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France can fund SA nuclear project – Sapin

French government working with EDF and Areva to enhance offerings.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin believes France has capacity to fund and guarantee financing for South Africa’s new nuclear build programme.

Speaking to Moneyweb during a working visit to French firm Airbus Helicopters’ Southern Africa base, he said nuclear operators Électricité de France (EDF) and Areva intend on submitting a joint bid for the contract.

The largely State-owned EDF operates the largest nuclear fleet in the world, with 58 of its 73 units located in France. After overhauling its technology, it is now working with the French government to reform its civil nuclear offerings and its restructuring, Sapin said.    

“We are working with EDF and Areva so that together, they become a single group that can act together on the market. Based on that capacity, their skills and the support of the [French] government, we are able to respond to the energy concerns of South Africa. We want to offer the best technology and the financial means to implement this technology in the country,” Sapin said.

EDF and Areva are to compete with the likes of Russia’s Rosatom, China’s SNPTC and South Korea’s KEPCO for the contract. The companies are expected to submit a response to Eskom’s Request for Information (RFI) regarding the proposed new nuclear build programme by April 28, 2017.

“We have demonstrated that we have the technology, the capacity and the financing to make the large investments, which would put us shoulder to shoulder with the other candidates. France has a legitimate claim in this domain,” said Sapin.

He also called for the procurement process to be fully transparent.

“France is not afraid of competition and is not afraid of transparency. The best for South Africa should win,” Sapin later told reporters in Pretoria.

The minister’s working visit to South Africa, comes less than two months after that of Muriel Pénicaud, the CEO of Business France and the French Ambassador for International Investments. 

Citing the size of South Africa’s economy, it’s leadership role across the continent and G20 membership, Sapin said the country is a priority for France.  

“South Africa is fundamental from a strategic, economic and political standpoint… South Africa is an international partner and strategic partner that we have not worked with enough in the past but that we will be working with [more] in the future,” he said.

South Africa is home to 366 French companies – of which 29 are listed on France’s benchmark CAC40 index – who employ more than 37 000 people directly.  

Of the 20 South African companies operating in France, Aspen and Steinhoff are the largest, employing a combined 15 000 people.



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