Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), will visit South Africa from 5 to 8 July with a large delegation representing economic and scientific stakeholders. During the mission, he will hold talks with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, as well as sign a memorandum of understanding and meet with multiple government ministers. The mission aims to deepen bilateral economic relations while reaffirming Switzerland’s commitment to cooperation in economic and scientific activities and in the field of labour and employment.
A courtesy meeting will be held in Pretoria between Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. Mr Parmelin will also meet with finance minister Enoch Godongwana and labour minister Thulas Nxesi. The EAER head will sign a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the area of labour and employment and launch the new Productivity Ecosystems for Decent Work programme. The following day, Mr Parmelin will attend a presentation on the Square Kilometer Array Observatory (SKAO), a project to build the world’s largest radio telescope that Switzerland joined earlier this year. He will then visit the University of Pretoria and its Engineering 4.0 research facilities as well as a Swiss company active in the machine industry. The day will conclude with the EAER head meeting the Deputy Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Fikile Majola, and then participating in a Switzerland–South Africa business forum.
On 7 July, Mr Parmelin will hold an official meeting with the President’s Special Envoy on Investment, Jeff Radebe, before flying to Cape Town, where he will visit the University of Cape Town. Finally, on 8 July, he will visit the University of the Western Cape to meet students and university management.
The official talks will provide an opportunity to discuss the status and prospects of bilateral economic and scientific relations and the free trade agreement between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). They will also analyse the framework conditions for investments and business opportunities for the Swiss private sector.
Mr Parmelin will be accompanied by some 15 representatives of Swiss business and five representatives of the Swiss scientific community, as well as the president of the Council of States Foreign Affairs Committee.
Switzerland is a major investor in South Africa, where around 100 Swiss companies have been established. South Africa was Switzerland’s top business partner in Africa in 2021, with CHF 4.4 billion in trade. Switzerland is also party to the free trade agreement between the EFTA and SACU and an agreement with South Africa to prevent double taxation. South Africa has been identified as a priority country for the Federal Council’s mandate to improve Swiss companies’ access to major infrastructure projects.
South Africa is also an important country for the economic development and cooperation activities of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), whose priorities are to promote a viable and resource-efficient private sector and to create favourable economic framework conditions to attract business and investment.
Switzerland and South Africa have signed a bilateral agreement on scientific and technological cooperation, which provides the foundation for a joint research programme comprised of two pillars. The first is the mandate that the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) has given to the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), which acts as the Leading House for Sub-Saharan Africa in collaboration with the University of Basel. The other pillar is comprised of joint research projects coordinated by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).
The sixth meeting of the Swiss-South African joint committee will take place alongside the economic and scientific mission.