French President Macron arrives in SA to talk vaccines, trade and Mozambique insurgency

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  • This will be Emmanuel Macron’s first state visit to South Africa.
  • The economy and Covid-19 vaccines are high on the agenda, but he and Ramaphosa are also likely to discuss the insurgency in Mozambique.
  • Macron’s visit comes after one to Rwanda, as the two countries strengthen ties.

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives for his first visit to South Africa on Friday.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will host Macron in Pretoria, in a visit that will focus on vaccine manufacture in South Africa.

After bilateral talks at the Union Buildings, Ramaphosa and Macron will hold a high-level seminar at the University of Pretoria, where they will meet with scientists and industry to discuss building capacity for vaccine manufacture, according to the Presidency.

South Africa, along with India, has taken the lead in lobbying the World Trade Organisation to enact a TRIPS waiver for the Covid-19 vaccine, known as the ACT Accelerator. The WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) protects the intellectual property of vaccine manufacturers.

If the agreement is waived for the Covid-19 vaccine, generic pharmaceutical manufacturers could start producing the vaccine at a more affordable rate. It would be a boon for South Africa, which is already home to the Aspen vaccine manufacturing facility in Gqeberha and the public-private Biovac facility in Cape Town.

South Africa is also France’s largest trading partner on the African continent, and the visit will also help to strengthen ties and boost investment.

France is already lobbying the World Bank and IMF for a greater share for Africa of the Special Drawing Rights reserve fund that could help world economies recover from the pandemic. Ramaphosa was among the African leaders who travelled to Paris last week for Macron’s Summit on the Financing of African Economies.

Frances President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Sou
Frances President Emmanuel Macron with Cyril Ramaphosa.

A topic not on the official agenda may be of equal significance to the state visit. The meeting comes a day after Ramaphosa travelled to Maputo for the Southern African Development Community's  extraordinary summit on the insurgency in northern Mozambique, where leaders discussed a regional intervention.

Macron will be flying from Kigali, where he met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has shown an interest in intervening in the conflict. After years of a frosty relationship, France and Rwanda have strengthened their ties, which could see Macron support Kagame’s intervention efforts.

While in Kigali on Thursday, Macron also took responsibility for his country’s role in the 1994 genocide, and its complicity in not acting soon enough to stop the killing. The admission follows a commission of inquiry ordered by Macron on an issue that has been a matter of disagreement between the two countries.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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