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French Trade Minister Olivier Becht Weighs in on Investment Prospects Amid SA's Power and Logistics Challenges

Published December 30, 2023
7 months ago

Recent declarations by Olivier Becht, France's minister for foreign trade, attractiveness, and French nationals abroad, underscore the cautious yet hopeful perspective of French investors concerning the current economic climate in South Africa. Despite the compounded challenges presented by power and logistics crises, France's long-term economic relationship with South Africa retains a spirit of resilience and an eventual tilt towards a sustainable future.

During his visit to South Africa, Becht underscored the importance of the nation as France's premier trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa. The vibrant French business community in South Africa operates through nearly 500 companies, which play a pivotal role in varied economic sectors and employment for over 60,000 locals. Yet, the prevailing power and logistics obstacles are prompting would-be French investors to reconsider temporal expansion plans, as businesses prioritize ensuring consistent power through private measures over innovation and maintenance expenditures.

Notwithstanding these challenges, there is a collective international commitment to catapult South Africa into a sustainable economic epoch. Becht highlighted the Just Energy Transition Partnership, wherein France and its allies are channeling significant resources to facilitate South Africa's shift from coal-dependent energy production to a renewable energy paradigm, preserving community and worker livelihoods in the process.

This partnership exemplifies France's confidence in South Africa's resurgence as a "greener economic powerhouse." French companies are actively engaging in South African renewables, water, and waste management sectors, seeking to scale these initiatives as demonstrated by EDF's recent procurement wins for battery solutions in the Northern Cape.

Moreover, Becht discussed France's continental strategy, emphasizing a pivot towards fortified economic ties and diminishing reliance on military interventions in Africa. Highlighting France's doubled presence in African commerce over the past decade, with direct investments soaring, he mentioned South Africa as a crucial access point to the wider continent. However, the landscape of foreign economic engagement is evolving, with France actively promoting its business environment through initiatives such as the 'Make It Iconic' brand, aimed at attracting global investment, including from Africa.

Despite differing stances on international conflicts, such as the Ukraine war and the Israel-Hamas skirmishes, Becht stressed the value of ongoing dialogue and solid ministerial level relations between France and South Africa, illustrating a robust diplomatic undercurrent.

In conclusion, the French trade minister's remarks reveal a panorama of watchful anticipation, collaborative ambition, and strategic innovation, setting the tone for the trajectory of France-South Africa economic relations in a world grappling with transitional challenges and opportunities.

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