Canada-South Africa relations
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Canada established diplomatic relations with South Africa in 1939. In South Africa, Canada maintains a High Commission in Pretoria (which is concurrently accredited to Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius and Namibia), a trade office in Johannesburg, and an honorary consul in Cape Town. In Canada, South Africa maintains a High Commission in Ottawa, a Consulate General in Toronto, and has honorary consuls in Vancouver and Sudbury.
Canada and South Africa maintain a deep and broad relationship based on shared values of democracy, security and prosperity. Canada’s anti-apartheid efforts within the Commonwealth in the 1980s and our support towards the establishment of a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, democratic society in South Africa strengthened the ties between our countries. Canadian and South African experts worked closely together in drafting South Africa’s first democratic constitution.
In 2001, Nelson Mandela became the first living person to be awarded honorary Canadian citizenship, which was bestowed in recognition of his leadership in the fight against apartheid and his efforts to build a new and inclusive South Africa.
Canada and South Africa are both members of a number of multilateral organizations, including the Commonwealth and the G20, and collaborate on important issues such as women’s empowerment, the environment and climate action, and regional security. Canada and South Africa hold strategic annual bilateral consultations, which cover issues as diverse as foreign policy, trade and investment, environment and climate change, education, culture as well as science, technology and innovation.
Canada-South Africa relations are also characterized by extensive and enduring people-to-people ties in all areas of life, including arts, education and scientific research. Many Canadians recall with appreciation the extensive support that South African firefighters provided during the Canadian wildfire seasons of 2015, 2016, 2019, 2021 and 2023.
Recent examples of projects in which Canada has made significant investments include:
- Through the World Health Organization, Canada invested $45 million in the mRNA Technology Transfer Hub in Cape Town.
- Canada contributed $497 million toward converting the Komati power plant from coal to renewable energy sources, in support of South Africa’s Just Energy Transition.
- In 2023, Canada announced its intention to become a full member of the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO), an international initiative to build the world’s largest radio telescope hosted in part by South Africa.
As one of Africa’s most diversified and largest economies, South Africa is a prime destination for Canadian goods and services in Africa. In 2022, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and South Africa totaled $2.77 billion, consisting of $473.3 million in exports from Canada, and $2.3 billion in imports from South Africa.
Canada is a significant investor in South Africa. Canadian investments focus on the mineral and mining sector, as well as transportation, food processing, hospitality, and information and communication technologies. Canada and South Africa also have a history of cultural cooperation – South Africa’s first Audiovisual Co-Production Agreement was with Canada.
Trade and investment between Canada and South Africa is facilitated by a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in mining and mineral development and a Double Taxation Agreement.
In 2015, Export Development Canada opened its permanent office in Johannesburg in order to help match Canadian companies with business opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa.
South Africa is an upper middle income country. In 2021-22, Canada provided $23.1 million in international assistance to South Africa, with approximately $6.19 million of this amount channelled to bilateral assistance programming focusing on two Feminist International Assistance Policy action areas: inclusive governance and empowerment of women and girls.
In the area of inclusive governance, Canada is helping to increase the South African government’s capacity to deliver essential public services in ways that are more effective, transparent, and equitable. For example, Canada supports a national-level project aiming to increase transparency and decrease corruption within public institutions. Canada is also working with the South African government at the national, provincial, and local levels as well as with relevant civil society actors, to enhance the implementation of South Africa’s safety policies at the local level. At the heart of the project lies a more effective policy framework around matters of violence and crime prevention and the strengthening of capacities of local government.
In the area of gender equality and women’s empowerment, Global Affairs Canada is supporting a Women’s Voice and Leadership project in addition to a project with UNFPA and UNICEF that combats sexual and gender-based violence and improves girls’ and women’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights in vulnerable municipalities.
The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI) provides support to local organizations focused on women’s economic empowerment, minority rights and good governance. Since 2018-19 alone, the CFLI has funded more than 40 small-scale, high-impact projects in South Africa, totalling over $1 million in contributions.
Partnerships and organizations
To develop effective responses to today’s most pressing global challenges, Canada and South Africa work closely in multilateral fora, such as:
- International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
- International Criminal Court (ICC)
- Open Government Partnership (OGP)
- United Nations (UN)
- United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
- World Trade Organization (WTO)
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