Paris (AFP) - Paris and Pretoria signed Tuesday an agreement which could open the way for French nuclear giant Areva to bid to build eight nuclear reactors in South Africa worth up to $50 billion (39.5 billion euros).
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and South African Tina Joematt Pettersson signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in nuclear energy development which is necessary for any commercial deal.
"Our common objective is to permit South Africa to meet its energy needs by sharing the know-how of this outstanding French sector," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal.
Last month, South Africa signed a similar agreement with Russia, which provoked a political firestorm when a statement appeared to suggest Rosatom had already been selected to develop the power stations.
South Africa, the continent's most industrialised nation, currently has only one nuclear power plant.
Heavily dependent on coal for generating electricity, South Africa has trouble meeting demand and limited supply is one factor seen holding back economic growth.
Areva, which is majority-owned by the French state, is also interested in the South African reactor project.
"Areva is ready to support these projects, in particular with the technology of its third-generation EPR reactor," said Nadal.
Areva is currently building EPR reactors in France, Finland and China.