International Development


In global terms, South Africa’s foreign policy must be shaped by the interplay between diplomatic, political, security, environmental, economic and regional co-operative dynamics that define early 21st century international relations. In particular, our foreign policy-making should remain cognisant of global shifts in hard, soft and smart or mental power from West to East; the stratification of regional groupings in the world; the proliferation of threats to human and state security; to internal and external sovereignty, and to natural resources.

On the basis of our identity as an African country, South Africa’s foreign policy should be driven by a clear and critical understanding of our national, regional and continental priorities in a multi- polar world where the geo-strategic politics of the continent is, once again, becoming increasingly central to global political economic competition for natural resources and market share. As such, we need to have a clear strategy of South Africa’s place in the region, on the continent and in the world over the next 20 – 30 years, and the political space the country will occupy.

On the continent, South Africa should improve collaboration and co-operation, through deeper integration and increased trade with its regional trade partners in Africa, and the global south, in general, particular emphasis should be placed on the role that South Africa can play in mediating the role and influence of the BRICS group and African countries. The impending Tripartite Free Trade Area is a significant step towards improved African integration and should be a priority in South Africa’s foreign policies. In the sub-region, policy-makers must identify regional synergies with South Africa’s immediate SADC neighbours in investment, production and in specific market sectors such as energy and agro-processing.

The NPC submits that the Department of International Relations and Cooperation should focus on organisational transformation to make the department more efficient and effective in its operations abroad, internally and domestically. The NPC recommends that the department’s research capabilities be strengthened, and that it works in collaboration with South Africa’s research, business and academic institutions and with epistemic communities to develop the country’s foreign policies.

South Africa’s business community must be drawn more closely into our foreign policy making. It is an incontestable reality of late capitalist international relations that it may be states that secure international trade or financial relations, but it is, ultimately, private companies that do business across borders. This reality places a high burden of expectations on South African companies to act ethically and responsibly in the region, on the continent and in the world.


  • Intra-regional trade in Southern Africa should increase from 7 percent of trade to 25 percent of trade by 2030.
  • South Africa's trade with regional neighbours should increase from 15 percent of our trade to 30 percent.



Would you like to make changes to this page? Or add the name of a group making an important contribution? Please click here to send us a message