Huffington Post: Ambassador Schäfer's regular opinion column

25.06.2018 - Article

HuffPost column: In braais or business, you need friends who stick around

'Good education, safe jobs, decent pay – all through South African-German partnering.'

A good friend is a friend who's here to stay — that's not only true for house parties and braais. That very thought also rang true to me during a recent factory visit.

A South African braai
A South African braai© dpa-Zentralbild

It was at the Volkswagen plant in Uitenhage near Port Elizabeth, where the renowned German car manufacturer employs around 3,800 people at its site and is indirectly providing jobs to thousands more throughout the region. Like many other German companies, Volkswagen has been active in South Africa for decades — more than 70 years. This year, Volkswagen celebrated the launch of its new Polo in Uitenhage, showcasing a multibillion-rand investment in plant, products and suppliers to develop local content.

A good friend is a friend that's here to stay.

Several hundred kilometres up north, in Rosslyn, BMW has been running a training centre for workers in the auto and manufacturing sectors for the past 40 years. The carmaker has provided millions of training hours at the site. This February, it opened a new state-of-the-art academy, where the company will be hosting 300 apprentices per year.

A good investor is an investor that's here to stay.

Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Siemens, Bosch, BASF, Merck — these arejust a few examples of several hundred German companies that have been active in South Africa for decades, and in some cases, more than a century. And more than that: They have been here for so long, they have gone through thick and thin with South Africa. They indeed feel like South African corporate citizens and act accordingly. What's crucial: They are not only investing here; they are investing here with a view to stay — to create lasting value and expertise in South Africa.

These firms don't want to make a quick buck and leave. They invest in training and skills development. They invest in local content. They commit to economic transformation. They engage with the local communities they work in — from running after-school programmes to supporting healthcare, sports and life-skills projects.

Good education, safe jobs, decent pay — all through South African-German partnering.

Germany is South Africa's second-largest trading partner — we marked another record year in 2017. Some 100,000 jobs have been created by German companies in South Africa. These are impressive numbers. But what is even more telling is to look behind these numbers.

German companies invest in engineering and manufacturing, thus upgrading the industrial basis of South Africa and enabling local companies, engineers and workers to export their South African products back into the world markets.

No more colonial or neocolonial trade relations with the export of primary resources, but integration into the value chains of big multinational companies.

From large car firms to specialised engineering consultants, German and European businesses are committed to supporting sustainable and inclusive economic development in South Africa.

Just one example as to what that actually means: More than 95 percent of the vehicles Mercedes produces in South Africa are exported to countries all across the world. That means: It's actually South African workers — using German expertise and technology — who are creating products that are in high demand across the globe. These are skills developed here and here to stay!

President Cyril Ramaphosa launched an impressive investment initiative this year, seeking to attract more interest in South Africa from abroad.

In Germany and Europe, we stand ready to take up the offer, encouraging investment that is here to stay — like a good friend.

And like good friends who we want to stay at our braai, German companies need to know what the future house rules will be at the barbecue party. They need planning certainty. They need to be able to rely on partners they can trust and respect.

They need to know that everyone at the party will play along with the same fair and transparent rules, South African and foreign guests alike — so that no one gets their fingers burnt in the process. And so that everyone will be able to enjoy many more meals together.

And on this tasteful note, my meaty metaphors shall end.

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