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Briefing Notes (series)

South Africa, Europe and Africa: Building bridges across barriers?

Briefing Note 88

May 2016

Parshotam, A., Helly, D. 2016. South Africa, Europe and Africa: Building bridges across barriers? (Briefing Note 88). Maastricht: ECDPM.

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Following the European Union (EU) High Representative/Vice President (HP/VP) Federica Mogherini’s visit to South Africa in February 2016 and the April 2016 AU-EU Commissions’ College-to-College meeting in Addis, this paper aims to provide an understanding of current trends in EU-South Africa relations and their implication for Africa’s integration process. This Briefing Note first looks at the main features of South Africa’s foreign policy under President Zuma. It then provides an update on the EU-South Africa Strategic Partnership and, lastly, it focuses on the continental level and the interplay between the African Union (AU), South Africa and the EU.

Key messages

  • South Africa’s interests are distributed between i) forging political solidarity with the global South and the African Agenda, and ii) partnering with the EU, its Member States and other ‘Western’ actors.
  • Platforms such as the South Africa-EU Dialogue Facility can help foster a mature relationship through strong technical cooperation and transparency for development, providing both parties with the opportunity to strengthen partnerships at a diplomatic level, building from the bottom up.
  • At the European level, engagement on shared challenges and knowledge exchange is necessary for continued engagement with South Africa, as a strategic partner.
  • The conditions are in place for the EU, its member states and South Africa to lay down a building block, a bridge – if not an engine – for EU AU relations.

Read Briefing Note 88

Download (PDF, 444KB)

Image: The Nelson Mandela Bridge crosses the Johannesburg Station shunting yards, linking the business districts of Braamfontein and Newtown. Courtesy of Chris Kirchhoff,

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European external affairsAfrica-EU RelationsBriefing Notes (series)AfricaSouth Africa