France loans $136 million to fund South African solar projects

The French government has signed an agreement to loan €100 million ($136 million) to South African state power utility Eskom to aid its development of solar power in the country.

The deal was agreed during a summit between South African President Jacob Zuma and his French counterpart, Francois Hollande. The two leaders met in Pretoria earlier this week to explore ways in which the two countries can better collaborate in certain fields, including energy, agriculture, science and technology, and defence.

Further details of the solar deal are yet to be released, but this latest investment by the French government is a continuation of France’s commitment to invest in South Africa, said Zuma.

South Africa has revealed ambitious plans to wean itself off fossil fuel reliance over the coming years, pledging to invest $5 billion in solar and other clean energy projects. Currently, coal-fired power plants provide 85% of the country’s electricity.

The city of Pretoria in particular has set itself ambitious renewable energy objectives, committing to cut its carbon emissions that are currently the highest of any city in all of Africa.

As a major producer and exporter of coal, progress in the field of renewable energy has been slow going. Recently, South Africa’s government invested heavily in new coal-fired power plants in an attempt to help stimulate the country’s burgeoning economy.

France’s investment in South Africa’s fledgling solar industry further strengthens the relations between the two countries.

"Since our democracy in 1994, France has extensively suported our reconstruction and development efforts," said President Zuma. "We appreciate the ongoing development support."