Remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Qatar-South Africa Business Roundtable, Doha, Qatar, 15 November 2023
Ministers from South Africa,
Leaders of business from South Africa and the State of Qatar,
I would like to thank the government of the State of Qatar for their warm and friendly hospitality and I welcome this opportunity to engage with Qatari business.
We had very fruitful discussions today with the Government of State of Qatar.
This visit is very significant, not only as an opportunity to strengthen bilateral relations between our two countries, but also to share views on recent international developments.
The events in Palestine, and the growing deaths of civilians, particularly children, grieves us all. South Africa supports all efforts to secure an immediate and full ceasefire, with talks on a political solution to address the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for statehood.
While the political relationship between Qatar and South Africa is strong, we can do much more with each other in areas of trade, investment and economic development.
For this reason, I am particularly pleased that I have had an opportunity to engage with both the Qatari Business Association and the Qatar Chamber of Commerce earlier.
I want to point to five features of the South African economy that offer us the opportunity to build and expand our economic relationship.
Firstly, South Africa is Africa’s most industrialised economy, with well-established companies.
Many of these companies are active in the Middle East and indeed Qatar. These companies like Sasol in the petro-chemical sector with its advanced technologies and iconic consumer brands such as Nando’s and Ocean Basket.
South African has well developed manufacturing and services sectors.
South African agriculture and agro-processing companies are world class and we can support the Food Security Program of the State of Qatar.
Beyond these, South Africa is developing its expertise in areas such as pharmaceuticals, the space industry and advanced manufacturing.
Secondly, we are developing greater market access across the world.
We have free trade agreements in place with the European Union and the United Kingdom. We are about to implement the African Continental Free Trade Area, uniting 54 economies into a large tariff-free market intended to cover 1.3 billion consumers.
In addition, we currently have access to the US market on preferential terms through the African Growth and Opportunities Act and preferential access to certain Latin American markets.
Thirdly, the African continent has vast resources of critical minerals that will be used as the world embraces cleaner, greener growth.
The demand for these minerals provides an opportunity to industrialise the South African and wider African economies. There are opportunities now for partnerships in renewable energy storage technologies, such as battery-manufacturing for energy grid systems and electric vehicles.
With our sunlight and wind, we have growth potential in green hydrogen production.
South Africa plans to link its massive platinum reserves to the green hydrogen market, which could be worth $2.5 trillion by 2050.
Our National Infrastructure Plan prioritises energy investment, energy transition and energy security.
With Qatar’s experience, technology and capital in the petrochemicals, natural gas and energy infrastructure, we are looking to companies from Qatar partnering with South Africa as we implement our just energy transition.
Fourthly, we are embarking on far-ranging economic reforms that provide opportunities for partnerships between foreign investors and domestic firms in South Africa.
The energy market is being restructured. The public electricity utility, Eskom, which faced severe challenges, has improved maintenance of its generation fleet and has received debt relief from the State to strengthen its financial position.
Private energy generation, specifically in renewables, constitutes a growing share of total energy generated. Since the implementation of regulatory changes, the pipeline of private sector generation projects has increased to over 100 projects representing more than 10,000 MW of potential new capacity.
South Africa’s requires an efficient transport logistics system to move goods between the main industrial heartland and port cities and to act as the hub for moving products from and to other African countries.
Following a period of under-investment in ports and rail infrastructure, we are now working closely with the private sector to use the wider pool of skills available to improve the logistics system.
Fifthly, and finally, we have a stable legal system, strong protections of property rights, a deep capital market with Africa’s largest stock exchange, and a growing pool of skilled employees.
South Africa attracts investors from across the world, with more than 600 American firms and substantial investment from China, the UK and the European Union. Some of the world’s largest corporations are active in the South African market as investors.
Investors value the overall stability and the well-developed legal system that provides clarity on contractual matters, with well-established procedures for contract enforcement.
In light of these five features, I would like to hear from Qatari businesses how we can tap your capital markets through joint ventures in commercially sustainable projects.
Qatar is currently under-represented in the South African market, compared to other GCC countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Expansion in our market will expose your firms to a fast-growing region of the world.
With direct flights by Qatar Airways to South Africa we must increase people to people contact, tourism, trade and investment.
South Africa is ready to build partnerships for faster, sustainable and inclusive growth.
In conclusion, South Africa is keen to deepen our bilateral relationship with Qatar. We look forward to partnering in sectors such as agro-processing, automotive, aquaculture, manufacturing, hydrocarbons, infrastructure, hospitality and tourism, to mention a few.
I invite Qatar to join us in developing a portfolio of South African investments that your sovereign wealth fund and your private sector can participate in.
I commend the business delegations from South Africa and Qatar for their engagement today and look forward to successful outcomes.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency