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

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South Africa’s worldwide relations division revealed a doc on 1 August setting out the nation’s new international coverage. The outline of South Africa’s national interests is a vital 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 International Atmosphere.

Governments are sometimes cautious, for varied causes, about speaking their nationwide pursuits. It is a first effort by the Department of International 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” relatively 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 mates.

That’s to not say that the doc has no worth. It will likely be used extensively in future debate and evaluation of South African international coverage. And it might be a suggestion for coverage.


Three basic factors should be made.

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

Studying between the traces, Africa appears to be a critically vital area for South Africa. However the nation, historically, has vital 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 out to be vital 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 only 2% with Russia.

The conflict in Ukraine has highlighted the significance of a transparent articulation of South African nationwide pursuits in geographical phrases. Quite a bit has not too long ago been stated about Pretoria’s diplomatic assist for Russia; and the dichotomy between South African assist for the Palestinians because the victims, however not for Ukraine. This raises a query as to the guiding rules of human rights in South Africa’s foreign policy.

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 apparent. The completely different pursuits handle the overall well-being of society, nothing else. The constitutional order, the security of society, financial prosperity, a greater world are usually not nationwide pursuits. They’re the overall duties 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 international coverage.

The main target appears to be on home pursuits – public pursuits. A greater Africa and world is the one curiosity that’s outlined within the context of foreign policy.

What are the issues South Africa could be prepared to deploy its army to guard and defend if threatened? Is the flow of water from Lesotho of significant curiosity to South Africa; and to the extent that it’s going to use army drive to guard the entry? When is illegitimate immigration a menace to very important pursuits, how will residents know and who’s to determine? 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 specific. This, at a time the place route is urgently wanted in a world order that’s more and more complicated.

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, relatively than the

dynamic nature of global and national affairs (p.9-13).

The doc appears to specific the ideological orientation of the ruling elite, greater than materials pursuits that should drive good governance. It’s extra of a coverage doc than a suggestion for the observe of diplomacy, army statecraft and commerce.

The doc’s goal appears to be to stipulate how to consider South African nationwide pursuits, relatively 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 components

  • suggest the means for the pursuit of South Africa’s nationwide curiosity

  • suggest pointers for the sensible utility of nationwide pursuits in a world setting

  • mirror on the present and potential future international setting

  • present for predictability in South Africa’s worldwide relations.

The dialogue of who’s answerable for implementing the nation’s international coverage is restricted to generic realities. It emphasises the duty of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

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

The army, for instance, is commonly the lead instrument of international coverage in Africa, particularly in the conduct of peace missions. The enterprise neighborhood can also be at the forefront of South Africa’s international coverage pursuits. What sensible realities ought to the enterprise neighborhood consider once they do enterprise in Europe, China, or South America?

These questions are usually not answered.