The Zeitz Mocaa museum at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront is just one place the French minister for Europe and foreign affairs will visit when in SA. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Zeitz Mocaa museum at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront is just one place the French minister for Europe and foreign affairs will visit when in SA. Picture: SUPPLIED

With my visit to Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town this week, I intend to deepen an already wide and multifaceted co-operation with SA, a crucial partner for France and the EU.

In an environment of growing global threats, France advocates for enhanced dialogue with its strategic partners, such as SA, and renewed commitment to multilateralism.

SA and France share many common values: an unwavering commitment to the fundamental principles of human rights; rule of law and democracy; as well as the belief that, in the long term, only a genuine — but not naive — multilateral approach can protect us on the world stage.

SA plays a pivotal role in the political stability of the African continent, but our mutual interests extend further: both France and SA are members of the G20, where we share similar positions on many areas; our two countries are also working together in the UN Security Council to address crucial stakes, such as the fight against terrorism and fostering peace and stability; and SA has an ambitious agenda for its African Union (AU) presidency in 2020.

Obviously, France and SA can give a joint and strong impulse to many initiatives on the international stage. That’s why France wishes to co-operate closely with SA in the run-up to its G7 presidency, with the fight against inequalities being the core topic of the summit, which will take place from August 24 to 26 in Biarritz.

This week we will sign some key agreements on various matters ranging from basic education to co-operation between our national space agencies.

Climate change is a good example of the work France and SA have undertaken together in multilateral forums. The success of COP17 in Durban and COP21 in Paris is concrete proof of our commitment, as well as our participation in the One Planet summits.

Nearly two thirds of Africans are considered to be impacted by climate change, and its effects are already visible in Europe too, with exceptional weather events and its direct impact on people. We need to deal with this challenge together by adopting a joint and global approach.

SA-France Forum for Political Dialogue

Today, with international relations and co-operation minister Lindiwe Sisulu, I will co-chair the forum for political dialogue between SA and France. With experts from our two countries we will review and share our analyses of the main global issues, regional crises discussed in the UN Security Council, or in other forums, such as the EU and the AU. It will also be an opportunity to take stock of our bilateral relationship and to agree on the perspectives we want to give it.

This week we will sign some key agreements on various matters ranging from basic education to co-operation between our national space agencies.

France is fully committed to supporting SA’s economic transformation promoted by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s “new dawn”. Close to 400 French companies are based in SA, employing more than 37,000 people directly. These companies are eager to contribute to the investment goals Ramaphosa has set out for SA. I will visit the facilities of the French company Saint-Gobain, which is very committed to empowering SA workers in the field of energy-saving technologies, providing jobs, training and skills transfers.

As leaders in innovation, France and SA have been working hard to foster local entrepreneurship through the French-SA Tech (FSAT) labs in Cape Town and the digital content hub in Johannesburg. French-SA start-ups are increasingly vibrant. During my stay in SA I will visit the facilities of the start-up Jumo, in Cape Town, which provides Africans access to credit and savings in real time via a mobile phone and in which the Agence Française de Développement (the French Development Agency) has invested about R410m.

Sanparks and the National Park of Réunion Island will sign a memorandum of understanding that will enable both entities to co-operate to preserve biodiversity.

France is also willing to enhance reciprocal investments and encourages the development of SA investments in France, following the example of major companies already based there and amid the current institutional and economic reforms occurring in France and Europe.

Moreover, France is looking to support SA youth through education. An agreement in the field of basic education and a declaration of intent on co-operation in establishing a co-funded scholarship for master’s students and PhD candidates will be signed during my visit. My wish is to increase student mobility between our two countries and to have more French students going to SA.

Culture co-operation

Culture is a key area of our co-operation, allowing for exchange and better understanding between our people. We will sign a co-production agreement to promote ties in the movie industries,  and in Cape Town I’ll visit the Zeitz Mocaa, the vibrant museum of African contemporary art. We can go much further: the African cultural season that President Emmanuel Macron has announced in 2020 will be an opportunity for African cultures to shine in Paris, a few years after the success of the SA cultural season.

My visit also aims to foster co-operation between SA and France within the Indian Ocean, where our countries are neighbours, in particular with the French overseas territories of Réunion Island and Mayotte, home of 1-million fellow countrymen and countrywomen. I am glad to share the news that Sanparks and the National Park of Réunion Island will sign a memorandum of understanding that will enable both entities to co-operate to preserve biodiversity.

To conclude my visit, I will pay tribute to Nelson Mandela and all the people who suffered and fought for building a democratic and tolerant SA by visiting Robben Island. The future we want to build together needs the strong commitment and values Mandela gave us.

We have achieved a lot over the years, but more remains to be accomplished. I strongly believe in the expansion of our existing partnership to the benefit of both our countries.

• Le Drian is France’s minister for Europe and foreign affairs.