The United States and South Africa as Key Strategic Partners

South Africa and the United States share a unique bond and a common goal of making our respective countries, and the world, more inclusive and free.  

As President Obama noted when he spoke at Former South African President Nelson Mandela’s memorial in 2013, overcoming the difficulties of our pasts took “the sacrifice of countless people, known and unknown, to see the dawn of a new day.” This year’s Strategic Dialogue with South Africa, which we convened a quarter of a century after Mandela’s historic release from prison, is the first high-level meeting of its kind since his passing. This important dialogue builds on this shared legacy as well as our mutual interest in a more prosperous, secure future. 

The United States and South Africa formalized our strategic partnership in 2010 to seek common ground, strengthening our ties as influential global partners. Since that time, U.S. and South African officials have convened several high-level meetings to reaffirm our strong relationship and discuss the major challenges in our world. This year’s Strategic Dialogue featured three days of working group meetings focused on regional security, trade and investment, and public health.

Secretary of State John Kerry said, “South Africa is playing an increasingly important global role, a very important leadership role on the continent of Africa, and, we are pleased to say, an important cooperative role together with the United States.”

As one of our strategic partners in Africa, South Africa’s leaders continue to show tremendous creativity and cooperation in promoting regional peace and security. This is evident in the country’s leadership role in negotiating the recent peace initiative in Lesotho and support for the peace process in South Sudan. It lends a significant voice to the international community as a member of the BRICS nations and in multilateral fora, including as chair of the G77 at the UN. It is also a significant contributor to regional peacekeeping operations -- a major focus of attention at the UN General Assembly session in New York later this month.

Over the years, the United States and South Africa have also enjoyed a solid economic relationship with more than 20 billion dollars annually in two-way trade of goods and services. Now with over 600 U.S. companies operating in South Africa, the United States has become its biggest foreign investor and one of its largest trading partners. These are figures we only see growing as a new generation of South African businesses and young entrepreneurs seek to expand ties with the United States. 

We hope our economic partnership serves as a catalyst that drives shared prosperity in the region, particularly following the recent 10-year extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Last week’s Strategic Dialogue also provided an important venue to discuss the need for improved access for U.S. exports in order for South Africa to be able to continue to benefit fully from AGOA’s generous trade preferences. Supporting fair and increased trade will best serve the economic interests of both countries, including those of South African consumers.

Finally, we are proud of our ground-breaking collaboration on health issues, which is responsible for saving lives and lengthened the life expectancy for many South Africans.  Through our President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), we have invested more than $4.3 billion to fight HIV/AIDS in South Africa, helping to combat a major health crisis. Earlier this summer I lead the U.S. delegation to the 25th African Union Summit hosted in South Africa, and saw the impact of this program first-hand after visiting a PEPFAR project site in Johannesburg. Although we have made great gains with PEPFAR, we know the success of the program ultimately lies in its sustainability.  We are working together to reach a major milestone in the coming years when South Africa will be the first country in Africa to fully manage its care and treatment program.

In the next few months, the United States and South Africa will have additional discussions centered on issues of energy and defense. As these important conversations continue, we are confident our most recent Strategic Dialogue will serve to cement a new age of positive and broadening cooperation between the United States and South Africa.

About the Author: Linda Thomas-Greenfield is the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs.

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Rob D.
United States
September 30, 2015
As a key strategic ally on a continent full of promise yet rife with upheaval, it is encouraging to see the United States forging stronger diplomatic relations with South Africa in the realms of national security, transatlantic trade, health and energy policy. As South Africa's biggest foreign investor and one of its largest trading partner, bolstering our nations' economic ties will provide further opportunities to South Africa to boost it's exports, while at the same time increasing our own nation's GDP. Continuing work on South African health Issues will give the U.S. a chance to build on the impressive work it has already done through the "President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief" (PEPFAR), which has invested more than $4.3 billion into fighting AIDS/HIV in South Africa, as well as other health crises.This year’s Strategic Dialogue with South Africa, the first high level meeting of it's kind in the past 20 years, illustrates the impressive progress our nations have made in formalizing high level partnerships with one another, as well as the potential there is for even more progress in the future.
Secretary Kerry and South African Foreign Minister Nkoana-Mashabane Participate in the U.S.-South Africa Strategic Dialogue in Washington, D.C. [State Department Photo]
September 24, 2015


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