Policy & History

U.S.-South Africa Relations

The United States established diplomatic relations with South Africa in 1929 following the United Kingdom’s recognition of South Africa’s domestic and external autonomy within the British Empire. Until the 1990s, the South African Government followed a policy of white domination over the majority black population, and racial separation (apartheid). From the 1970s through the early 1990s, U.S.-South Africa relations were severely affected by South Africa’s racial policies.

Since the end of apartheid and with the advent of democracy in 1994, the two countries have enjoyed a solid bilateral relationship. South Africa is a strategic partner of the United States, particularly in the areas of health, security, and trade. The two countries share development objectives throughout Africa, and South Africa plays a key economic and political role on the African continent. The United States seeks opportunities for increased U.S.-South African cooperation on regional and international issues. In 2010, the United States and South Africa launched a strategic dialogue aimed at deepening cooperation on a range of issues of mutual interest and concern.

U.S. Assistance to South Africa

South Africa has made remarkable strides toward building a prosperous and peaceful democracy since 1994, but faces many challenges, including high unemployment, HIV/AIDS, crime, and corruption. U.S. assistance focuses on improving healthcare, increasing education standards and teacher training, building capacity in agriculture to address regional food security, and developing clean energy to adapt to global climate changes. Improving the capacity of South Africa’s security force will enable it to take a lead role in regional stability and security efforts.

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs seek to strengthen small- and medium-sized enterprises, create employment, improve learning and job skills, promote basic education, combat gender-based violence, and promote HIV/AIDS care, prevention, and treatment.

Bilateral Economic Relations

U.S.-South African economic and trade relations are strong. South Africa is eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The country belongs to the Southern African Customs Union, which signed a Trade, Investment, and Development Cooperative Agreement (TIDCA) with the United States. The TIDCA establishes a forum for consultative discussions, cooperative work, and possible agreements on a wide range of trade issues, with a special focus on customs and trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and trade and investment promotion. The United States and South Africa have a bilateral tax treaty eliminating double taxation. A bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement is in place.