- Foreign Policy
- South Africa and Africa
- Asia and Australia
- The Middle East
- The Americas
- The Caribbean
- The United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland
- International Bodies
South Africa is a multifaceted, multicultural and multiracial
country that embraces the concept of ubuntu. Meaning "humaness", ubuntu is reflected in the idea that South Africans
affirm their humanity when they affirm the humanity of
This approach has played a major role in the forging of a South African national consciousness and in the process of democratic transformation and nation-building. The philosophy also translates into an approach to international relations that respects all nations, peoples and cultures. It recognises that it is in South Africa's national interest to promote and support the positive development of others.
Striving to promote South Africa's national interest in a complex
and fast-changing world, the mandate of the Department
of International Relations and Cooperation is to formulate,
coordinate, implement and manage the country's foreignpolicy
Foreign policy is guided by the values of ubuntu and the commitment to mutually beneficial partnerships with Africa and other countries of the world. Within the multilateral system, South Africa continues to work for global political and socio-economic stability, security and peace.
South Africa promotes development, security, human rights and international law through its participation in international forums, such as the UN and its various agencies.
South Africa regards Africa as the centrepiece of its foreign
policy and remains committed to promoting the African
Agenda, particularly regional peace, security and stability, as
the key determinants for socio-economic development on the
Through the African Renaissance and International Cooperation Fund, the department has in 2011/12 supported various initiatives across the Continent aimed at realising these objectives.
The African Union was developed along the lines of the European Union
(EU) and has 10 commissioners overseeing departments
including political affairs, agriculture and peace and security.
Its founding charter mandates it to work for "democracy,
human rights and development", while it also promotes international
cooperation, investment in the continent and sends
peacekeepers to trouble spots in Africa.
South Africa was instrumental in establishing the AU and its organs, which are the:
- Executive Council
- specialised technical committees
- financial institutions
- Permanent Representatives Committee
- Peace and Security Council (PSC)
- Pan-African Parliament (PAP)
- Economic, Social and Cultural Council
- Court of Justice
- African Court on Human and People's Rights
- African Commission on Human and People's Rights.
South Africa ended its term in the AU's PSC on 1 April 2012
in line with the principle of rotation among members of the
On relinquishing its seat in the council, South Africa emphasised
its commitment to continue contributing to the resolution of peace and security challenges in Africa. In July 2012, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, was elected to become the first female head of the AU Commission. development programmes.
South Africa, as one of the initiating countries, played a key
role in the establishment of Nepad and the African Peer
Review Mechanism (APRM), and hosts the Nepad Agency
and APRM Secretariat in Midrand.
In April 2012, South Africa hosted the APRM Focal Points meeting in Durban.
The APRM Focal Points are ministers or high-level government officials who report directly to their
respective heads of state or government. It follows on the presentation of the Operating Rules of
Procedure for the APRM by the late Minister of Public Service and Administration, Mr Roy Padayachie, in Kenya in March 2012.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the operationalisation of the newly adopted Operating Procedures for the APRM and consider the Revised Country Self-Assessment Questionnaire. The Operating Procedures were unanimously adopted by the 16th Summit of the APRM Forum in January 2012.
The SADC developed from the Southern African Development
Coordination Conference, which was established in
1980. It adopting its current name during a summit meeting in
Windhoek, Namibia in August 1992.
The initial member states are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho,
Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland,
Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. South Africa became a
member after 1994.
In July 2012, Ministers from the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation convened in Pretoria for their 14th meeting, which charted a way forward for the region.The organ, which is chaired by South Africa, considered reports on the mediation process in Madagascar, elections in the region, the security situation in the region – including an update on the situation in the Democratic Republic of
Congo and progress reports – which were handed over to the incoming chair of the organ, Tanzania.
In June 2011, 26 African countries signed an agreement to create a free trade area (FTA) that covers more than half of Africa.
By June 2014, nearly 60% of South Africa's economy is expected to be a single FTA, covering the SADC, the East African community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa.
President Jacob Zuma travelled to Seoul, Republic of Korea,
in March 2012 to participate in the two-day Nuclear Security
Summit, which was a follow-up to talks held in Washington in
South Africa established diplomatic relations with Democratic People's Republic of Korea in August 1998.
In the south Asian region, South Africa enjoys friendly and cordial relations with India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan and Maldives.
In 2012, Japan and South Africa celebrated 102 years of official relations. Strengthening South-South relations remains an important pillar of South African's foreign policy, especially in Asia, a region that has surpassed the EU as South Africa's biggest trading partner.
In March 2012, Chinese President Hu Jintao paid a courtesy call to President Jacob Zuma on the side-lines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul. In August 2012, the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, attended the UN Climate Change Conference in Thailand. South Africa's trade relations with India have flourished since the establishment of full diplomatic relations in 1993.
Trade statistics with India continue to reflect the potential that exists for expanding the commercial relationship. In March 2012, South Africa and Sri Lanka deepened their relations when Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane hosted that country's External Affairs Minister, Gamini Lakshman Peiris for talks in Pretoria. In May 2012, Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil was on a state visit to South Africa.
At the end of September 2012, the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ebrahim Ebrahim, paid a working visit to the Philippines to strengthen relations with that country, in the areas of trade, investment, tourism and culture.
In July 2011, the Prime Minister of Fiji, Mr Frank Bainimarama, accompanied by that country's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, visited South Africa to officially open the High Commission of Fiji in Pretoria.
South Africa and Australia have a history of productive cooperation across a range of sectors and issues, including fisheries protection, mining, law enforcement, sport, tourism, education and training (in fields such as ICT, public administration, mining and resources management), defence relations
and customs cooperation. Australia has offered scholarship programmes to South Africa and Africa as a whole. Australia is the sixth largest export destination for South African goods. The majority of goods exported from South Africa to Australia are finished goods.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation distinguishes between two clearly identifiable subregions in
the Middle East.
There is the Levant, which comprises Israel, Iraq, Jordan,
Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, and, on the other hand, the Arabian/Persian Gulf Region, consisting of the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Yemen.
In January 2012, President Jacob Zuma visited Qatar to promote peace in North Africa with a specific focus on Libya. In March 2012, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Dr Lindiwe Sisulu, signed a defence cooperation memorandum with Oman's Minister of Defence, Sayyid bin Saud bin Harib al-Busaidi.
In November 2012, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies and his Iraqi counterpart, Khairullah Hasan Babakr, signed an agreement aimed at strengthening economic ties between the two countries by exploring trade potential in various sectors.
Trade between South Africa and Iraq was valued at R197 million in 2011. In 2013, the Department of Trade and Industry sent a delegation to Iraq comprising government officials and the private
sector on an International Trade Initiative.
Formal relations between South Africa and the United States
of America (USA) go back as far as 1789 when the USA
opened a Consulate in Cape Town.
Cordial relations between the two countries deteriorated
during the apartheid years and in 1986, the USA Congress
introduced wide-ranging sanctions against South Africa in
terms of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act.
In July 2012, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe concluded a working visit to the USA where he attended the International Aids Conference in Washington DC. In August 2012, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane hosted the USA Secretary of State, Ms Hillary Clinton, for the second meeting of the South Africa-USA Strategic Dialogue.
The inaugural South Africa-USA business summit took place at the same time to strengthen economic cooperation between the two countries. The USA is South Africa's third largest trading partner and
a significant investor. Canada was strict in its application of sanctions against apartheid South Africa, but relations normalised fully in 1994 with the country's first democratic elections.
A state visit by then President Nelson Mandela to Canada in September 1998, cemented the good relationship that had developed between the two countries. In November 2012, Cabinet approved the State's entering into a treaty with Mexico on the Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.
The developing countries in Latin America continue to play an important role in international political bodies and formations such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the G20 (Brazil and Mexico), BRICS (Brazil), IBSA (Brazil) and the UN.
South Africa shared an important platform with countries from the Region (Brazil and Colombia) in the UN Security Council as non-permanent members for the period 2011 – 2012. South African business has extensive interests in the Latin America and Caribbean region: SAB Miller, AngloGold Ashanti, Naspers, Denel, Sasol, PetroSA. In November 2012, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane hosted her Argentine counterpart, Foreign Relations, International Trade Minister, Hector Timerman who was in South
Africa for the two-day third session of the South Africa-Argentina Binational Commission.
The links between South Africa and Argentina are strategic and they involve crucial long-term interests.
At the fourth South Africa/Chile Joint Consultative Mechanism, two Agreements on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the establishment of a Joint Trade and Investment Commission were signed.
South Africa is a major foreign investor in Chile. In March 2012, South African enterprises showcased their abilities and experiences gained over the course of hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup at the Investment and Trade Initiative that took place in Brazil.
In April 2012, bilateral relations between South Africa and Panama were strengthened when the Panama Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Francisco Alvarez de Soto, visited the country at the invitation of the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Marius Fransman.
South Africa enjoys cordial relations with the countries of the
Caribbean. The majority of the inhabitants of the Caribbean
are of African descent and have strong historical and cultural
links to the continent.
President Zuma paid a state visit to Jamaica in August 2012 and attended the Island's 50th Anniversary of Independence celebrations. The objective of the visit was to enhance bilateral relations, recognise the role Jamaica played during South Africa's struggle for emancipation as well as to celebrate Jamaica's achievements as an independent, stable constitutional parliamentary democracy.
In June 2012, the South African and Cuban Ministers of Health signed an agreement that would enable South Africa to use the capacity that Cuba has in the training of medical doctors. Through this new agreement the country will be able to increase the number of students who will be deployed to Cuba for medical training.
In February 2012, South Africa and Cuba signed a R350-million Economic Assistance Package Agreement geared towards helping that country improve its food security. The total package to the island nation is three-pronged, with the first portion being a R40-million grant for the purchase of seeds by Cuba.
In September 2012, South Africa made further strides in strengthening ties with its contemporaries across the continent, the Caribbean and European Community when Cabinet approved the ratification of the second revision of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim attended the 12th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation in October 2012, in India.
The European Union is by far South Africa's most important
development partner, providing for 70% of all external assistance
funds. South Africa is also the EU's largest trading
partner in Africa.
As a member of the African Caribbean Pacific group of
countries, South Africa is by far the strongest of sub-Saharan
Africa's economies. The fifth South Africa-EU Summit was held in Brussels in 2012.
In June 2012, Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane met with her Belgium counterpart, Mr Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Belgium for a bilateral meeting. The German-South African Year of Science event, an initiative between the Department of Science and Technology and Germany's Ministry of Education and Research, is aimed at stimulating the development of more local South African innovations.
In May 2012, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe visited Germany to promote North-South cooperation
and strengthening existing relations. In 2012, there were approximately 700 German-owned companies or subsidiaries of German companies in South Africa.
In May 2012, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe visited Finland within the context of promoting North-South cooperation and strengthening existing relations. France is a major trading and development cooperation partner and source of tourism for South Africa. In February2012, South Africa hosted the South Africa-France Forum for Political Dialogue in Pretoria to map a way forward on how to deepen political and economic relations between the two countries.
There are more than 170 French-owned companies or subsidiaries of French companies operating in South Africa, accounting for 25 000 employment opportunities. In October 2012, the Minister of Tourism, Mr Marthinus van Schalkwyk, attended an award ceremony in Milan, Italy. He noted that close to 55 000 Italian tourists visited South Africa in 2011.
In October 2012, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe visited Italy where he met with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to review the scope of relations between South Africa and Italy and identify possible further areas of cooperation. The Deputy President addressed a business luncheon on South Africa's Infrastructure Development Programme and opportunities for investment.
The Deputy President also attended the 35th anniversary celebration of the solidarity pact between the City of Reggio Emilia and South Africa. It included an exhibition "Reggio Africa" and the official opening of the "Reggio Africa Archive", which hosts historical documents on Africa and particularly South Africa.
Economic relations between South Africa and Spain have grown rapidly, with trade between the two countries amounting to R19 billion, having doubled over the past few years. In July 2012, The 8th Session of Annual Consultations between South Africa and Spain was concluded in Madrid. The discussions were co-chaired by Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim and his counterpart, the Secretary of State Gonzala De Benito.
South Africa and Greece have strong cultural ties through the Hellenic community in South Africa, which has played a positive and constructive role in the reconstruction and development of this country. The Hellenic community in South Africa is estimated at 60 000 people.
In September 2012, Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabanepaid a working visit to Cyprus at the invitation of their Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Erato Kozakou-Markoullis. During the visit, the MoU on Bilateral Political Consultations, and the Protocol to the Agreement on the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Fiscal Evasion were signed. This was the Minister's first visit to Cyprus.
In September 2012, the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms Elizabeth Thabethe, visited the Czech Republic to co-chair the second session of the Czech-South Africa Joint Committee for Economic Cooperation.
In November 2012, Minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane travelled to Moscow for the 11th Session of South Africa-Russia Joint Itec. Relations between South and the Republic of Turkey were strengthened when Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's visit to Ankara in June 2012, culminated in the establishment of a binational commission between the two countries.
In February 2012, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane
attended a bilateral meeting with the Secretary of State for
Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the UK and Northern
Ireland, Mr William Hague.
South Africa and the UK are looking to increase economic
and trade ties by focusing on exporting high-value-added
goods to Britain.
In April 2012, the Princess Royal, Princess Anne, visited South Africa and met with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in Pretoria. The visit was part of the celebrations marking the Queen's 60 years on the throne. Princess Anne also visited a number of non-governmental organisations she supports, such as the Save the Children Fund and the St John's Ambulance Service.
In July, 2012, Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim hosted the UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responsible for Africa, Mr Henry Bellingham, for bilateral discussions on issues of common concern. These included recent developments inAfrica and the Middle East The third meeting of the South Africa-Ireland Partnership Forum was held in Cape Town on 15 November 2012.
BRICS is the acronym for a grouping of five major emerging
national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South
Africa. The grouping was originally known as BRIC before the
inclusion of South Africa in 2010.
In the World Economic Forum's latest Global Competitiveness Index published in September 2012, South Africa is the highest-ranked African country and third-placed among the BRICS economies. It ranks 52nd out of 144 countries surveyed, and is overall for financial market development.
The IBSA Dialogue Forum is an international tripartite grouping which brings together three democracies of the South from three continents. The forum provides the three countries with a platform to engage in discussions for cooperation in fields such agriculture, trade, culture, and defence.
Twelve years after re-admittance to the United Nations, South Africa was
honoured to be endorsed by the AU and subsequently elected
with an overwhelming majority to serve as a non-permanent
member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the 2007/08 period.
South Africa made use of the opportunity to promote the African Agenda of peace, security and development. South Africa was once again honoured when the country was elected to serve as a non-permanent member for the 2011/12 period starting in January 2011.
The Commonwealth of Nations, usually referred to only as the
Commonwealth, is an association of former colonies of the
UK. It is defined as a voluntary association of independent
sovereign states consulting and cooperating in the common
interests of their people and in the promotion of international
understanding and world peace.
In June 2012, the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Marius Fransman, participated in a meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Task Force in London.
The NAM, with its 120 member states, is the largest political
grouping of countries outside the United Nations, making it
an important lobby group of developing countries in global
affairs. South Africa formally joined NAM in 1994 and has
played a leading role in its deliberation and meetings ever
In May 2012, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane attended the Ministerial Meeting of the NAM Coordinating Bureau held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt in preparation for the XVI Summit of the Heads of State and Government of NAM. Deputy Minister Marius Fransman attended the NAM XVI Summit under the
theme Lasting Peace Through Joint Global Governance held in Tehran, Iran, from 26 to 31 August 2012.
The Islamic Republic of Iran will chair the movement from 2012 to 2015.
- Department of International Relations and Cooperation
- South Africa's foreign relations
- Speeches and statements on international issues
- Visits by foreign dignitaries to South Africa
- Official visits to foreign countries
- SA Yearbook 2012/13