Charles hosts first State Visit as King for South African President
London, Nov 22 (PTI) Britain's King Charles III is on Tuesday hosting his first State Visit as monarch for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who arrived here for a two-day visit which the UK government said would "turbocharge" bilateral relations.
William and Kate, the Prince and Princess of Wales, greeted Ramaphosa and his wife Tshepo Motsepe on behalf of the King before a ceremonial welcome at Horse Guards Parade in central London.
A state carriage procession then conveyed the dignitaries to a private lunch at Buckingham Palace before a grand State Banquet hosted by the monarch and Queen Consort Camilla at the palace on Tuesday evening.
"South Africa is already the UK’s biggest trading partner on the continent, and we have ambitious plans to turbocharge infrastructure investment and economic growth together," said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
"I look forward to welcoming President Ramaphosa to London this week to discuss how we can deepen the partnership between our two great nations and capitalise on shared opportunities, from trade and tourism and security and defence,” he said.
State Visits are gala events involving pomp and pageantry, decided by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) as an opportunity to promote and boost international relationships with specific countries.
The South African visit marks the first since the passing of Queen Elizabeth II in September and also the first since before the COVID pandemic. The Queen’s last State Visit was that of former US President Donald Trump in 2019 and over the course of her 75-year reign she played host to 116 such events, including three from India in 1963, 1990 and 2009.
Two hundred horses and a thousand soldiers are taking part in Tuesday’s military parade for Ramaphosa, alongside gun salutes.
Downing Street has announced the next phase of the UK-South Africa Infrastructure Partnership, supporting South Africa’s economic growth through major infrastructure developments and offering increased access to UK companies to projects worth up to GBP 5.37 billion over the next three years. The UK government has also confirmed new grant-funded technical assistance to South Africa to help unlock green hydrogen opportunities and boost skills in this key sector.
South Africa is Africa's second largest economy and dubbed the UK’s biggest trading partner on the continent, with trade worth GBP 10.7 billion annually. Unlocking export finance offers significant opportunities for British businesses to invest and trade, Downing Street said.
Following the State Banquet, Sunak will welcome Ramaphosa to Downing Street for a bilateral meeting and lunch on Wednesday. A new education and skills partnership between the UK and the South African governments is also planned to promote shared learning in technical and vocational education, driving youth employment.
"The UK’s relationship with South Africa is hugely important to us. Together we are working to deliver for the British and South African people, creating jobs, enhancing trade and investment, and boosting inclusive economic growth,” said UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.
"This week's State Visit, the first under His Majesty the King, is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our ties but also allows us to trigger greater growth, create even more opportunities for British and South African businesses alike, and further promote South Africa’s transition to green energy,” he said.
The UK and South Africa have announced the creation of a new Partnership on Minerals for Future Clean Energy Technologies to promote increased responsible exploration, production and processing of minerals in South and Southern Africa.
The partnership is expected to utilise the UK’s expertise as the home to leading global mining houses and financial services centre for metals to bolster sustainable and responsible production.
"Today we’re moving into a new era of our dynamic trade relationship with South Africa, with exciting collaboration on infrastructure, clean technology, and renewable energy sources. These new opportunities will unlock trade and investment for businesses from the Eastern Cape to East Anglia and boost growth, create jobs and future-proof our economies against a changing world,” said UK Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch.
The last UK State Visit from South Africa was over a decade ago, hosted by the late Queen in 2010 when she welcomed President Jacob Zuma. PTI AK ZH ZH