage in South Africa in this regard. Similarly, there are opportunities for South African business to leverage at Neom.
We are the world’s largest producer of platinum, a key input in hydrogen fuel cell technology.
Our ambitious plans to unlock the potential of the green hydrogen economy include developing a Hydrogen Valley that stretches from the platinum belt through the country’s industrial heartland.
A number of multinational investors like Anglo-American Platinum have already begun leveraging these opportunities.
Saudi investment across the value chain of the green hydrogen economy will not just support South Africa’s economic goals, but those of Saudi Arabia as well in its ongoing drive towards sustainability.
I have taken note of the reports received about your discussions this morning, as provided by the two Ministers.
I am told that here in Jeddah business does not stop at 6pm on a Saturday night, so I have no doubt these discussions will continue not just this afternoon but well into the evening as well. Fuelled of course by the legendary cups of fragrant Saudi coffee that I have been lucky to sample since I arrived.
We also welcome the joint ventures noted in the reports received, and about various agreements being concluded between private sector firms.
The Business Council will need to maintain this momentum and help us to solidify the economic relationship.
Saudi Arabia is a large consumer and capital market. It is also a country infused with foresight, with Vision 2030 being the roadmap for the Kingdom’s economic diversification.
I welcome therefore the work you have done today that lays the basis for these opportunities to be explored.
Later today, I will be meeting with the delegation led by His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.
Our Ministers and senior officials will be signing several agreements that will solidify the economic and broader relationship. There will also be agreements to facilitate new investment.
I call on the two business communities to seize this opportunity with both hands, and to build on the solid relationship that exists between our two governments.
Once more, thank you for receiving me and I wish your deliberations well.
Shukran. I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency