Listen and identify opportunities for closer cooperation: Foreign Minister Baerbock is travelling to South Africa

Foreign Ministers Annalena Baerbock and Grace Naledi Pandor at the meeting of the Binational Commission

Foreign Ministers Annalena Baerbock and Grace Naledi Pandor at the meeting of the Binational Commission, © Thomas Koehler/AA/photothek.de

26.06.2023 - Article

Foreign Minister Baerbock is travelling to Pretoria from 26 to 27 June. Read more about what links South Africa and Germany, what divides them, and in which fields South Africa is a role model for the African continent.

South Africa is one of our most important partners on the African continent. The Foreign Minister will attend the German-South African Binational Commission, which was established in 1996 on the initiative of Nelson Mandela to reflect the special relationship between the two countries.

Vocational education and training, labour and social affairs

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock talking with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock talking with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa© Offical Photo/photothek.de

In many respects, South Africa is a beacon on the African continent. After peacefully overcoming apartheid, it has one of the most progressive constitutions in the world and is among the strongest economies on the continent. It is outstanding in research and development.

South Africa is facing a massive energy crisis that is bringing power cuts of up to twelve hours a day for the people in the country. In order to overcome this crisis, President Ramaphosa’s Government wants to step up investment in renewable energies. The South African Government once more emphatically reaffirmed this commitment at the beginning of this year. Because renewable energies are not only climate-neutral, but also the fastest and cheapest way to create new energy sources. Germany and other G7 partners are supporting South Africa in these endeavours within the framework of a Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). The main aim of this cooperation is to transform the electricity sector, 85% currently based on coal. Germany can help and advise here, thanks to its own experience with expanding the use of renewables. The green transition will therefore be particularly important during Foreign Minister Baerbock’s trip, and a focus of the Binational Commission session, too. Foreign Minister Baerbock will see how the energy transition can be shaped in a socially equitable way on a trip to the traditional North West coal mining district, where she will be visiting a vanadium plant. Vanadium is a raw material needed for the green transition. Extracting it is preserving and creating jobs in the traditional coal mining region in the North West province.

South Africa’s voice has influence in the world

South Africa is one of Africa’s opinion leaders in international forums. During her trip, Foreign Minister Baerbock therefore intends to engage in frank and critical exchange. Because, with 9000 kilometres separating the two countries, there are definitely a few topics on which their standpoints differ. For instance, South Africa abstained in the votes of the United Nations General Assembly on the Russian war of aggression, and has invited President Putin to the BRICS summit in Johannesburg in August 2023, even though the ICC has issued an arrest warrant against him. That is not uncontroversial even in South African society.

Annalena Baerbock:

... when the country of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu raises its voice against injustice, the world listens. That is why, while in Pretoria, I also want to talk about how South Africa can leverage its weight to help bring an end to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and to preserve the UN Charter.

On the African continent in particular, South Africa has consistently worked for peace since the end of apartheid, mediating in the conflicts in Burundi, the DR Congo and Ethiopia. One item on the agenda for the Foreign Minister’s meeting with her counterpart, Naledi Pandor, will therefore be the dramatic situation in the Sudan. The situation in Darfur in particular is worrying and reminiscent of the terrible genocide that began 20 years ago. Germany supports the ongoing African and international peace efforts and is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance for the people in the Sudan and the region.

Foreign Minister Baerbock visits the German International School in Pretoria
Foreign Minister Baerbock visits the German International School in Pretoria© Thomas Koehler/AA/photothek.de

The third stop on the trip is devoted to a step towards social justice: Foreign Minister Baerbock will visit the German International School in Pretoria. What makes this school special is that it is envisaged as a multicultural, multi-background school. This means that there is a scholarship programme for socially disadvantaged pupils from the townships surrounding the city. This programme was launched back in 1988 during apartheid.


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