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Canada-South Africa relations

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Bilateral relations

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) and a trade office in Johannesburg. 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.

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, innovation, science and technology, the environment and climate change, education and culture.

Canada bestowed Nelson Mandela with honorary citizenship in 2001 in recognition of his leadership in the fight against apartheid and his efforts to build a new united South Africa. Honouring the legacy of the late Nelson Mandela, Canada, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, also created the African Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship Program, which allows young professionals from sub-Saharan Africa to pursue graduate studies in public administration and public policy in Canada.

Trade relations

As one of the continent’s most diversified and largest economies, South Africa is a prime destination for Canadian goods and services in Africa. In 2021, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and South Africa totaled $2.1 billion, consisting of $382.5 million in exports from Canada, and $1.7 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 the transportation, food processing, hospitality, information and communication technologies, and instrumentation sectors. 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 Canadian companies take advantage of business opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Development

Despite its relative strength in sub-Saharan Africa as a middle-income country, member of BRICS, the G20, and strategic influencer on the continent, 28 years after the end of apartheid South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies in the world.

In 2020-21, Canada provided $21.51 million in international assistance to South Africa, with approximately $5M of this amount channeled to bilateral assistance programming focusing on inclusive governance, as well as gender equality and the 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. In 2021-22, the CFLI funded 11 projects in South Africa, totaling approximately $260,000.

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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:

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