South Africa and Saudi Arabia strike $15bn worth of agreements

By Jaysim Hanspal
Posted on Tuesday, 18 October 2022 17:59

Saudi Arabia's Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives the President of the Republic of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, October 15, 2022. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS

Saudi Arabia and South Africa have signed deals worth about $15bn during a state visit by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Details about the agreements between the two countries, which included Memorandums of Understanding, have remained under wraps.

However, reports say the two have agreed to cover investment opportunities in renewable energy, industry, mining, tourism, logistics and agriculture.

Corresponding ministers met to hold bilateral meetings about sector developments, including South African Minister of Transport Mbalula Fikile and HE Engr. Saleh bin Naser Al Jasser.

Ramaphosa ended his trip over the weekend and said the trip and subsequent investment were long in the making.

He said: “Having started in 2018 with a commitment by Saudi Arabia to invest $10bn into the South African economy, in many ways was planting the seed, and that seed has been germinating. [T]hus far $1 billion has been invested in South Africa through a company called ACWA Power.”

Building partnerships

On 15 October, at the South Africa-Saudi Arabia Investment Forum, private sector firms from Saudi Arabia met with a delegation of more than 100 South African business people, in a move to strengthen ties between the two economies.

The President also invited Saudi Arabian businesses to South Africa’s fifth investment conference, which will be held in 2023.

In a public statement posted on Twitter, President Ramaphosa said of the Saudi government: “They are very serious business people, action-oriented, outcome orientated, they want to see implementation. The crown prince and I have committed that we are going to be monitoring the implementation of all of this.”

Emerging economic ventures

Saudi Arabia has been vying to become a member of the BRICS emerging economic countries, which currently include Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Argentina has also applied for membership.

Having started in 2018 with a commitment by Saudi Arabia to invest $10bn into the South African economy, in many ways was planting the seed.”

According to Ramaphosa, the decision to let Saudi Arabia and other applicants join the group will be made at BRICS’ next meeting in January 2023.

He said: “The BRICS nations are going to be meeting in a summit next year under the chairship of South Africa. And the matter is going to be under consideration.”

Diplomatic relations between South Africa and Saudi Arabia were formalised in 1994 when President Nelson Mandela became the first President to visit the country.

Since then, four of South Africa’s democratically elected Presidents have visited the Kingdom.

Trade positions

According to James M. Dorsey, a journalist and senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, Saudi Arabia has recently become far more active on the continent.

“I think it’s part of Saudi Arabia wanting to position itself as not just a regional player but a global player. The other issue is that for the Saudis, the Iranians have said that Africans are a priority of them, as have the Turks, and the Saudis want to make sure that they’re present too,” he tells The Africa Report.

He adds it is “certain” that more agreements between Saudi Arabia and other African nations will crop up in the near future.

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