Last updated in December 2013
South Africa is Germany’s most important partner in sub-Saharan Africa. The German-South African Binational Commission, which has met biennially since 1996, provides the framework for bilateral cooperation. Its most recent meeting, in May 2012 in Berlin, was jointly presided over by Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle and South Africa’s Deputy President Motlanthe. The next meeting is scheduled for the second half of 2014 in South Africa.
The wide-ranging and intensive relations between the two countries are underscored by regular high-level visits in both directions. Then Federal President Wulff and Federal Chancellor Merkel met with President Zuma during their visit to South Africa in July 2010 to attend the FIFA World Cup. The celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Johannesburg in October 2012 were attended by Federal Economics and Technology Minister Rösler. Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle and his South African counterpart Nkoana-Mashabane met most recently in April 2013 in Pretoria.
In addition, there is a lively exchange at parliamentary level. On the German side, a key role is played here by the German Bundestag’s Parliamentary Friendship Group for Relations with the SADC States. Several German federal states have established close contacts and partnerships with South African provinces and conduct their own development cooperation and economic cooperation projects there, e.g. Bavaria with Gauteng and Western Cape, Baden-Württemberg with Kwazulu-Natal, North Rhine-Westphalia with Mpumalanga, Saxony with the Free State and Lower Saxony with Eastern Cape.
South Africa remains a market offering substantial opportunities for German companies, particularly in the renewable energy, water and infrastructure sectors.
In 2012, bilateral trade was worth some EUR 14 billion. South Africa exported to Germany goods worth EUR 5.1 billion and imported from there goods worth EUR 8.8 billion, making Germany South Africa’s second biggest trading partner in 2012. Conversely, South Africa ranked 27th among Germany’s principal trading partners, ahead of South Korea and Canada.
In 2012, trade between South Africa and the European Union (EU) grew slightly, by 2.15 per cent to EUR 34.12 billion. The EU thus remains South Africa’s most important trading partner by far, ahead of China and the United States, but there was an unexpectedly large increase (38.43 per cent) in the country’s balance of trade deficit with the EU.
The approximately 600 German companies operating in South Africa employ a workforce of some 90,000. Many of them assume responsibility for their workers, providing them and their families with support in areas such as education, vocational training and health care. The Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Johannesburg and the Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) office there are strongly committed to helping German businesses in the country with their extensive expertise.
The Federal Government views South Africa as a “global development partner” with whom it seeks to closely coordinate its policies in international bodies such as the United Nations and the World Bank. Bilateral development cooperation focuses on energy and climate, governance and public administration and HIV/ AIDS prevention and control. Germany is one of South Africa’s major bilateral donors, though all international donors combined contribute less than 1 per cent to South Africa’s national budget.
Since 1994, the Federal Government has made available more than EUR 1 billion in bilateral development cooperation with South Africa. The most recent intergovernmental negotiations on development cooperation were held in Berlin in May 2012 in the framework of the Binational Commission. At this meeting, the Federal Government made new commitments worth EUR 286.9 million to South Africa for 2012 and 2013: EUR 251.4 million in Financial Cooperation and EUR 35.5 million in Technical Cooperation. German and South African cooperation with various third countries, which began in 2006, is becoming increasingly important. The next intergovernmental negotiations on development cooperation.
Cultural relations between Germany and South Africa are based on the 1998 agreement, which entered into force on 10 January 2000. It was supplemented in 2004 by an accord on joint audio-visual productions, which entered into force on 7 January 2005.
Cooperation currently focuses on the following areas:
- extensive cooperation in higher education, science and research (e.g. during the German-South African Year of Science 2012/2013)
- joint cultural events and artist exchange
- intensive cooperation in sport, especially football
- four German Schools, in Hermannsburg, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Pretoria
- promoting German instruction at state schools, e.g. under the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH)
- supporting joint cultural preservation projects
- events forming part of the German Weeks, held most recently in 2013
Three of the four German Schools in South Africa offer the new secondary-level programme, a globally unique model for educating students from underprivileged sections of the population. Students at the German Schools can also obtain a combined school-leaving certificate, which is recognised as a university-entrance qualification in both countries.
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has an information office and academic teaching post in Johannesburg, a Willy Brandt Professorship in Cape Town and a Chair for Automotive Engineering in Port Elizabeth. In 2009, two DAAD Centres of Excellence were set up at the University of the Western Cape. The Goethe Institute runs the regional institute for sub-Saharan Africa in Johannesburg and supports a Goethe Centre in Cape Town.