South Africa and France have signed an energy deal worth US$2 billion (R20 billion in SA currency) consisting of the construction of a thermal and solar plant by France’s GDF Suez.
French President Francois Hollande is in South Africa for a two-day state visit.
Welcoming his guest of honour in Pretoria, Zuma said in a speech: “Our substantive and wide-ranging discussions earlier today and the important agreements that were signed have reaffirmed our mutual determination to deepen our strategic partnership.
“We look forward to heightened cooperation in areas such as manufacturing, agriculture, infrastructure, science and technology, energy as well as arts and culture.”
Industry watchers said the energy deal could be the turning point in the country’s electricity supply, which has been under tremendous pressure since 2008 due to years of neglect, underinvestment and dubious policies experienced under the Mbeki administration.
South Africa gets at least 94% of its electricity from coal, but pressure from environmental groups and climate change trends have forced the country to rethink its energy policies, focusing more now on renewable energy.
Describing the deal as ‘the largest in recent years’, President Hollande said it was the example of an excellent partnership between the two countries that will create thousands of jobs.
Analysts agree, saying that the deal will not only create jobs, but also rewrite the country’s electricity supply history and help its inconsistent economy to grow steadily.
Photo: Le Monde. French President François Hollande and his host Jacob Zuma at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Monday