ABF JOINT STATEMENT
13th South Africa-United States Annual Bilateral Forum
September 15, 2023
The South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) hosted the 13th
Annual Bilateral Forum (ABF) on September 15, 2023. The ABF co-chairs were Ambassador Maud
Dlomo, Deputy Director-General: Americas and Europe at DIRCO, and Dr. Reuben E. Brigety II, the
United States Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa. The last ABF took place in Pretoria on
February 22, 2022.
The ABF is a key component of the Strategic Partnership between South Africa and the United States
with the objective to review the implementation of the numerous ongoing cooperation programs
and projects between the two nations, which are aligned to the United States Strategy toward Sub-
Saharan Africa, and South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) to eliminate poverty and reduce
inequality by 2030.
Senior officials from the U.S. Mission and their counterparts from the relevant South African
Government Departments made recommendations for continued and improved cooperation that
advances the interests of both nations. The discussions within the eight Working Groups focused on
current and future bilateral cooperation in areas such as trade and investment, development, safety
and security, science and technology, environment, customs and border control, education, and
protocol. The senior officials acknowledged the achievements made in some areas and undertook to
continue working jointly to resolve outstanding matters to further strengthen the robust sectoral
The Governments from the United States and the Republic of South Africa reaffirmed their
commitment to further strengthening a robust trade relationship, which has been bolstered
significantly by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). The participants further agreed to
continue their work to address identified market access issues affecting the bilateral trade, exploring
opportunities in the digital area including through the Digital Transformation with Africa Initiative as
well continue discussions on development in the electric motor vehicles sector.
Regarding cooperation in agriculture, both parties have long-standing market access requests for
numerous plant and animal products that need to be resolved. Both the United States and South
Africa will review prior commitments and avail high-level officials to engage on entrenched barriers.
Both sides should take concrete steps to address the respective concerns to promote reciprocity in
With regard to development, both sides agreed to establish a Bilateral Health Forum under the
auspices of the existing Memorandum of Understanding on bilateral health cooperation. The
participants also discussed how to collaborate to improve global health architecture and global
With regards to health focused developments, the parties signed a mutually beneficial
Memorandum of Understanding on the establishment of a Bilateral Health Forum to provide
overarching leadership to the strategic partnership on a broad range of health collaborations. This
bilateral partnership in health will encompass a wide range of programs, partnerships, and other
collaborations in areas such HIV, tuberculosis (TB), sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and non-
communicable diseases (NCDs) respiratory diseases, mental health, genomic research, global health
ABF JOINT STATEMENT
security, capacity building, disease surveillance, laboratory enhancements, antimicrobial resistance,
research, and food security amongst others.
On safety and security, the participants from both nations agreed to improve two-way information
exchanges in criminal investigations and intelligence related to law enforcement. For its part, the
United States hopes to enhance opportunities for South African participation in capacity building
programs that combat gender-based violence, wildlife trafficking, and the proliferation of weapons
of mass destruction.
The science, technology and innovation cooperation between South Africa and the United States
span a wide range of areas of mutual interests, including in the space sciences, astronomy, energy,
bioeconomy, natural medicines (indigenous knowledge), health sciences, ICTs including AI, quantum
computing, and emerging technologies. The support to university cooperation will also be
strengthened as a source of strong science, research and innovation cooperation between the two
countries. Critical skills development in science, technology and innovation areas will continue to be
the cornerstone of increased cooperation through relations instruments like the YALI and Fulbright
scholarships that celebrate excellence in youth development in science, technology, and innovation.
The two countries acknowledged the work of the water and energy for food (WE4F) program which
also includes other partners like the EU, BMZ, SIDA, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
and USAID. The United States is currently supporting mRNA vaccine manufacturing capacity in South
Africa and assisting in workforce development and regulatory strengthening.
The parties welcomed the robust cooperation in higher and basic education, including the
University Partnership Initiative which led to an increase on collaboration activities between South
African and US universities to enhance global knowledge production, as well as collaboration on
Early Childhood Development and programmes on improving literacy. South Africa appreciates the
scholarships and training opportunities offered by the US Government to strengthen human capital
and skills development. The South African side looked forward to the finalisation of the
Memorandum of Understanding which will allow for the linking of the Peace Corps programmes with
the Dept. of Basic Education’s Presidential Youth Employment Initiative, while the Dept. of Higher
Education is keen to pursue strengthened cooperation with Historically Black Colleges and
The two sides appreciated the ongoing cooperation on Customs and Border Protection aimed at
enhancing border interdiction, security, and trade compliance capabilities, including various
capacity-building and benchmarking initiatives. South Africa and the United States look forward to
the conclusion of the Mutual Recognition Arrangement to recognize the Authorised Economic
Operator Programmes of both countries with the aim of enhancing trade facilitation.
Regarding environmental cooperation, the parties noted the active engagement on several
programmes, including on conservation and combatting wildlife crime, climate change and trans-
boundary water management. They welcomed the launch of the Comprehensive National Water
Management Strategy in early September.
Both the United States and South Africa look forward to the 14th Annual Bilateral Forum to be
hosted by the US Embassy in 2024.