South Africa Foreign Policy

By | March 24, 2021

SADC member states

SADC member states

As a major country in African continent according to ehistorylib, South Africa pursues an active foreign policy. As the richest and strongest country on the African continent, South Africa has a special responsibility to promote peace in Africa. South Africa attaches high priority to relations with other African states, in particular with the countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The focus is on economic cooperation and the resolution of political conflicts. South Africa’s economy is very intertwined with the other members of the Customs Union (SACU), Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini (Swaziland). With Lesotho,South Africa has set up binational commissions in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

The self-image of the South African government, specifically the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, with regard to its role in the world community and on the continent is shaped by national and economic policy interests. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted at the international level at the end of September 2015 are important here. Think tanks such as SAIIA provide advice and comment.

The relationship with Zimbabwe turned out to be problematic. Former President Thabo Mbeki had stubbornly pursued his so-called “silent diplomacy” as a mediator. His successor, ex-President Jacob Zuma, convened a new team of mediators in November 2009 after the Mbeki team had brokered an interim agreement on the formation of a joint government in Harare. South Africa does benefit from the exodus of Zimbabwean skilled workers to the country at the Cape and their money transfers are also important for society and the economy in Zimbabwe; but the large number of refugees from Zimbabwe are a strain on relations between the two countries. In response to this, there were previously contrary political measures, such as mass expulsions.

The political importance of South Africa on the continent is controversial: African governments, some South African political advisors, the EU and the USA like to attribute a strategic leadership role to the country as an “African hegemon”. Others consider South Africa’s real power resources to be overestimated, which is evident in the development problems in their own country. The economic strengthening of Nigeria and the associated political interests also have an impact on South Africa’s diplomacy and role on the continent. This debate is currently ongoing with a view to the region (SADC countries) and the African Union (AU)guided. South Africa’s foreign policy self-image towards states on the African continent is also being discussed in the context of the corona pandemic.

On the one hand, South Africa appears on the continent as a power for peace; Nelson Mandela, who mediated in several peace processes – for example in Burundi – advocated this. In addition, South Africa has repeatedly led the African Union’s peacekeeping missions. On the other hand, South Africa is active in security policy on the continent and in southern Africa, for example in Lesotho in 1998 and 2014. South Africa’s security policy is based on international agreements and its seat on the UN Security Council – as a long-standing, non-permanent member – which some experts have observed critically.

Some high-ranking ex-military members of the army of the apartheid regime founded private security companies or entered the lucrative arms trade. Some are by no means only active in South Africa.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the journal Strategic Review for Southern Africa analyze security policy issues, with the ISS creating numerous studies and policy papers and making them available for download. In contrast, the African Center for Constructive Conflict Resolution (ACCORD) is primarily concerned with questions of peace policy. It offers peace training and publishes the magazines Conflict Trends and the African Journal on Conflict Resolution, which are available for download.

In the internationally comparative Fragile State Index of the Fund for Peace, South Africa ranks 85th out of 178 countries.

South-South Relations

Improved South-South relations, especially in the economic and peace policy area, are a central concern of South African politics, and various research centers and think tanks are working accordingly. South Africa sees like-minded partners in the “emerging economies” of Asia and Latin America. In 2003, exchanges between India, South Africa and Brazil on trade and defense issues began, for example in the context of IBSA dialogue forums.

Cooperation was agreed with China in April 2000, and since then political and economic relations have been deepened with bilateral and multilateral agreements. In December 2015, the VI. FOCAC Forum on Relations between China and African Countries. The next one was organized by Beijing in early September 2018.

At the end of 2010, China proposed that South Africa be invited to the annual meetings of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China). Since April 2011, South Africa has been participating in meetings of the community now known as the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), which German Africa experts and economists also commented on. In March 2013, South Africa hosted the fifth summit of the BRIGS countries in Durban. In mid-2014, the establishment of a separate BRICS bank was discussed. It opened in July 2015. In mid-April 2016, this New Development Bank issued its first loans, including 180 million US dollars to South Africa, more followed in August 2017. In 2018 South Africa held the rotating BRICS chairmanship. The 10th BRICS summit took place in Johannesburg at the end of July 2018.

Bilateral relations with Germany

For Germany, too, South Africa is a particularly important political discussion partner in Africa. The two countries have been working closely together since 1994; the ” German-South African Binational Commission “, which serves as the framework for bilateral cooperation, was set up in 1996. In addition to political and diplomatic dialogue, the broad and intensive relationships include development cooperation. The vocational training cooperation and urban development projects are to be mentioned; The latter include, for example, a comprehensive climate resilience plan for eThekwini supported by GIZ.

In the context of the G20 summit, which took place in Hamburg in early July 2017, the German Development Institute (DIE) and the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) cooperated.

Bilateral talks and official visit by Chancellor Angela Merkel in Pretoria on February 6, 2020

On February 6, 2020, Chancellor Angela Merkel came to Pretoria for a bilateral exchange. She met the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa for talks on economic, regional and international issues. Germany and South Africa are currently non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, both belong to the G-20 and South Africa currently has the rotating chairmanship of the African Union. In bilateral cooperation, civil society and education policy cooperation were on the agenda. Participation in a meeting of German and South African business representatives was also part of the program. In addition, she wanted to find out more about Future Africa research during an exchange with students from the University of Pretoria.