Brussels has opened its wallet to offer €100 million in regional funding for what it calls a “ground-breaking” infrastructure programme, as an EU-South Africa summit opens in Pretoria today (18 July), on Nelson Mandela International Day.
The EU money will be parcelled off as loans for technical project assistance and direct grants to co-finance infrastructure projects, in the energy, transport and trade sectors.
“South Africa is currently held back by its infrastructure, which restricts people’s access to health, education and job opportunities,” said EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. “By taking an innovative approach, our new support programme will help to significantly boost trade in the region and get the country on the road to further growth”.
The Infrastructure Investment Programme for South Africa is intended to leverage strategic investments from financial institutions and banks.
Since 2007, Brussels has already provided €980 million for South African education, health, youth development and job creation projects, to help reduce poverty and inequality.
The new programme will bring together financial institutions including the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the European Investment Bank, Germany's KfW finance bank, and the French development agency.
Jobs and growth will also be a theme of the Pretoria summit, at which Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso, the presidents of the European Council and EU Commission respectively, will pay tribute to Mandela, the former South African president.
The EU leaders will then sit around the table with South Africa President Jacob Zuma for a wide-ranging summit at which action on piracy off the coast of Somalia will also be high on the agenda.
Action on Indian Ocean ‘piracy’
“The EU will propose a partnership with the South African government on cooperation with regards to maritime security in the Indian Ocean,” Raquel Patricio Gomez, a European Commission spokeswoman, told EurActiv.
Pretoria has previously conducted its own piracy operations in the Mozambican Channel, and EurActiv understands that Brussels could be supportive of a maritime security presence organised under the flag of the South African Development Community.
Other subjects on the summit agenda include: climate change, global governance, trade and development issues.
“This is a particularly important summit,” Barroso said. “Our joint action makes a difference for our citizens and contributes to bringing our two continents closer together.”
South Africa is the only African member of the G20 and the BRICS and was a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2011-2012.
The EU and its member states remain Pretoria’s most important donor, providing some 70% of the total cooperation funds, which make up 1.3% of South Africa’s budget.
- 15 Oct. 2013: EU-South Africa Joint Cooperation Council due to meet in Brussels