South Africa and France signed energy and rail agreements during French President Francois Hollande\'s state visit to promote bilateral ties, it was announced here on Monday. One agreement involved the building of a thermal power plant in South Africa with French aid totalling 2 billion U. S. dollars, Holland told reporters after meeting with his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma. Under another deal worth 5.4 billion dollars, the French company Alstom will help overhaul South Africa\'s passenger rail service PRASA by building 600 trains and 3,600 wagons over a 10- year period from 2015 to 2025. Hollande said the deal was \"the largest in recent years\" and an example of an \"excellent partnership\" between the two countries. The French president arrived earlier Monday for his first two- day state visit to South Africa. He met with Zuma soon after arrival to discuss a wide range of issues, including cooperation on peace and security in the continent and in promoting Africa\'s regional infrastructure development program and economic integration initiatives. Cooperation between the two countries cuts across a broad spectrum of areas including such areas as defense, development cooperation, science and technology, arts and culture, energy and agriculture, Zuma said at the joint press conference with Hollande. Zuma said he and Hollande will address the South Africa-France Business Forum later Monday to encourage the business sector on both sides to use opportunities opened up by this cordial relationship between the two countries. \"South African companies in particular are looking forward to opportunities to increase their exports into the French market,\" said Zuma. He said he briefed Hollande on South Africa\'s efforts to stimulate the economy, through our new socio-economic blueprint, the National Development Plan aimed at boosting economic activities in six key areas -- Infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism. \"We encourage the business community in both countries to further expand cooperation in these areas. Already there are ongoing investments by French companies in major infrastructure projects in the country,\" Zuma said. Zuma and Hollande also discussed developments in their respective regions. \"We applaud the role that France continues to play in strengthening the European Union,\" said Zuma. \"A strong EU is of strategic importance to our country given the close economic and trade links that bind us together.\" With regards to Africa, both leaders agreed to support the ongoing efforts led by the African Union and the United Nations in promoting peace and security on the continent, according to Zuma. France is South Africa\'s third largest trading and investment partner within the European Union. A number of French public and private companies have made significant investments in South Africa. Between the period 2004- 2012 investments worth 15 billion rands (about 1.5 billion dollars) by French companies were recorded, creating significant job opportunities, according to figures from the South African government.