Macron commits to helping SA ramp up vaccine capacity and create jobs
President Cyril Ramaphosa and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have concluded several agreements which they say will assist SA in accelerating economic recovery.
The two heads of states concluded their official bilateral talks on Friday, in which they focused mainly on dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, global peace and security on the continent and relations between the two countries.
This was Macron’s first visit to SA.
Addressing the media at the Union Buildings on Friday afternoon, Ramaphosa said: “SA and France have a shared interest in ensuring that multilateral efforts are effective in ending the pandemic, resuming international travel and commerce, accelerating economic recovery and strengthening public health systems.”
On fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, Ramaphosa said SA felt keenly the support and solidarity of France “in that they are prepared to take the lead to advocate Africa’s case”.
Ramaphosa said Covid-19 had shown that no country was immune to disasters.
“It is for this reason that we must accelerate our collective efforts to ensure that vaccines become a global public good and are made accessible to all countries in the shortest possible time,” he said.
The two presidents also discussed the waiver of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which will allow developing countries to manufacture their own vaccines and ramp up their vaccination rollout programmes.
“He got the gist of what we were saying and putting forward, and was willing to accommodate our views,” said Ramaphosa.
He added that Africa is working to develop its own vaccine production capabilities and capacity to ensure security of supply.
“While funding is key, it needs to be complemented by the transfer of technology and a commitment by international procurement agencies to buy vaccines made in Africa,” he said.
The two heads of states further agreed to work towards expanding research, innovation and production beyond Covid-19 to promote public health security in Africa.
“We therefore reaffirmed the importance and the strength of our bilateral trade and investment relationship, and will continue working together to remove obstacles to bilateral and regional trade and investment,” said Ramaphosa.
Both countries agreed to work together towards the implementation of the EU-Sadc Partnership Agreement and the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“We have recognised the crucial importance of building businesses and entrepreneurs and providing education and skills for the future. We look forward to France’s continued involvement in the Square Kilometre Array intergovernmental radio telescope project, and its related fields of research & development.”
The two leaders said they also recognised that the climate change threat, the loss of biological diversity and other global environmental challenges must be addressed with urgency and ambition.
“SA and France are fully committed to the progressive development of a multilateral response to global environmental challenges, guided by science and the principles of fairness and equality,” said Ramaphosa.
Macron said this was a very important visit to discuss bilateral, regional and multilateral matters.
He said France intended to build a very strong partnership to speed up technology transfer that will enable SA to increase production capacity and find solutions on issues of intellectual property.
“To that [end] we will take an initiative to the G7 but also as of today, we will jointly take some initiatives to bring about some financing in order to step up the capacity of a number of African countries,” he said.
He announced that the French Development Agency would provide €2bn (about R33.57bn) of assistance to strengthen the primary healthcare systems.
On food challenges within the context of the partnership, Macron said: “It is about employment and, in particular, the employment of young people. We need to reinvest our growth models and in particular deal with that and climate change.”
In this regard, Macron said France and the EU were ready to support SA.
On financing, Macron said France would assist by making money available to renewable energy and nuclear projects.
“We talked about that and there are a number of French companies which were selected back in March for some renewable projects and we very much sincerely support the energy transition of SA,” he said.
He added that the aim was to create more new jobs.
“We are more and more French companies in 2019 and 2020 increased substantially their presence and investments. There are some 350 French companies that represent some 65,000 direct jobs and they will continue to support your projects to increase the growth.”
He said there would be more done in terms of vocational training, starting with the training of thousands of electricians within five years.
“We are launching this afternoon a new programme, which will be able to create new French skills programmes to help train thousands of people in the continent.”
At a regional level, Macron said the two countries discussed the terrorism problem facing Mozambique.
“The aim is to put together some response because my philosophy is that France is a friend of Africa and an African issue is an issue for France. But we shall all understand that one cannot deal with an issue or find any solution without respecting the sovereignty of the developing country.
“First we need a regional response so France stands ready to help but at the request of the states, the governments and the regional institutes, in particular within the context of the AU. We very much want to contribute to building a space of security and stability.”
The two presidents also agreed to work together to grow trade and promote investment.