In a State visit seeking to strengthen bilateral and economic relations with Saudi Arabia, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for mutually beneficial trading between the two countries.
President Ramaphosa said while South African exports to Saudi Arabia showed an increase from R2.6 billion in 2013 to R4.4 billion in 2017, trade, however, still remains very much commodity based and skewed in favour of Saudi Arabia.
“It is important as we strive for a mutually beneficial trading relationship to intensify cooperation in value-added sectors such as agro-processing, infrastructure, minerals beneficiation, services, technology and skills transfer, health care, automotives and aquaculture.
“As the drivers of our commercial agenda, the onus is upon business to seek a more balanced trading portfolio,” said President Ramaphosa.
The President arrived in Jeddah where he met with King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud on Thursday, which presented an opportunity for South Africa to increase co-operation with the Middle Eastern powerhouse.
President Ramaphosa was accompanied by the Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation; Defence and Military Veterans; Energy, Police and Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry.
South Africa currently imports approximately 47% of its oil from the Arab country and regards it as a strategic partner in that region.
Saudi Arabia is also a large investor in South Africa, especially in the area of renewable energy. In 2017, total trade amounted to just more than R55 billion.
The Department of Energy announced that South Africa has signed a R12 billion renewable energy deal with Redstone and ACWA Power‚ which is a Saudi Arabian energy company. The deal is in partnership with the Central Energy Fund for renewables, and is set to benefit the Eastern Cape, according to President Ramaphosa.
President Ramaphosa has applauded the investments that Saudi Arabia has made into South Africa over the years, including the R5 billion investment by ACWA Power in the Bokpoort concentrated solar power plant in the Northern Cape.
The project is one of the flagship concentrated solar thermal projects in South Africa and was launched in 2016 by the Ministers of Trade and Industry from both countries.
Upon completion, this concentrated solar plant is set to have the largest level of thermal storage in the world. Much like Saudi Arabia, South Africa is largely dependent on fossil fuels for energy generation.
“The ACWA Power Plant has seamlessly integrated into our energy diversification efforts, forming part of our Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme,” said the President.