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SA, France sign power, rail deals

French President François Hollande says the deals will create thousands of jobs in SA.

President Jacob Zuma (R) stands with French President François Hollande (L) at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 14 October 2013. Picture: Alexander Joe/AFP

PRETORIA - France and South Africa have signed a $2 billion (R20 billion) agreement to build a thermal power plant in the country.

Announcing the pact in Pretoria on Monday, French President François Hollande said the sum included building a solar plant, but didn't give many more details about the energy deal.

The thermal power plant draws in French energy firm GDF Suez and is part of South Africa's multi-billion dollar programme to set up new power plants that will double electricity supply over the next two decades.

Hollande also announced the conclusion of a $5.4 billion (R54 billion) deal by Alstom to overhaul South Africa's passenger rail service.

The deal involves building 600 trains and 3,600 wagons between 2015 and 2025.

Hollande called the deals an example of an excellent partnership between the two countries that would create several thousand jobs.

He also said the arrangement demonstrated France's continued commitment to South Africa.

The French president and eight members of his Cabinet were welcomed by a 21-gun salute at the Union Buildings in Pretoria earlier on Monday.

Ahead of the trip, Hollande said he would also be asking South Africa to take a more active role in peacekeeping operations on the continent.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Sunday announced his country would almost double its troop in the troubled Central African Republic (CAR).

Hollande is expected ask Zuma to use his muscle at the African Union to get swift deployment of peacekeeping troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Chad and Cameroon.