The International Projection of South Africa

By | December 11, 2021

Post- apartheid South Africa has established very close relations with Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia, the latter South African territory until independence in 1990: the establishment of free trade and economic cooperation areas has favored collaborative projects also in large infrastructural works, including the large dams of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. In 2014, South Africa also acted as a mediator after the coup in Lesotho. All SAcu members, with the exception of Botswana, are part of a common currency area, whose currencies are pegged to the South African rand. South Africa has also established good collaboration with Mozambique, which has resulted in the Maputo Development Corridor and the Trilateral Spatial Development Initiative with Swaziland. Between Mozambique and South Africa there is also a bilateral economic collaboration forum that coordinates strategic projects between the two states (100 percent of the gas imported from Pretoria comes from Mozambique). Both Mbeki and Zuma were given a mediating role during the crisis in Zimbabwe. But while Mbeki, despite international pressure, has taken very lukewarm positions towards the abuses attributed to Mugabe, urging an African solution to the dispute between the government and the opposition, Zuma has instead intervened with more energy, also involving the president of Angola dos Santos in the role of mediation within the SADc and pressing for the acceptance of all the conflicting parties of the Global Political Agreement. South Africa projects itself into the multipolar world both as a spokesperson for the African continent in international fora, and as an emerging economic power, renewing its relations with Western powers and consolidating its programmatic union with the new international players of the global South. South Africa was a non-permanent member of the Security Council one between 2007 and 2009 and again between 2011 and 2013. The country is a member of the G20, as the only African state, and participates in influential forums such as IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). The BRICS group aims to counterbalance the strength of the G8 and its political-economic agenda is discreetly dictated by the leadership of China and Russia. The BRICs aim for a reform of the world finance and trade system that benefits emerging economies. For South Africa 1997, please check

Within IBSA, BRICS and G20 Pretoria plays a double role: it oscillates between the representation of the interests of the entire African continent (often in the interventions at the G20 Zuma spoke on behalf of Africa), rivaling Nigeria and Ethiopia, and the need to reach agreements and relations, for example in the commercial field, which first of all benefit South Africa itself. Unlike the other emerging powers, however, South Africa’s range of action does not go beyond the borders of the continent to which it belongs. Pretoria’s commitment to take a closer look at the fate of the continent, and not just to represent it on the international scene, it was sanctioned by the election in 2002 of Zuma’s ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as president of the Commission, the highest executive body of the African Union. In 2010 South Africa and the US signed the US-South Africa Strategic Dialogue, which also provides for the establishment of an annual bilateral forum. In August 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited South Africa aiming at strengthening economic cooperation and a new Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (tIFA) was signed. South Africa and the United States are also linked by Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (AcotA), a cooperation agreement to strengthen South Africa’s defense skills, and by a research agreement in the nuclear energy sector. A friction between the two states is represented by American pressure on South Africa to reduce its import of oil from Iran, which however represents a quarter of South African needs, and is therefore a resource that Pretoria does not want to give up. In 2012, Zuma led the South African delegation to the China-Africa Cooperation Forum in Beijing (FocAc). Relations between South Africa and China can be defined as less asymmetrical than the situation of other African countries: in fact, if it is true that China is South Africa’s first trading partner (despite the inherent problem in importing Chinese products at very competitive prices compared to to those produced locally), it is equally true that South Africa has managed to penetrate the Chinese market, towards which 5 per cent of its exports are directed. Furthermore, Strong relations with China allow South Africa to play an international role as an emerging economy in the BRICS group. South Africa has entered into trade agreements, which are extending to various sectors, with the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

BRICS group