South Africa wants to become hydrogen partner with Germany

Germany and South Africa want to expand their relations, but have clear differences in their dealings with Russia.

South Africa’s President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa spoke on Tuesday after a meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz of a new strategic stage in cooperation, especially in the energy sector and education. With more than 600 German companies, Germany is already the second most important trading partner of G20 country South Africa, he said. “We want to become one of the key countries for hydrogen technology,” he announced.

Scholz had traveled to South Africa, an economic heavyweight on the southern continent, at the end of his three-day trip to Africa. Germany’s trade volume with South Africa is about the same as with Brazil or India. Scholz stressed that Germany wanted to cooperate especially in renewable energy, but was also importing South African coal to break away from Russian coal. “South Africa remains a key country for Germany on the African continent,” he stressed. “We should increase investment in South Africa.” The Africa Association of German Business had earlier called on the German government to improve project financing, especially for German SMEs. Scholz had invited South Africa and Senegal, the first country on his trip, as partner countries for the G7 summit in Elmau at the end of June.

The chancellor announced that he would also seek closer cooperation with democracies worldwide during his trip. “Our countries share a respect for a democratic culture and our commitment to a multilateral, rules-based world order,” he stressed in Pretoria. However, it became very clear that South Africa would nevertheless not join Western sanctions against Russia, but would remain neutral. The country had abstained in the UN General Assembly vote on the Russian war.

In the conversation, Scholz had understood that some countries had abstained in the UN vote, Ramaphosa said. The chancellor, in turn, called it unacceptable that some countries had even voted with Russia against condemning Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Commenting on his conversation with Ramaphosa on the issue, given the differences, he said only: “I am glad that we had an opportunity here today to discuss South Africa’s position on this issue. Mr. President, I think it is important that we continue these discussions intensively.”

Ramaphosa also indirectly criticized Western sanctions against Russia, saying they had implications for third countries as well. South Africa had not joined the sanctions. Only dialogue and negotiations could lead to an end to the war, the president said. Scholz announced that the issue of high energy prices would also be raised at the G7 summit.

The chancellor contradicted the thesis, also propagated by Russia, that developing and emerging countries would have to suffer primarily from Western sanctions. Rather, he called on all producing countries to increase their oil and gas production. “We are now discussing with all these countries that produce oil and gas and trying to convince them to increase their capacities so that this would help the world market,” Scholz told Deutsche Welle, referring to high energy prices worldwide. “We will have a very difficult situation when we look at fuel prices,” he added. “It’s obvious that it won’t be possible to subsidize them, even on a global level.” Scholz had pledged to help Senegal produce LNG gas during a visit on Sunday.

Nedim Husomanovic

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