Germany willing to help solve SA's energy crisis, says Angela Merkel

06 February 2020 - 14:40
By Qaanitah Hunter
German  chancellor Angela Merkel is holding talks in SA with President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: John MacDougall / AFP German chancellor Angela Merkel is holding talks in SA with President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Renewable energy, the conflict in Libya and a call for German companies to expand business in SA were on the agenda for talks between German chancellor Angela Merkel and President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday.

Merkel said her country was willing to help solve  the energy crisis, with a focus on  renewable energy and gas power plants.

She is on an official visit to the country and arrived at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to much pomp and ceremony.

“We would like to support you to extend and expand renewables. We also discussed using renewables in a sustainable way ... and the replacement of old power plants,” Merkel said after the high-level talks.

She said it was gratifying that SA wanted to be “ambitious on the expansion of renewables”.

Ramaphosa said SA had a lot to learn from Germany on the transition from coal-powered energy.

“We are still 89% reliant on coal. We have started our journey and renewables will be playing a key role in SA,” the president said.

Renewables would be given a big boost now that the law allowed for self-generation of energy, he said.

On the conflict in Libya, the  leaders agreed that it was a conflict fuelled by external interests.

Ramaphosa said African problems needed African solutions.

“The Libyan problem is a unique one. A number of countries outside Africa are involved in that country ... bringing in fighters and bringing in weapons. It’s a problem involving so many,” he said.

Merkel said: “Libya today is not owned by Libyans.”

SA and Germany are non-permanent members of the  UN Security Council and have agreed to partner on issues.

Merkel said reform of the UN was still an uphill battle. At the same time, she was encouraged by SA’s commitment to multilateralism.

The economy also loomed large in the talks.

Ramaphosa conceded that the economy was not growing fast enough and the country was unable to create jobs.

“We hope to find and explore ways our economic relationship can be strengthened,” he said.

There are about 600 German businesses operating in SA.

Merkel is accompanied on this trip by business people in an effort to foster economic ties between the two countries.

A business dialogue is scheduled for  Thursday afternoon.

SA is Germany’s largest trading partner in Africa and the European country  is the third-largest source of overseas visitors to SA.

Total trade reached R235bn during the 12 months to the end of November 2019, while South African exports (at R108bn) exceeded R100bn for the first time, narrowing the trade deficit.