Lee-Roy Chetty
Lee-Roy Chetty

The geopolitical transformation and significance of South Africa

Since our country’s new democratic transition, South Africa has displayed remarkable levels of socio-political stability, which has resulted in a strong influence in Africa as well as within the international community. South Africa has one of the most advanced and diversified economies in Africa and also accounts for a significant proportion of global foreign trade. Our geographical position also strategically affords South Africa the role as gateway to sub-Saharan Africa. With the result, trade liberalisation has in particular been at the forefront of our country’s post-apartheid economic strategy, reflecting a commitment to outward-stimulated development.

As a rising state within an international context, South Africa is assuming an increasingly important role in the emerging global political order. This is apparent in South Africa’s inclusion as part of the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA), the Brics regional formation, the only African country in the G20, and as a non-permanent member of United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Our country’s South-South cooperation strategy is also anchored on the Brics partnership mechanism with China, India, Brazil and Russia. Our membership of Brics has three distinct objectives: to boost job creation and the domestic economy; to support African infrastructure development and industrialisation; and to partner with key players of the South on issues related to global governance and its reform. South Africa will also be hosting the next Brics summit in early 2013 and will be working alongside our regional partners to establish a Brics development bank in the coming years which would focus and push a specific agenda of developing world nations.

South Africa is also playing a leading role in managing the global commons. At the historic COP17 in December 2011, through our country’s leadership, a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol was secured.

The key to sustaining South Africa’s momentum within a foreign policy context is to strengthen our continental institutions so that they have the capacity to drive forward an inclusive African agenda. Therefore the request of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to nominate Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma for the position of the chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU) is strategically significant and has the potential to play a much more dynamic role as the motor of the AU and to champion a Southern African agenda.

In addition, South Africa’s key role in economic cooperation and regional integration initiatives is underpinned by the size of our economy and positive growth spillovers to the rest of the continent. Through our membership in various regional and sub-regional groupings, South Africa supports efforts to deepen economic integration in Southern Africa as well as the rest of the African continent. It has been calculated that if the African continent continues to address its infrastructure backlog, economic growth will receive a boost of perhaps as much as two percentage points a year. In view of this, the AU has set up the Presidential Infrastructure Championship Initiative, a committee of eight Nepad (New Partnership for African Development) heads of state, which President Zuma was asked to chair, to drive infrastructure projects forward. Our President is also responsible for championing the North-South Road and Rail Corridor project.

South Africa is also the only meaningful economic power in the Southern Africa region and in Africa. Our country has exercised leadership with respect to investment, trade, monetary integration and institutional influence. Within the Common Monetary Area (CMA), the South African Reserve Bank influences the foreign exchange regulations and the monetary policy of its member states. Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland have a fixed currency to the South African Rand. The CMA is also allied with the Sothern African Customs Union (SACU) with the exception of Botswana which is the only SACU member out of the CMA. Our country’s position as a technologically advanced nation with high-qualified people is also demonstrated by its leadership in terms of expenditures for Research and Development on the continent.

South Africa has made Africa our top foreign policy priority. Over the past three years President Zuma’s administration has continued to play an important role, both bilaterally and through the AU, in promoting peace, good governance, integration and other public goods that are prerequisites for development. Through our country’s collective efforts, South Africa has managed to energise the continent. At close to six per cent, Africa’s economies are consistently growing faster than almost any other region.

Over the last 18 years, South Africa has emerged as a respected member of the international community. This is because of the sound leadership of our incumbent and previous government administrations, as well as our country’s independent, Ubuntu-led foreign policy which places emphasis on humane values of peace, the interconnectedness of people, human rights and freedom.

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