South Africa: Angela Merkel Touts Renewables in Coal-Hungry South Africa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Federal Republic of Germany meet before official talks at the Union Buildings in Tshwane on February 6, 2020.
6 February 2020

Chancellor Merkel met with South Africa's president to discuss how his country can move towards renewable energy to fight climate change. The pair also discusses the war in Libya and business investments in South Africa.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday to discuss trade, climate change and the war in Libya.

Thursday's talks focused on how South Africa, a country largely dependent on coal, can transition to renewable energy. Ramaphosa said South Africa hopes to learn from Germany's experience in dealing with climate change.

"We had really extensive and very informative discussions on energy, and the chancellor was able to share the German experience of how they have been able to move away from coal power stations and getting to renewables," Ramaphosa said.

Coal-fired power plants are responsible for generating 89% of South Africa's electricity. Germany, on the other hand, plans to scrap coal-fired stations by 2038.

"We have also touched on barriers related to how one can combine the traditional generation of energy with renewables, and I think we are very much in agreement," Merkel said.

South Africa calls for more German business investment

The two-day visit began with a focus on improving business relations between the two countries as well as cooperation at the United Nations Security Council, where both Germany and South Africa are serving two-year terms as non-permanent members.

South Africa is Germany's biggest trading partner in Africa, while Germany is South Africa's second-largest trading partner after China.

With nearly 30% of people currently facing unemployment nationwide, the South African leader encouraged German businesses to expand in South Africa.

South Africa is a lucrative market for the German economy. But "the general conditions for the commitment of German companies are not optimal," Matthias Boddenberg from the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry told DW ahead of Merkel's trip.

Some 600 German businesses already have operations in South Africa. However, recurring power outages across the country have put off a number of foreign investors.

Talks on Libya

Ramaphosa and Merkel also discussed the ongoing conflict in oil-rich Libya, with Merkel calling for collaboration in handling the crisis without "imposing a solution on them."

"It is unfortunately not only an African problem but all the way from Russia to Arab states, Turkey and also from European states. We have seen many who apparently have a vested interest in Libya," Merkel said. "The Libyans themselves have to find a solution for their country."

Meanwhile, Ramaphosa said he "would like to see Africa taking the lead in all this," but he acknowledged that "the Libyan problem is a unique one because we have a number of other countries outside of Africa involved in that conflict."

Ramaphosa said nevertheless he expects a "much clearer African position" on Libya to follow the African Union summit that is scheduled to take place in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Sunday.

(AP, dpa)

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