South Africa’s is the most advanced and diversified economy on the African continent and is not only a market of great interest in terms of size, but is also the gateway to sub-Saharan African countries due to its infrastructure network, the presence of internationally recognised financial institutions and the independence of the judiciary.
It is Africa’s second largest economy after Nigeria in terms of gross domestic product volume and the post-Covid growth recovery is now largely underway.
Diplomatic and economic relations between Italy and South Africa have always been relaxed, which has made communication and business between the two countries smooth.
With a view to boosting South Africa’s attractiveness, then, President Cyril Ramaphosa launched a development conference aimed at national and international investors at the end of 2022, during which he illustrated the measures envisaged in a stimulus plan to boost investment in numerous sectors, starting with urban, residential and tourism infrastructure.
There is a strong demand for Made in Italy products in South Africa, with Italian exports amounting to EUR 2.4 billion per year, mainly consisting of agricultural mechanics, automotive, food processing plants, renewable energy and construction. Also worth mentioning are the 3Fs: food, supplies and fashion.
A gateway to all of South Africa
South Africa must be seen not only as a market in its own right, but also as a platform for the whole African Continent and as an ‘influencer’ country for big investments, research and development.
Indeed, its strong collaboration with the Italian state is also manifested in the fields of research and economic development. There are many areas of collaboration:
- urban regeneration for the construction of smart cities
- artificial intelligence and big data
- sustainability, renewable energy and biotechnology
- aerospace and astronomy
There are also intense relations between the two countries on technological and research issues. Suffice it to say that as much as 20 per cent of the energy from renewable sources produced in South Africa comes from ENEL power plants in the area; that Cineca in Bologna (Italy’s largest computer centre) is in constant contact with South African government bodies and universities; and that a huge project related to the construction of the world’s largest radio telescope will see the contribution of the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) and a network of 11 Italian SMEs active in aerospace.
Energy, healthcare, food and tech are the sectors with the highest potential. But excellent opportunities present themselves for all those Italian companies that are willing to travel to South Africa and invest some time and attention in complementary services such as training, assistance or logistics, remembering that there are major projects that bring business from South Africa to neighbouring markets as well.
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