PARTNER-ATLAS

SOUTH AFRICA

as a partner for securing essential natural resources and protecting the climate

01 — The key questions for the Partner-Atlas

RELEVANCE: What relevance does South Africa have for Germany with regards to "securing essential natural resources and protecting the climate"?

According to Federal Minister Müller, Africa is to become the “green continent of renewable energies”. South Africa, the continent’s most developed economy, is pursuing ambitious goals in this field, similar to what is being debated in Germany. Examples include the reduction of CO2 emissions and minimizing the dependence on coal. In order to do so, South Africa has introduced a carbon tax in 2019.

Restructuring the energy supply in Africa, is seen as one of the major tasks in the global fight against climate change. At the same time Africa’s population is growing rapidly thus increasing energy demand. South Africa is one of the 15 largest CO2 emitters in the world and produces the most emissions per capita in Africa. However, South Africa has set itself ambitious goals as laid out in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which came into force in October 2019. The share of renewable energies is to be increased from 3 to 25 percent by 2030, and 35 gigawatts of the current 42 gigawatts of coal-based electricity is to be redistributed to other energy sources by 2050. However, in domestic politics the latter has the potential to cause a high amount of discomfort for the ruling African National Congress (ANC), and its implementation phase must therefore be tracked critically. Since July 2019, a carbon tax that is equivalent to 9 US dollars per ton of CO2 has been introduced. However, due to various exemptions, the tax will probably remain quite ineffective within the first two years.

South Africa is also one of the most important exporters of metals and minerals and is the world’s number one producer of platinum, chromium and vanadium. As these metals are increasingly needed for e-mobility, the southern African region will gain geopolitical relevance in the coming years. Water scarcity on the other hand has not received much political attention and could potentially disrupt water intensive economic activities in the mining areas.

WILLINGNESS: To what extent is South Africa willing to work with Germany in realising this interest?

South Africa has demonstrated a high level of willingness to cooperate with Germany, Numerous collaborations in the field of renewable energy, energy transition and climate policy have been established. In addition, good political relationships between both countries exist since the end of apartheid, a historic event that has left South Africa with one of the most modern and liberal constitutions in the world. South Africa’s political commitment to increase the use of renewable energies presents an opportunity for Germany and the German economy to strengthen cooperation.

At a time when multilateral organisations and treaties are questioned, South Africa can be regarded as a reliable partner for Germany in certain core areas – even if this is occasionally thwarted by an ideologically driven, old loyalties with partner countries from the ANC liberation struggle. Since the end of the Zuma era and since Ramaphosa took over the presidency, South Africa has increasingly pursued a foreign policy discourse oriented towards partnerships with the West, but not without pursuing an equally strong partnership with China. South Africa is a member of the German Foreign Office´s Alliance for Multilateralism initiated at the end of 2019.

STATUS QUO: How close is Germany and South Africa's current cooperation in this area?

Africa in total offers huge opportunities for investments in renewable energies. The cooperation between Germany and South Africa is already quite close in this area, in particular, through support by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German Chamber of Commerce Abroad (AHK) and the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW). A project funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) which supports South Africa´s climate policy focuses furthermore on the development of a national climate policy and the strengthening of South Africa’s role in international climate negotiations. The latter also fosters Germany’s strategic international interests and is thus very welcome. A project by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) also promotes renewable energies and energy efficiency. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) has also been active in the German-South African Energy Partnership since 2013 on.

However, substantive implementation of South Africa’s ambitious strategies is yet to be seen. In the past, the ANC government was quite slow acting when it came to the implementation of many of the progressive legislative initiatives or they were not implemented at all. In this regard, a possible dwindling influence of the reform-oriented forces in the ANC must be continuously re-assessed and analysed in the context of the numerous veto players. Even since President Ramaphosa has taken office, the progressive forces in the ANC have still no secure power base.

Furthermore, it is unclear what the medium to long-term effects of the covid-19-crisis will mean for the initiated plans of the restructuring of energy supply in South Africa. Shortly after the outbreak of the pandemic and together with the drastically reduced energy demand that came with it, private providers of renewable energies were unable to sell their previously guaranteed quantities of electricity. The national power supplier, Eskom, justifies this by invoking force majeure, and yet continues to source energy from its own coal-fired power plants. Although energy demand will rise again in the short term, this situation has led to a loss of confidence among private independent electricity providers which could have a negative impact on the future investment climate.

POTENTIAL: What is the potential for strengthening the partnership between Germany and South Africa in this area?

There is potential on both sides for a further strengthening of the partnership. Due to its economic relevance not only for the southern African region, but also as an important trading partner for Germany, the energy transition offers great potential for German companies: Germany is South Africa’s second most important trading partner after China. German companies occupy a leading position in the field of renewable energy, and already more than 20 German companies in this sector have branches in South Africa and are waiting for a progressive liberalisation of the electricity market.

Furthermore, it will be interesting to see if there is also potential for German-South African cooperation in promoting renewable energies beyond the borders of South Africa. In economic terms, South Africa is the gateway to Africa. Many South African entrepreneurs are active across the continent and possess the necessary knowledge to foster entrepreneurial success in Africa. South Africa is the only African nation within G20, and as such it could also act as a channel for private sector climate investments in Africa. The predicted doubling of Africa’s population by 2050 and the associated urbanisation provides great potential for new business markets. Cooperation with Africa is mentioned strongly as part of the European Commission’s European Green Deal, and this aoffers many opportunities to focus on South Africa.

POLICY RECOMMENDATION: What in German foreign policy has to change in order to fully exploit this potential?

Given the positive partnership, Germany should be keen to engage in an honest and constructive dialogue with South Africa and, in the event of challenges, such as mismanagement and inefficiency with Eskom, the state-owned energy supplier, insist on reducing the lack of transparency and corruption. It should not just be a matter of providing financial and technical support for the energy transition, but also of demanding appropriate political reforms which are not just passed but also implemented.

New energy models are becoming increasingly competitive and, due to state weaknesses, private sector concepts are gaining relevance. Germany can support South Africa politically and with its technical expertise in the field of renewable energy expansion in order to initiate similar developments in the region of southern Africa. Economic access to Chinese capital, expertise and investment plays a role in South Africa, but not as significantly as in other countries on the African continent. Against this background, Germany should step up its efforts to convince South Africa of the advantages of value-based alliances and partnerships.

Anja Berretta heads the KAS Regional Programme for Energy Security and Climate Change in Sub-Saharan Africa; Tilmann Feltes is Desk Officer for Southern Africa and Political Party Cooperation in the European and International Cooperation Department.

SOUTH AFRICA

  • Population: 59,308,690
  • Capital: Bloemfontain, Capetown, Pretoria
  • Interest: Securing Essential Natural Resources and Protecting the Climate
  • Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Potential partner countries: Angola, Botswana, DR Congo, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania

04 — The region

Sub-Saharan Africa

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SOUTH AFRICA

According to Federal Minister Müller, Africa is to become the “green continent of renewable energies”. South Africa, the continent’s most developed economy, is pursuing ambitious goals in this field, similar to what is being debated in Germany. Examples include the reduction of CO2 emissions and minimizing the dependence on coal. In order to do so, South Africa has introduced a carbon tax in 2019.

  • Population: 59,308,690
  • Capital: Bloemfontain, Capetown, Pretoria
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KENYA

Kenya is the most stable country in East Africa and is an economy that is oriented toward the west. With consistently strong economic growth in the twelve years before the coronavirus crisis and a GDP of just under 88 billion US dollars (2018), Kenya is the largest economy in East Africa and a growth engine for the entire region. Thanks to the port of Mombasa and the airport in Nairobi, the country is an important hub for trade and finance. Many international companies have chosen Kenya as the seat of their (East) Africa branches.

  • Population: 53,771,296
  • Capital: Nairobi
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GHANA

Despite its relatively small population of approximately 28 million inhabitants, Ghana is growing in relevance for Germany. This is evident not least of all from the fact that Ghana has been included in the Compact with Africa project since 2017 and became one of Germany’s reform partner countries in the same year. Ghana’s willingness to accept reforms in the economic and fiscal policy sector, along with its framework, which is relatively stable and reliable compared to many other Sub-Saharan African countries, made Ghana an interesting partner for the G20, and especially for Germany (as a reform partnership).

  • Population: 31,072,940
  • Capital: Accra
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NIGERIA

With a population of around 200 million, Nigeria is not only the largest country in Africa, but it has also been the continent’s largest economy for some years now. The country is rich in oil and gas and is one of the largest oil exporters in the world. Nonetheless, Nigeria faces immense security and economic problems, which are worsening as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and could further destabilise the entire region in the medium to long term, posing major challenges for Europe. This applies both to the European interest in supporting the Sahel states in their fight against terrorism and to reducing irregular migration from Africa.

  • Population: 206,139,589
  • Capital: Abuja
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NIGER

The unstable security situation throughout the Sahel region reveals the weakness of state authorities in the region. Niger’s security forces are also struggling to exercise effective control of the country. Several terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State or Boko Haram, regularly attack military bases and also civilians. Niger is also one of the poorest countries in the world and is dealing with numerous governance problems, including regular accusations of corruption against government representatives or officials. There have even been deaths during demonstrations by young people against the rampant corruption and bad governance. The Nigerien government’s measures against the coronavirus, especially the closure of mosques, have also led to violent clashes between mainly young demonstrators and the security forces. Amnesty International is also protesting against the use of the controversial cybercrime prevention law to suppress voices critical of the government in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Population: 24,206,644
  • Capital: Niamey
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