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South Africa: Gateway to the African continent South Africa

21.11.2014 - Article

Foreign Minister Steinmeier visited Pretoria and Johannesburg from 19 to 21 November for a plenary session of the German-South African Binational Commission.

Steinmeier shortly after arriving in South Africa
Steinmeier shortly after arriving in South Africa© Photothek.net/Grabowsky

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier held talks in Pretoria and Johannesburg from 19 to 21 November. His trip was prompted by the plenary session of the German-South African Binational Commission, which meets every two years. Steinmeier discussed the deepening of political, economic and cultural relations between Germany and South Africa with representatives of South Africa’s Government, opposition and civil society.

South Africa is one of Germany’s most important partners on the African continent. This is reflected both in the close political and economic ties between the two countries and in the field of cultural cooperation.

Speaking on 20 November during his visit to Pretoria and Johannesburg, Steinmeier stressed:

To us, South Africa is something of a gateway to the entire continent. It is an important state which plays a major role in international relations, in the United Nations, as a member of the G20 and as a BRICS country, so it is an opinion‑former in international relations.

Plenary session of the Binational Commission

View of Pretoria
View of Pretoria© dpa/picture alliance

The German-South African Binational Commission provides the framework for close bilateral cooperation. It meets every two years, with eight specialised committees dealing with various aspects of German-South African cooperation.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his South African colleague Maite Nkoana-Mashabane co-chaired a plenary session of the Binational Commission in Pretoria on 21 November.

Engagement for peace and security in Africa

Steinmeier and his South African counterpart Nkoana-Mashabane
Steinmeier and his South African counterpart Nkoana-Mashabane© Photothek/Grabowsky

On Friday morning (21 November), Foreign Minister Steinmeier met his counterpart Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. In discussions with her and President Jacob Zuma, he talked about South Africa’s growing role in maintaining peace and security on the African continent, for example as a facilitator in Lesotho and South Sudan. South Africa is also active in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and in efforts to resolve the conflict in the Great Lakes Region.

On 20 November the German Foreign Minister held talks with opposition leader Mmusi Maimane as well as with representatives of civil society in South Africa.

Promising market for business

South Africa is also a promising market for German business: around 600 German firms have invested heavily in South Africa in recent years, particularly in renewable energy, water and infrastructure. Moreover, they regard South Africa as the gateway to other markets in the region.

Training like in Germany: trainees at Braamfontein vocational training centre
Training like in Germany: trainees at Braamfontein vocational training centre© Photothek/Grabowsky

On the first day of his trip to South Africa, Foreign Minister Steinmeier and the business delegation accompanying him attended a conference in Johannesburg on infrastructure development. The Minister also visited a vocational training centre which trains South African clerks in line with German standards.

Participation, rules and responsibility

Germany and South Africa intend to expand their cooperation in the fields of culture and education. Steinmeier therefore visited the renowned University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and was given a tour of the extensive campus by students.

Steinmeier addressing students at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg
Steinmeier addressing students at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg© Photothek/Grabowski

In his speech entitled “Participation, Rules and Responsibility – Three Pillars to Strengthen Peace, Security and Welfare”, he recommended increased civic participation in political, economic and social decision-making processes as a tool in the “common struggle against violence and for peace”. The second pillar for “peace, security and prosperity”, according to Steinmeier, was laws and their implementation by a state with a monopoly on the use of force. The third pillar, he went on, was the assumption of responsibility in regional and international organisations. Germany and South Africa were already very committed in these areas, the Minister said, both within the framework of the United Nations and in the European Union and African Union respectively.

Click here to read the full text of Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s speech at the University of the Witwatersrand.

25 years since the fall of the Wall, 20 years since the end of apartheid

Touring the “Rise and Fall of apartheid” exhibition in Johannesburg
Touring the “Rise and Fall of apartheid” exhibition in Johannesburg© Photothek/Grabowsky

Twenty years after the end of the apartheid era, Steinmeier visited the “Rise and Fall of Apartheid” exhibition in Johannesburg’s MuseuMAfricA. He was shown around the exhibition by its curator, Okwui Enwezor, Director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich. Following his tour of the exhibition, Steinmeier emphasised how thankful he was, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and 20 years after the collapse of apartheid, to be able to discuss the process of social change in both countries with his South African partners.

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German-South African relations

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