A planned crude oil refinery to be built in the Eastern Cape will save South Africa about R12.6bn a year in energy costs, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
"This country stands to save... once the refinery is running, and could export oil across Africa," Zuma said in a speech prepared for his visit to PetroSA's gas liquid refinery in Mossel Bay on Thursday.
He said the project, expected to be built by 2015, would showcase South Africa's competitive ability to its global counterparts which was important for the image of the country.
It would also help the country escape from the current dependency trap where refined automotive products had to be imported, he said.
Once completed, the refinery in the Coega Industrial Development Zone near Port Elizabeth would be the biggest in Africa.
"We welcome the fact that PetroSA is making its impact, not only in job creation but in empowering the people as well. It employs close to 2000 people, while 27 500 more will be absorbed within the crude oil refinery that is planned," he said.
Zuma also welcomed the impressive growth of PetroSA from its successful merger of Mossgas, Soekor and parts of the Strategic Fuel Fund in 2002.
"To be able to reach the markets in Europe, the USA, Caribbean, Middle East and the Far East, is an important achievement.
"With the company supplying about seven percent of South Africa's liquid fuel needs, indications are that we will lessen our dependence on foreign sources of fuel," Zuma said.
Referring to the company's partnership with the University of the Western Cape for a R36m sponsorship to establish a Synthetic Fuels Research Facility at the university, Zuma said it would help bridge the gap between academic knowledge and practical involvement in the field.
"This is not only much needed skills intervention. It is also part of opening up opportunities to previously disadvantaged institutions to enable them to make a significant contribution to economic development," Zuma added.