President Jacob Zuma has welcomed French President François Hollande, saying his visit will increase trade between the two countries.
South African companies have shown keen interest in France and have invested more than R94-million, President Jacob Zuma said on Monday.
"We know that our companies are looking forward to increasing their exports into the French market," he said at a South Africa/France business forum luncheon in Johannesburg. "Similarly, the stock value of French foreign direct investment in South Africa is currently at R9.4-billion, with notable investments in renewable energy, consumer products, automotives and infrastructure."
French President François Hollande is on a state visit to South Africa with business representatives, who attended the business forum.
Zuma said the countries were working from a strong base and that the visit would increase trade. He said both presidents were satisfied that the relationship between the two countries could deepen going forward. Trade between South Africa and France has been showing signs of recovery following the global economic crisis.
Zuma said he hoped discussions at the business forum would take this recovery further by exploiting more opportunities. There is already a lot of economic activity between the countries. He said France's visit comes at a time when South Africa is starting to implement its National Development Plan (NDP).
"The advantage of having a national vision document like the NDP is that our nation and also our development partners will know exactly what we are trying to achieve and where we want to be by the year 2030.
"It removes doubt and uncertainty about the direction of this new and very young democracy," said Zuma. He said South Africa had already started implementing the NDP through the new growth path and the industrial policy action plan. The new growth path has six focus areas. These are agriculture, tourism, mining and beneficiation, the green economy, infrastructure development and manufacturing.
Zuma said South Africa was "excited" about the success of its national infrastructure plan. Many projects had already been completed or were nearing completion, while others would take a few more years, because of their magnitude.
"South Africa is therefore a country under construction, and already some French companies are participating in the infrastructure plan.
"We are also creating special economic zones, which provide an appropriate environment for foreign and domestic investment and the development of strategic industrial capabilities," he said.
Zuma welcomed the presence of French companies in the country. "You are in the right country, in the right continent, at the right time.
"It is clear that international investors are increasingly becoming aware that the rate of return on foreign investment in Africa is higher than in any other region in the world."
Hollande praised South Africa for its development of the NDP. "We trust the South African economy. It is transforming itself," he said in French. "Any country should have a goal. France as well needs to know where it will be in 10 years' time."
He said French and South African companies had signed a number of big contracts during the visit. One of these contracts was with the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa. Hollande said the French business community was convinced South Africa's economy was on the right path to quick and expansive growth. – Sapa