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Denmark's new partnership with South Africa

Denmark - South Africa 2010. Partnership for the future

South Africa has a quite strategic position in Africa as the continent’s political and economic heavyweight with global influence in a number of areas. Thus, South Africa is an important partner for Denmark in a globalised world. This policy paper outlines Denmark’s cooperation with South Africa, politically and economically, in the years to come.

Denmark supported the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa for many years. The effort was characterised by strong public support, and images of Nelson Mandela’s release and leadership were seen as historical milestones.

During South Africa’s transition to democracy, Denmark’s
South Africa policy focused on development cooperation. Despite South Africa being wealthier than traditional recipients of Danish development assistance, the cooperation continued due to a wish to support South Africa’s transition to freedom and democracy.

The country has experienced rapid change over the past decade. Today, South Africa is one of the most interesting emerging economies and despite the continued limited size of the economy its growth projections are extremely positive and the purchasing power of its large population is increasing. Furthermore, South Africa is characterised by market-friendly policies and political stability, ensuring an attractive climate for investment and trade. Combined with its geographical location, good infrastructure and sound banking sector, South Africa is in many ways an attractive gateway to Africa.

Despite the many positive developments and new opportunities, South Africa is still experiencing challenges. Wide income inequalities, unemployment and poverty are still prevalent.

Other problems include a high crime rate, HIV/AIDS and general challenges in the health sector. On top of that, South Africa has an education system that often lags far behind at primary and secondary level while some of its universities produce top candidates.

Denmark’s relationship with South Africa has also changed over the last decade. Due to the Nordic countries’ strong support for the ANC during the Apartheid era, for many years Denmark enjoyed a special status in South Africa.

Over time, this historical connection naturally has become less significant. South Africa is a key regional player whose international position is illustrated by its G20 membership, for instance. The cooperation with the BRIC countries
(Brazil, Russia, India and China), in particular, is playing an increasingly important role.

Most recently, South Africa has strengthened its engagement in the fight against climate change and will be hosting the UN’s Climate Change Conference in 2011. Furthermore, South Africa is actively mediating in conflicts on the African continent, particularly through the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU), and it has become a donor country in Africa.

Despite the changes in the relationship between Denmark and South Africa, there is still a solid foundation for close cooperation, even though Denmark no longer enjoys automatic access to dialogue with South African partners. In the future, Denmark will be an active partner and constructive player in South Africa’s growth and in the country’s increasingly important political position on the

African continent and in South-South cooperation. The objective is two-fold: we need to be better equipped to take advantage of the many interesting political 4 and economic opportunities offered by cooperation with South Africa, and simultaneously this will be advantageous for Denmark’s role and position in a globalised world. In the short term,

Denmark will assist with strategic development initiatives, although at a reduced level. Overall, the ideal is a broadened partnership for the future based on pursuing both Danish and common interests. Commercial cooperation will play a crucial role in the future. However, we must make the most of our two countries’ common positions on issues such as peace and stability in Africa, the building of stronger African institutions, the promotion of democracy and human rights, and the international debate on values.


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