On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the South Africa (SA) – EU Strategic Partnership, concluded in 2007, which has increased trade by more than 50% between the two partners, the European House – Ambrosetti organized, in partnership with Aspen Pharmacare, a South African pharmaceutical multinational, a high-level panel Roundtable on strategies and priorities on the future of the SA-EU relationship, on 29 June 2017 at the prestigious « Cercle Royal Gaulois », in Brussels .
The year 2017 marks, the tenth anniversary of the Strategic Partnership between South Africa and the EU. This agreement has reinforced the coherence and political dimension of the bilateral relationship between the two parties. It was therefore a question of taking stock of the current state of this partnership. Taking into account the upheavals of the world: Brexit, climate change, for example, to define policies to strengthen this partnership and its development. A high-level debate was held on strategies and priorities for developing more fruitful relations between South Africa and the European Union. Sarkarcus Cornaro, Ambassador of the European Union in South Africa, pointed out 10 years strategic partnership, but also the years of cooperation and friendship that began in 1986 with a Special program for the victims of Apartheid.
The European Union is the largest export market and the most important source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for South Africa. EU investment is the largest in South Africa, reaching 30% (out of a total of 47% of EU investments in Africa). This helped create nearly 350,000 jobs. In addition, with venture capital and local economic development programs, the EU was able to support 150 small and medium-sized enterprises, providing employment to 12,000 people in South Africa.
For its part, Koen Vervaeke, Africa Managing Director of the European External Action Service, recalled that South Africa is an important partner. It is part of the G20 and the G77. SA is a member of the BRICS (coalition Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and Southern African Development Community (SADC). In addition, South Africa has carried out diplomatic actions for peace in various African countries: Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi.
Stefano Manservisi, General Director DG DEVCO highlighted the current challenges facing the world in the context of globalization and their impact on partnership. He noticed the need for cooperation, democracy and good governance as well as economic opportunities to create sustainable jobs for young people. He cited the example of development cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation, which was used to shape the EU-South Africa partnership. Paolo Borzatta, Europe’s Ambrossetti senior partner with many years of experience in Africa, pointed out that trade and investment are strongly marked by commodities, while the best strategic opportunities are found In the manufacturing sector. Particular attention should be paid to small and medium-sized enterprises by creating platforms that could facilitate their growth in both markets. Although the consequences of Brexit remain uncertain, Paolo Borzatta stresses that there is a strong chance that Great Britain will strengthen its ties with the United States.
This situation could revive tensions with some BRICS countries that are strategic entities for South Africa. Thus, after the Brexit, what will be the future of the SA and the EU relationship? According to Paolo Borzatta, the geopolitical context of the SA-EU relationship needs to be rethought and reshaped. The Brexit pushes the EU to more integration. It is also an opportunity for the EU to create more interesting opportunities for the cooperation with South Africa on defense, migration, investment, …., he added.
Total imports from South Africa to Europe amounted to about 38%. This makes the EU the main partner of South Africa in terms of trade cooperation. Still in this vision of the future SA-EU relations, emphasis must be placed on innovation and development. More responsibilities must be given to workers and individuals, and platforms must be established to facilitate the development of small and medium-sized enterprises. Young local talents have to be encourage also. This is one of the criteria for success for the inclusive development of South Africa. Boris Zala, Vice-President of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with South Africa, raised a number of questions about the partnership between the two sides. He suggested to identify the obstacles that prevent EU-South Africa relations from becoming truly strategic, particularly in terms of investment. Many other issues have been identified such as the lack of discussion at the higher level between South Africa and the EU. This is the case with regard to the issue of visa liberalization, South Africa’s willingness to leave the International Criminal Court, corruption …
Alec Erwin, head of UBU, Investment Holdings and former Minister of Trade and Industry and Minister of Public Enterprises in South Africa, spoke about the benefits of the trade agreement between the two sides. He believes that the FTA (a leading global trade association that promotes the values of international trade and sustainable supply chains) is a good example of the long-term benefits of such agreements.
Diana Acconcia, Head of DG Trade Unit, responsible for the Partnership Agreements with ACP countries, outlined a brief history of the EU trade relations with South Africa in the context of Trade and Development. The Cooperation Agreement signed on 11 October 1999 and entered into force in 2004 was replaced by the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and SADC. She noted the ongoing implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement and recalled that the success of the South Africa EPA can be decisive for the ACP EPA. She explained the main advantages of these agreements: stability framework agreements, development as the main objective for examples. Implementing these agreements would help address the major challenges of South Africa’s current political and economic environment. She recalled that South Africa is Europe’s leading partner in Africa.
Finally, the meeting focused on strategies to promote investment and share experiences in areas where both parties face challenges such as the environment, climate change, technology and access to care health. , Acting in his capacity as senior executive at Aspen Pharmacare, Stavros Nicolau said that Aspen is one of the most important South African investors in Europe with a presence in different countries like France, Germany, the Netherlands. The company recently acquired a portfolio of important anesthetic products. This will allow it to continue to offering quality drugs at an affordable price. Aspen provides anti thrombosis medications in Europe. The South African multinational provides generic medicines in more than 150 countries around the world. Several other speakers stressed the need to strengthen cooperation between the EU and the SA to help it cope with its many challenges: urbanization, electrification, scholarship programs for students at the master level (Erasmus Mundus programs), or how to accelerate the transformation of the unequal South African society.
According to the statistics from the Statistical South Africa (2012) statistics, poverty concern 25.5 million of South Africans, with 61.9% of black families, 32.9% of mixed-race people , 7.3% of Indian families and 1.2% of white families. Boris Zala, Member of the European Parliament, Vice-Chairman of the Delegation for Relations with South Africa called on the EU to provide a political response to these challenges facing South Africa.
Christine Haguma & Ghislain Zobiyo