On 15 and 16 November, the 9th session of the German-South Africa Binational Commission took place in Berlin. High ranked representatives from both countries come together every other year to debate on global challenges and establish an agenda for future joint co-operation.
The Binational Commission (BNC) is an important instrument to steer intra-governmental relations between Germany and South Africa. On 15 and 16 November, high ranked representatives from both countries came together to strengthen their co-operation and lay out common plans for the future.
In this regard, eight working groups met at various ministries in Berlin to discuss the core elements of their bilateral relations. These main fields of collaboration include renewable energies, environment and climate, education and vocational training, but also development co-operation, science and technology, employment and social affairs as well as culture.
Several ministers from both countries attended this highly-valued conference which is the central instrument for strategic partnership. The delegations were headed by the South African Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, and German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Foreign and Security Policy
In the Foreign and Security Policy Committee, the topic of migration was high on the agenda. Germany and South Africa are both attracting a considerable amount of refugees and migrants and share a common strategic interest to overcome causes of flight to reduce streams of illegal migration to Europe and Southern Africa. German Foreign Minister, Steinmeier, said: “We have talked about South Africa’s role on the African continent […] South Africa is of great significance. Not only economically, not only because of its strong role within the African Union, not only because South Africa is an important partner in all military missions, but because South Africa […] is similarly affected by migration and questions about migration like Germany.” The Committee therefore recommended the establishment of a structured dialogue about migration at government expert level to benefit from each other’s experiences.
Another forum of dialogue shall be created on co-operation on humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, civil society should be included in the discussions to enrich bilateral relations. During the German G20 presidency, an even more intense communication between South Africa and Germany was agreed, as the next summit of the 20 most important industrialized and emerging countries will focus on the African continent.
Economy and Energy
In the Economy and Energy Committee both sides agreed to intensify efforts to strengthen bilateral economic relations. At 15 billion euros, trade and investment were on a record high in 2015, supporting the fact that South Africa is still the most important trading partner for Germany on the African continent.
Steinmeier said: “I am very satisfied that the efforts of businesses are matched by our governmental engagement in the BNC, with focus on education and training […] as the engine of our relations is the economy.” Today, 600 German companies give work to 100,000 people in South Africa. Both sides further agreed to make efforts to boost South Africa’s exports to Germany.
On the occasion of the BNC, the 4th German-South African Business Forum took place with representatives from 70 companies as well. Both countries also welcomed the excellent co-operation within the German-South African Energy Partnership to promote the electricity production from renewable energy sources. In this context, the South African government has been invited to attend the annual Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue which will take place in March 2017.
Renewable energies are also an important topic of the Committee of Development Co-operation. The German government offered to provide another 314.25 million euros for bilateral Technical and Financial Co-operation, as both countries acknowledged the success of this collaboration. This will be an essential step towards reaching the goals established during the International Climate Conference in Paris in 2015. Co-operation was also confirmed to continue in the field of Green Economy, where Germany committed to an interest-subsidized loan of up to 100 million euros for the integration of renewable energies to the South African national electricity grid.
HIV/AIDS prevention, Technical and Vocational Training and Skills Development as well as Governance and Public Administration will continue to be areas of co-operation in which Germany will proceed invest. The South African delegation invited their German counterparts to South Africa for the next meeting of the Germany-South Africa Binational Commission in 2018.
© GIC Africa