Written evidence submitted by Dr Greg
Mills, National Director, SA Institute of International Affairs
SA-UK relations are currently defined by four
Trade and Investment Ties.
The UK and SA Diaspora.
The Wider African Role including
Shared International Concerns.
Although this short memo will focus on the latter
two areas, a number of observations will be made in conclusion
with regard to trade and investment concerns and the diaspora,
and in so doing will identify a number of areas where the UKFCO
and related diplomatic/cultural entities might focus their activities.
In this, both SA and Africa have focused their
activities on Africa in four areas.
First, partnership in conflict resolution,
peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance.
Second, political, technical and
financial support for NEPAD.
Third, aid and assistance towards
meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
Fourth, support for democratisation,
the rule of law, economic liberalisation and management, and human
The bilateral relationship has been, in the
Mbeki presidency (1999-), defined to a great extent by public
disagreement over "what to do" with Zimbabwe. South
Africa has preferred to see the crisis in its northern neighbour
in terms of its colonial legacy; while the UK (especially Minister
of State Peter Hain) has emphasised the rule of law and human
rights as key factors in the turn of events. While every effort
should be made to distinguish bilateral relations from wider regional
and African issues, such disagreements should not, however, dilute
the need for a more active British African diplomatic role. British
diplomats have made every effort not to have the wider relationship
held hostage to differences over Zimbabwe, and this has been achieved
by the UK's de facto withdrawal from the Zimbabwe debate. This
has, however, not assisted in arriving at a resolution of the
crisis, and indeed, may well have served to stress the "colonial
dimension" to the problem, which is not in British (and African
Paradoxically the shift in South Africa's foreign
policy focus to become African-centric has seen a much more proactive
SA role in regional peacekeeping (notably in Burundi and the DR
Congo), offering a number of avenues for partnership. National
security apparatuses have weakened in Africa because the international
community has ended military assistance, because additional spending
on defence is carefully monitored by international organisations,
and because domestic financial crises have caused a general weakening
of the state. Two types of agencies have suffered particularly
during the overall decline in security: the police and intelligence
agencies. Most African police forces are extremely weak and cannot
combat day-to-day crime, much less be the front-line forces in
combating instability. Intelligence collection is also very poor
in most African countries. It is particularly hard for leaders
to evaluate changing threat environments and the breakout of armed
violence often comes as a surprise to national authorities. Aiding
police agencies, in particular, so that they can fight crime,
deter criminals, and be viable "first responders" to
those who might eventually threaten war is absolutely critical.
More has to be done so that the African countries that are potentially
viable will actually be able to police their territories. A similar
strategy would also assist intelligence agencies, particularly
important in the light of the war on terror.
Finally, the ability of African countries to
benefit from wider regional and continental economic integration
efforts remains to an extent dependent on their ability to establish,
negotiate and manage tariff reduction schedules, and to facilitate
trade through effective customs agencies. These are important
areas for UK aid engagement.
These hinge around the EU-African relationship,
the war on terror, the war in Iraq, the provision of more equitable
and effective global trading and financial architecture (such
as in the progress of the WTO Doha Round), and environmental issues.
The divergent positions of the South African
and UK governments on the war on Iraq is illustrative that, first,
the "old" African National Congress (ANC)-Labour Party
ties no longer have the irreducible value they once might have
possessed. Indeed, as the SA political leadership progresses in
generational terms beyond a core group of exiles, this sentimentality
may further dissipate.
The failure of the Cancun round of trade negotiations
is also a setback for SA trade policy, both domestically and in
terms of its wider ambitions. This will remain a key objective
for Pretoria, and will to a great extent shape the nature and
focus of its foreign relations, notably with the G20+ and the
Cairns Group where ties will likely be deepened and strengthened.
This could be at the cost of a chilling in ties with the EU over
the CAP, and more emphasis will also likely be placed on concluding
bilateral free trade agreements notably with the US and Mercosur,
and possibly India, Japan, China, Nigeria and Australia. However,
there are shared SA/UK concerns over the liberalisation of agricultural
trade, and conversely over the CAP and the failure at Cancun.
While the UK should continue to make the case for reform of the
CAP within the EU, SA will need to take the lead on emphasising
the need for reform in terms of African development and EU-African
The Commonwealth has, since 1994, been an important
body for Pretoria in terms of providing a platform for North and
South to meet on an equal footing. However, while its coherence
has suffered over the Zimbabwe issue, it will remain an important
platform for SA not least due to President Mbeki's wider ambitions
for African development.
A number of policy recommendations are made
in conclusion in the four identified areas:
Trade and Investment Ties:
The UK is SA's third largest trade partner (with a total flow
of R42 billion in 2001 comprising R18 billion in SA imports, R22
billion in exports). There is, however, a need to encourage trade
and investment ties partly by facilitating business contact, mentoring
business ties, and, in so doing, ameliorating the current perception
of a high investor risk premium, which currently contributes to
low investment growth in the Republic. Conversely, there has been
a substantial outflow of SA capital mainly via London listings.
The largest single investment in SA by UK companies has, since
1994, been around the arms deal. This will remain a controversial
issue, and indeed may create a number of political problems not
least those around perceptions of enrichment associated with the
offset element of these packages.
The UK and SA Diaspora: The
importance of this group in shaping perceptions about both countries
cannot be understated. Efforts should be made, in particular,
to draw the SA expatriates in the UK (around 350,000) into a constructive
Dialogue involving both governments; and using the UK group in
SA (around one million) as a source of information and possible
avenue for partnership with incoming businesses.
The Wider African Role including
NEPAD: NEPAD is the key policy programme for the SA government.
As such, a great deal has been staked on its continued roll-out
and success. However, there is little doubt that it has met with
resistance in much of Africa where its good governance message
is seen as a threat in some quarters. Also, its programmes remain
focused overwhelmingly on process rather than the delivery of
key priorities. The UK government should identify one or two key
areas for involvement such as providing technical assistance for
trade negotiations (a key element of NEPAD) and in support for
local policing initiatives as identified above.
Shared International Concerns:
There is a need to focus diplomatic efforts on concluding successfully
the Doha Round of world trade negotiations, and in establishing
tariff reduction procedures and strategies within African countries,
an absence of capability which has constrained efforts to create
meaningful African regional economic communities.
In the nearly 10 years since South Africa's
political transition, the UK-SA relationship has normalised. Beyond
the goodwill and warmth of the Mandela period (1994-99), the extent
of this normalisation is arguably most evident in the degree of
rhetorical disagreement around the war on Iraq and over Zimbabwe.
Short of London disengaging from African issues as difficult (yet
as important in human rights terms) as Zimbabwe, this normalisation
trend will likely continue.
In these circumstances, the UK-SA bilateral
commission (and related diplomatic efforts) should focus on a
number of key areas, otherwise it runs the risk of becoming yet
another commission (of which there are an increasing number with
South Africa, stretching thus its foreign policy capacity) with
limited rewards beyond providing a framework for interaction.
As a start, the bilateral commission should focus on facilitating
bilateral business opportunities, and finding ways of linking
the SA diaspora residing in the UK.
Institute of International Affairs