BusinessSouth Africa’s overseas coverage: new paper units the scene,...

South Africa’s overseas coverage: new paper units the scene, however falls quick on specifics


South Africa’s worldwide relations division revealed a doc on 1 August setting out the nation’s new overseas coverage. The define of South Africa’s nationwide pursuits is a crucial paper that units out how the nation will relate to the remainder of the world for a while to come back.

The title of the doc is: Framework on South Africa’s Nationwide Curiosity and its Development in a World Atmosphere.

Governments are sometimes cautious, for numerous causes, about speaking their nationwide pursuits. It is a first effort by the Division of Worldwide Relations and Cooperation to contextualise South Africa’s nationwide pursuits.

However the doc falls quick in key respects.

The primary flaw is its title. It speaks of the nationwide “curiosity” quite than pursuits (plural) – however in worldwide relations there isn’t only one.

It’s additionally unclear what sensible goal its drafters envisaged it serving, or who its meant viewers is. It’s unclear whether it is to information authorities coverage, direct South African funding, or inform the nation’s allies and pals.

That’s to not say that the doc has no worth. It is going to be used extensively in future debate and evaluation of South African overseas coverage. And it might be a tenet for coverage.


Three basic factors must be made.

Firstly, the doc doesn’t have a geographical define of South Africa’s pursuits. The enterprise sector shall be searching for the significance of particular geographical areas.

Studying between the strains, Africa appears to be a critically essential area for South Africa. However the nation, historically, has essential export pursuits in Europe. It’s the EU’s largest buying and selling associate in Africa. The EU, excluding the UK, accounts for 22% of South African commerce. Commerce with the remainder of Africa constitutes 16%.

Extra not too long ago the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, and China – has turn into essential for South Africa’s nationwide pursuits. Commerce with BRICS constitutes 59% of the nation’s imports and 41% of its exports; 94% of this commerce is completed with China and India and solely 2% with Russia.

The battle in Ukraine has highlighted the significance of a transparent articulation of South African nationwide pursuits in geographical phrases. Lots has not too long ago been mentioned about Pretoria’s diplomatic help for Russia; and the dichotomy between South African help for the Palestinians because the victims, however not for Ukraine. This raises a query as to the guiding ideas of human rights in South Africa’s overseas coverage.

Additionally, how is South Africa’s place on Israel and Russian aligned with its greater materials pursuits within the Center East, Asia, and Europe; particularly when it comes to commerce?

Secondly, the doc’s define of South Africa’s nationwide pursuits is stating the plain. The totally different pursuits deal with the overall well-being of society, nothing else. The constitutional order, the security of society, financial prosperity, a greater world aren’t nationwide pursuits. They’re the overall tasks of presidency.

In brief, the define of the pursuits is superficial and insignificant. It’s not clear how these pursuits are to outline and direct South Africa’s overseas coverage.

The main focus appears to be on home pursuits – public pursuits. A greater Africa and world is the one curiosity that’s outlined throughout the context of overseas coverage.

What are the issues South Africa can be prepared to deploy its navy to guard and defend if threatened? Is the movement of water from Lesotho of significant curiosity to South Africa; and to the extent that it’s going to use navy power to guard the entry? When is unlawful immigration a risk to very important pursuits, how will residents know and who’s to resolve? These questions are left unanswered.

Thirdly, the define of the nationwide curiosity, with out the “s”, raises questions as to why authorities seems reluctant to be express. This, at a time the place course is urgently wanted in a world order that’s more and more advanced.

Home and historic realities – the eradication of the legacy of apartheid and overcoming the triple challenges of inequality, unemployment and poverty – appear to be the important thing drivers, quite than the dynamic nature of worldwide and nationwide affairs (p.9-13).

The doc appears to precise the ideological orientation of the ruling elite, greater than materials pursuits that must drive good governance. It’s extra of a coverage doc than a tenet for the apply of diplomacy, navy statecraft and commerce.

The doc’s goal appears to be to stipulate how to consider South African nationwide pursuits, quite than to specify what these pursuits are.

The targets outlined within the doc are to:

  • suggest a definition of South Africa’s nationwide curiosity and its parts
  • suggest the means for the pursuit of South Africa’s nationwide curiosity
  • suggest tips for the sensible utility of nationwide pursuits in a world surroundings
  • replicate on the present and potential future international surroundings
  • present for predictability in South Africa’s worldwide relations.

The dialogue of who’s liable for implementing the nation’s overseas coverage is proscribed to generic realities. It emphasises the accountability of the Division of Worldwide Relations and Cooperation.

It’s not clear what half South Africa’s diplomats, navy and enterprise neighborhood can play in pursuing its nationwide pursuits.

The navy, for instance, is commonly the lead instrument of overseas coverage in Africa, particularly within the conduct of peace missions. The enterprise neighborhood can be at the vanguard of South Africa’s overseas coverage pursuits. What sensible realities ought to the enterprise neighborhood take into accout after they do enterprise in Europe, China, or South America?

These questions aren’t answered.The Conversation

Abel Esterhuyse, Affiliate Professor of Technique, School of Army Science, Stellenbosch College

This text is republished from The Dialog beneath a Artistic Commons license. Learn the unique article.


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