Netherlands Prime Minister to visit SA

Pretoria: South Africa and the Kingdom of the Netherlands will in the next two days build on their bilateral relations, says the Presidency.

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte will tomorrow begin his two-day official visit to South Africa at the invitation of President Jacob Zuma.

"Since 1994, South Africa and the Netherlands have forged a solid partnership that transcends many fields including economic, trade, science and technology, education, judicial, multilateral and culture to mention but a few.

"A Declaration of Intent (DOI) was signed on 11 October 2005, providing the framework for co-operation and for a bilateral consultations mechanism. The areas of co-operation include political, economic, cultural and social co-operation," said the Presidency.

Total trade between the two countries increased consistently from R27.1 billion in 2010 to R48.2 billion in 2014. Exports were valued at R14.2 billion in 2005 and increased to R27 billion in 2008.

"Netherlands has invested in about 40 projects in South Africa with direct investment volume estimated at over R15.4 billion over the period 2003 - 2015 in financial services, aerospace, transport, business services, biotechnology and IT & software.

"These projects have created 2 731 estimated jobs," said the Presidency.

It said the strong business component of the official visit provides an opportunity for South African businesses to explore new partnerships and increase trade and investment with the Netherlands.

Cooperation between Dutch and South African universities has a history of well over a hundred years.

In agriculture, the Presidency said a Statement of Intent was signed between the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Gauteng Provincial Government in July 2014.

"The statement is about greenhouse solutions, development of agro parks in Gauteng, vocational training for horticulture, demonstration of Dutch greenhouse technology in local setting, and business models for public-private partnerships and cooperatives.

"Another area of cooperation is the RSA-Netherland Horticulture Business Platform, a group of South African and Dutch public and private stakeholders, promoting greenhouse farming in the country for food security and rural employment," said the Presidency.

The cooperation was established in March 2013 in Pretoria and stakeholders meet twice a year to discuss progress and plan activities.

The Presidency said the two countries work closely together in sustainable water management and have anchored that cooperation in a Memorandum of Understanding between the South African Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment (I and M) signed in 2013. The cooperation involves many private and public and educational partners.

Heavy investment in transport

The Presidency also said the Dutch transport and logistics sector has shown its commitment and confidence in the SA market by significantly investing in the country.

"There are at least 18 large companies with a physical presence in the country, including international players such as VDL Bus and Coach, Damen Shipyards, Mammoet and Royal HaskoningDHV.

"The Dutch government financially supports an International Labour Organisation-implemented project to improve labour relations and port worker skills in the harbours of Richards Bay and Durban, and is also investigating the establishment of a Maritime/Supply Chain Executive Course in collaboration with the University of Stellenbosch and relevant Dutch partners," said the Presidency.

The Presidency also said a key area of mutual interest is smart and sustainable port (and other transport) developments. Rotterdam's environmental protection agency is currently concluding a MoU with the municipality of eThekwini and Transnet to provide environmental protection advice.

In renewable energy, the Presidency said the Netherlands identified renewable energy as a key sector in 2012 and the country's mission in South Africa commissioned market entry studies on four subsectors in 2013, which are waste-to-energy, bio energy, green buildings and wind energy.

"Several Dutch companies are currently following up on that mission by investing or doing further feasibility studies," said the Presidency.

Key partnerships in health, science

The Presidency said the two countries formed relations in the health sector in April 2014 when the task force health-care (TFHC) in the Netherlands decided to engage in a long-term relationship with South Africa.

"TFHC promotes sustainability in healthcare internationally. The partners in the platform are Dutch knowledge institutes, NGOs, government and companies.

"The Dutch identified an emphasis in South Africa on medical technology, hospital-building, medical research, medical training," said the Presidency.

The Presidency said the Netherlands is also a strategic partner for South Africa, specifically with their involvement in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.

"Another area of priority in this collaboration is in the field of astronomy and big data which gained momentum in 2012 following a visit by the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research (MWO) to explore collaboration," said the Presidency.