Head of EAER to travel on economic and scientific mission to South Africa
BERN, Switzerland, September 2, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER, will lead a joint economic and scientific mission to South Africa between 4 and 8 September. It is the first time since the creation of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI at the beginning of the year that a foreign mission led by the head of department will cover the topics of economic affairs, science, research and innovation with the aim of harnessing specific synergy potentials in these areas. South Africa is Switzerland's most important trade partner and export market in Africa and is also a priority country for research cooperation.
The visit is taking place at the invitation of the South African Minister for Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, who last met Federal Councillor Schneider Ammann last summer in Zurich during working discussions on the fringes of a meeting of the Swiss-South African mixed economic committee. The aim of the mission is to deepen bilateral relations in the abovementioned fields with particular emphasis on 'energy and the environment'.
Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann will be accompanied during his mission by representatives from business and science. As well as holding discussions with trade and industry minister, Rob Davies, science and technology minister, Derek Hanekom, and higher education and training minister, Blade Nzimande, a series of meetings is also planned with businesses and institutions in the fields of education, research and innovation. On 4 September, ahead of the mission, the 4th meeting of the Swiss-South African mixed economic committee will take place in Pretoria.
South Africa is Switzerland's most important trade partner on the African continent. In 2012 the bilateral trade volume reached around CHF 1.7 billion. Over 100 Swiss companies have branches in South Africa while some also operate large production facilities there. Many of the most important Swiss businesses have a longstanding presence in South Africa. The country is a strategically important location due to its resources and well developed infrastructure and is often used as an economic hub for the African continent. At the end of 2011 the level of Swiss direct investments in the country amounted to over CHF 2.2 billion, making Switzerland the fifth largest country of origin of foreign direct investment in South Africa. At the end of 2011 Swiss firms in South Africa employed almost 34 500 people.
South Africa is also one of eight non-European priority countries in Switzerland's education, research and innovation policy. The bilateral agreement on scientific and technological cooperation with South Africa was signed in December 2007, which was then followed by the Swiss-South African Joint Research Programme (SSAJRP). The first phase of the programme (2008-2012) saw joint projects financed in the fields of public health and biomedicine, bio and nano technologies and humanities and social sciences. The topic of renewable energies (Greentech and Cleantech) has been added to the existing portfolio for the current phase of the programme (2013-2016).