United States and Republic of South Africa

The United States and South Africa enjoy a strategic partnership with a strong network of people-to-people relationships with businesses, non-governmental organizations, universities, cultural institutions, and individual citizens. As a global voice, strong and vibrant democracy, and a country built on its commitment to human rights, South Africa is a strategic partner of the United States, with strong collaboration in shared global and bilateral priorities, including health, climate, trade and investment, education, and digital economy.

U.S.-South Africa Relations

  • Since South Africa’s transition to democracy in 1994, the United States and South Africa have built a solid bilateral relationship. The United States first opened a consulate in Cape Town in 1799, and in 1929 established formal diplomatic relations with South Africa after the United Kingdom recognized South Africa’s autonomy within the British Empire. In 1948, the South African government instituted apartheid, a system of governance that formalized the political subjugation of the majority non-white population. U.S.-South Africa relations eventually became severely strained by South Africa’s racial policies; the U.S. Congress ultimately passed the 1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which imposed sanctions on the apartheid South African government.
  • The United States and South Africa share vibrant educational and people-to-people ties, significant economic and political interests, as well as common development objectives throughout Africa. As a strong democracy and sub-Saharan Africa’s most advanced economy, South Africa plays a key economic and political role on the continent. The United States seeks opportunities for increased U.S.-South African cooperation on regional and international issues.
  • Since 1994, South Africa has made notable strides toward building an inclusive democracy that provides increased opportunity for its people. U.S. assistance focuses on improving healthcare, increasing education standards and teacher training, building capacity in agriculture to address regional food security, and both mitigating and adapting to climate change.

U.S. Health Partnership with South Africa

  • Since 2004, the U.S. government has invested more than $8billion in assistance through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). This assistance bolsters South Africa’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic and helps ensure that all South Africans live longer and healthier lives. PEPFAR investments have also contributed to strengthening global health security by supporting human resources for health, as well as building clinical capacity in support of the COVID-19 response. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs strengthen small- and medium-sized enterprises, create employment, improve training and job skills, promote basic education, combat gender-based violence, and promote HIV/AIDS care, prevention, and treatment.
  • South Africa joined the United States to launch the COVID-19 Global Action Plan, through which our government are collaborating to end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen global health security architecture. South Africa has been a key partner in the global response, including at the regional, and global levels. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has provided almost $75 million in COVID-related assistance to South Africa and has provided, in partnership with COVAX, almost 8 million vaccine doses.

Bilateral Economic Relations

  • South Africa is the largest U.S. trade partner in Africa, with a total two-way goods trade of $21billion in 2021. Approximately 600 American businesses operate in South Africa, and many of those use South Africa as a regional headquarters. South Africa qualifies for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act as well as the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences trade preference program. Both governments engage in frequent discussions to increase opportunities for bilateral trade and investment and optimize the business climate. The two nations signed an amended Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 2012. In addition, South Africa belongs to the Southern African Customs Union, which signed a Trade, Investment, and Development Cooperative Agreement (TIDCA) with the United States in 2008. The United States and South Africa have a bilateral tax treaty that prevents double taxation and fiscal evasion.

U.S.-South Africa Climate Cooperation

  • South Africa’s dependence on coal as a primary fuel source for electricity generation made it one of the top 15 greenhouse gas emitters in the world. Climate change is already altering South African ecosystems, economies, and livelihoods. Since 1990, the national average temperature has increased twice as fast as global temperature. The United States and South Africa cooperate across a range of climate-related initiatives, from reducing emissions while expanding energy access while creating jobs, to clean energy infrastructure, to environmental protection, climate adaptation and mitigation.
  • The U.S. government is helping the Government of South Africa achieve its goal of shifting the power sector to 42 percent non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 and reducing overall Green House Gas emissions in line with Paris Agreement targets. In partnership with national and sub-national authorities, the U.S. government is accelerating large-scale and distributed renewable energy deployment through technical assistance and capacity building.
  • The Just Energy Transition Partnership brings together the United States and South Africa along with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and the European Union in a landmark partnership to support the transition of South Africa’s economy away from fossil fuels. The Partnership aims to accelerate the decarbonisation of South Africa’s economy, with a focus on the electricity system, to help it achieve the ambitious goals set out in its updated Nationally Determined Contribution emissions goals. It will mobilize an initial commitment of $8.5 billion for the first phase of financing, through various mechanisms including grants, concessional loans and investments and risk sharing instruments, including to mobilize the private sector.

South Africa’s Membership in International Organizations

  • South Africa’s principal foreign policy objectives are to encourage regional economic integration in Africa, promote the peaceful resolution of conflict in Africa, and use multilateral bodies to ensure that developing countries’ voices are heard on international issues. South Africa and the United States belong to many of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, G-20, and World Trade Organization. South Africa is also a member of BRICS and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). South Africa participates as a key partner in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Enhanced Engagement program.

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