French firms set to make R14bn in fresh investment pledges to South Africa


French Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness Minister Franck Riester, who is leading a business delegation to South Africa this week, reports that French firms will follow-up their R20-billion in investment commitments made to South Africa in 2019 with new promises worth a further R14-billion.

French companies made pledges worth a combined R20-billion during the second yearly South Africa Investment Conference, which took place in Sandton, Gauteng, in November last year.

Speaking during a briefing in Johannesburg on Tuesday, Riester indicated that the additional pledges would be made during the third South Africa Investment Conference, which is scheduled for November 17 and 18.

Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 event would be a hybrid one, with a physical event in Sandton complemented with virtual access.

Riester did not provide a full list of the new investments, but indicated that firms such as Air Liquide, which is buying Sasol’s fleet of air-separation plants, Canal+, which has purchased a stake in Multichoice, and Total, which has made significant gas finds offshore South Africa, were likely to be among those that made fresh pledges.

French companies were also eyeing opportunities that could arise as a result of South Africa’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, including those in the renewable-energy, transport, water and sanitation and digital infrastructure sectors, as well as planned smart-city investments.

France continued to view Africa and South Africa as important investment destinations for French businesses, Riester said, adding that this strategic priority would be underlined again when President Emmanuel Macron visited South Africa in 2021.

Macron’s plan to visit South Africa in 2020 was disrupted by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Riester was the first high-level foreign government representative to visit South Africa since the lockdown and said it was a signal of the importance the Macron government attached to building its relations with the country, especially in “times of crisis”.

French pharmaceutical group Sanofi and the UK’s GSK recently committed to supplying 200-billion doses of a Covid-19 vaccine under a global framework known as COVAX, which has been set up to facilitate equitable access to approved vaccines.

More than 180 countries, including South Africa, have signed onto the COVAX Facility to ensure timely and cost-effective access to Covid-19 vaccines.

Riester led a delegation that included 13 French companies, most of which were in the healthcare sector.

He met with Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel and also visited a pharmaceutical plant that had capacity to produce vaccines