Danish-South African link shifts from aid to green trade

Windmills at Horns Rev 2, the world's largest wind farm, 30km off the west coast of Denmark near Esbjerg. Sept 15 2009. (Bob Strong/Reuters)

Windmills at Horns Rev 2, the world's largest wind farm, 30km off the west coast of Denmark near Esbjerg. Sept 15 2009. (Bob Strong/Reuters)

The partnership between South Africa and Denmark is long-standing and significant, going back to the struggle for democracy and the subsequent transition process after 1994. In 1986, Denmark was the first country to impose unilateral trade sanctions against the apartheid regime and, since the advent of democracy, we have continued our close co-operation and assistance in support of the new South Africa.

Today, it is obvious that South Africa has come a long way. Indeed, South Africa’s journey in the past two decades is one of the great triumphs of the late 20th century.

In parallel to South Africa’s rapid development as a country, the bilateral co-operation between our two countries has matured as well.
From partnering on development, we now engage in a political and – not least – economic partnership on equal terms. To express the transformation in a catchphrase: we’ve gone from aid to trade.

In part because of our historic ties, South Africa has in recent years become a close and vital economic partner of Denmark; today, many Danish companies are deeply engaged in this attractive market with investments worth millions of rands. They focus strongly on corporate social responsibility and assist in skills transfer, inclusion and job creation. In addition, each year tens of thousands of Danes visit this beautiful country, contributing to growth in the South African tourism industry.

That being said, I am convinced that many more opportunities exist to further increase bilateral trade and to further deepen our relationship. It serves as a testimony to this growth potential that Frederik, the crown prince of Denmark – accompanied by the Danish minister for environment and food and the minister for business and growth – will lead a business delegation to South Africa at the beginning of November. The business delegation consists of nearly 50 Danish companies in three key sectors: energy; water and environment; and food and agriculture.

Danish companies have a lot to offer South Africa. They can provide experience, know-how and innovative solutions that can prove useful in meeting specific South African needs. As such, these sectors, which mainly fall into the category of the green economy, have been carefully chosen to match areas of high priority to South Africa.

From a Danish perspective, there is no contradiction between sustainability and economic growth. In fact, Denmark’s green transition in the past decades is a testimony to the opposite: green solutions not only serve the environment but can also create lasting economic growth. We wish to share this know-how with our South African partners – both public and private.

As expected, there has been great interest shown by the private sector of Denmark in joining the delegation and to explore the South African market. Yet the number of companies joining Prince Frederik and the ministers in November has far surpassed our initial estimate.

There are several good reasons for this strong interest and for why South Africa generally is the preferred destination for Danish companies that wish to do business on the African continent. Strong institutions, an attractive investment climate, substantial public investments in infrastructure, including green infrastructure, and a steadily growing middle class of consumers cement South Africa’s position as the entry point of choice.

Danish companies are also reassured by the deep relations between our two countries, which span informal people-to-people relationships and formal memorandums of understanding in strategic sectors of mutual interest. An example is our bilateral renewable energy programme, through which Denmark currently supports the connection of renewable energy sources to the grid, energy efficiency in public buildings and the mapping of wind resources. I am proud to say that this programme helps secure cheap, clean energy for the South African people.

During the visit, South Africa and Denmark will add to our current collaboration by entering into a strategic government-to-government partnership in the water sector.

In the coming months and years, we will exchange experiences and lessons learned, and focus on capacity-building with regard to innovatively managing water resources – all with a view to providing efficient basic service delivery to South Africans.

South Africa’s green transition is already underway, as is evident from the Independent Power Producer Procurement programme’s success. Denmark wishes to partner with South Africa in this transition – and in the process help spur job creation and growth in both our countries.

In this regard, I expect the royal visit will be a strong catalyst to both identify concrete business opportunities and grow our partnership for the benefit of future generations.

Trine Rask Thygesen is Denmark’s ambassador to South Africa

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