Relations between South Africa and Canada have been formalised bilaterally in the form of Senior Officials’ Level Annual Consultations. These were launched in 2003 after Minister Dlamini Zuma signed a Declaration of Intent during President Mbeki’s State Visit to Canada. The 7th Annual Consultations took place in Pretoria/Tshwane in May 2012. The Consultations have continued to expand in scope and now include ODA (Official Development Assistance), Trade and Investment, Sport, SAPS, Arts and Culture, Science and Technology, Minerals and Energy, Agriculture, Transport, African co-operation issues, multilateral issues, the G8, G20 and peacekeeping co-operation.
Former President Nelson Mandela paid an official visit to Canada in September 1998. On a subsequent visit, Mr. Mandela was presented with Honorary Canadian Citizenship, one of only four ever, amongst them the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi and Raoul Wallenberg. President Thabo Mbeki paid a State Visit to Canada in 2004. There was a reciprocal State Visit by the Canadian Governor General, Michaelle Jean at the end of 2006 which focussed particularly on socio-economic issues. This was the first ever visit by a Canadian Governor General to South Africa and Africa. Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Deepak Obhrai, attended the inauguration of President Jacob Zuma.
There have been several study visits by both the National and Provincial legislatures to Canada over the past years and all indications are that Canada continues to be a popular bench-marking visit for South Africans from various sectors of Government and areas in legislatures.
South Africa remains Canada’s second largest trading partner in sub-Saharan Africa. There has been an exponential growth in trade, with figures doubling between 2000 and 2007. However, annual two-way trade between South Africa and Canada declined by almost 20 percent in the latter part of 2007 due to global pressures from the international financial crisis. The ensuing global economic crisis continued to seriously affect South Africa’s trade with Canada and resulting in a decline throughout 2008-2009. Exports to Canada in 2010-2011 stabilised to around R5 billion while Canadian exports to South Africa declined to R3 billion. About two thirds of South African exports to Canada relate to minerals and mining equipment with agricultural and chemical products making up the rest. Canada views South Africa as a gateway into SADC and Africa.
Both South Africa and Canada are significant global producers of mineral resources that involve extensive mining. This is a natural area of cooperation and there is a growing interest on both sides to increase both investments and mining related trade. There are many opportunities in the area of mining equipment and technologies on both sides. Opportunities for beneficiation should be further researched as this may also be in the interest of Canadian companies operating mines in South Africa. Canadian investment in South African mining is growing with the Toronto stock exchange being a major source for raising capital for this purpose. The vast Canadian oil industry may offer opportunities for South Africa’s petro-chemical industry. The global surge in demand for energy has led to advances in fuel cell technology using platinum.
Canada has provided development assistance to South Africa since 1979. A Bilateral Development Assistance Agreement was signed between South Africa and Canada in November 2006. More than $200 million in Canadian support has been contributed through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) since 1979 and annual spending has averaged about $14 million since the 2000-2001 funding cycle. Canada’s involvement in South Africa focuses on the strengthening of service delivery and regional efforts in four key areas:
- HIV/AIDS -- Stabilizing and reducing the incidence and impact of HIV/AIDS
- Governance -- Improving access to social services
- Rural Development -- Improving access to technical and organizational services for small-scale farmers
- Regional cooperation -- Supporting South African initiatives that contribute to regional stability and cooperation by supporting demand-driven and mutually beneficial transfers of expertise between South Africa and neighbouring countries, to prevent political instability, conflict, extreme poverty, humanitarian crises, and massive migration movements.
South Africa has explored avenues for cooperation in capacity-building around SADPA through a continued engagement with CIDA.