Sunak hosts Ramaphosa at No 10 to deepen UK-South Africa ties

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said he wanted to “deepen and broaden” links with the UK as he met Rishi Sunak for talks in No 10.

The president was in Downing Street as part of his state visit to the UK, the first by a foreign dignitary in the reign of the King.

Mr Ramaphosa said he wanted to discuss trade and investment as well as the transition to a zero-carbon economy.

“For us this is a great opportunity to deepen and broaden our links, links that are historic in many, many ways,” the president said.

Mr Sunak said it was a “historic state visit” and “South Africa and the UK are obviously very strong partners, allies, friends and we share so many of the same objectives – notably transitioning to clean energy while creating jobs and opportunity for our citizens”.

The state visit was marked by the UK and South Africa signing an agreement to strengthen their health partnership to help prevent future pandemics.

As part of the agreement, British and South African institutions will collaborate on nine research projects on issues including health systems, mental health, surgery and HIV, according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

South African President State Visit to the UK
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa to 10 Downing Street (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The two countries are also working together to tackle climate change, with the UK contributing funding to the Just Energy Transition Partnership with South Africa to help it decarbonise its economy.

The announcement came as the president visited the Francis Crick Institute biomedical research facility in London with the Earl of Wessex. The two men also toured Kew Gardens.

At Kew, the president and Edward saw plants on display in the Temperate House, home to more than 10,000 rare and endangered plants from around the world, including South Africa.

Mr Ramaphosa was presented with seeds from Leucospermum conocarpodendron – the South African flower known as the tree pincushion – which has been decreasing in numbers on the Western Cape.

Mr Ramaphosa with the Earl of Wessex during a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Mr Ramaphosa with the Earl of Wessex during a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

The gift marks a plan to open a South African National Seed Bank for Wild Species next year, beginning a transfer of duplicate seeds held at The Millennium Seed Bank.

The two-day state visit saw Mr Ramaphosa visit Buckingham Palace for a lavish banquet in his honour hosted by the King on Tuesday night.

A Cabinet minister has defended the event laid on at a time of hardship for millions of Britons.

Buckingham Palace guests dined on grilled brill – a delicate flatfish – followed by pheasant from the Windsor estate and, for dessert, iced vanilla parfait with caramelised apples, all washed down with fine wines.

Mr Ramaphosa with the King at Buckingham Palace
Mr Ramaphosa made a final call on the King at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday (Henry Nicholls/PA)

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said the visit would help boost trade, and growing the economy was the prize which mattered – “whether it’s pheasant on the plate or pie and mash”.

Mr Stride told LBC radio station: “Right at the heart, actually, of our soft power, as it’s often called, is this ability to project our sense of history and pageant.”

Asked about the timing, with people struggling with the cost of living, Mr Stride said: “I would see it in terms of engaging with our most important trading partner on the continent of Africa, with whom we have very important ties of history and trade and economics.

“What really we want to come out of this is a stronger and healthier UK economy, and that benefits everybody.”

The state visit came to an end with Mr Ramaphosa making a final call on the King at Buckingham Palace and, after a meeting which lasted around 10 minutes, Charles waved the statesman off from the royal residence’s grand entrance.