France and South Africa


Political relations

There is regular high-level political dialogue between France and South Africa, strengthened by regular visits from Heads of State and Ministers. A Forum for Political Dialogue for senior officials was held in Paris on 22 March 2018. The most recent Forum for Political Dialogue (ministerial level) took place in Pretoria on 28 February 2019.


Presidential visits

  • 2008: Visit to South Africa by President Sarkozy.
  • 2011: Visit to France by President Zuma.
  • 2013: Visit to South Africa by President Hollande (October) and again in December with the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the funeral of Nelson Mandela.
  • 2016: State Visit to France by President Zuma (July)

Ministerial visits

  • 2015: Visit to South Africa by Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • 2016: Visit to South Africa by Matthias Fekl, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Tourism and French Nationals Abroad
  • 2017: Visit to South Africa by Michel Sapin, Minister of the Economy and Finance
  • 2018: Visit to South Africa by Nicolas Hulot, Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition and visits to France by Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, South African Minister of Defence (11 November commemorations and Paris Peace Forum) and Rob Davies, South African Minister for Trade and Industry (Vivatechnology).
  • 2019: Visit to South Africa by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

During the Minister’s last visit to South Africa, the close relations and the process of bilateral cooperation in many sectors (science and technology, education and higher education, transport, energy and culture) was confirmed, as six agreements or memorandums were signed.

Economic relations

The bilateral economic relationship is based on a relatively balanced partnership. French exports in South Africa rose to €1.6 billion in 2018 and South African exports to France were €1.4 billion for the same period. With a trade surplus of almost €200 million for France, South Africa is a major partner. France is South Africa’s tenth largest supplier. France is a major investor in South Africa with a stock of €2.5 billion, and this figure is growing. South African investment stock in France was €213 million in 2017.

The bilateral relationship also benefits from the more than 370 French companies established in South Africa (including 29 CAC40 listed companies) that represent 37,000 jobs and total revenue of €8.5 billion, covering almost all industrial and service sectors and fully respecting the rules imposed by local authorities on local content (for example, 65% in the transport sector) and positive discrimination (employment, training). To this end, businesses make an active contribution to the industrialization of the country, enabling South Africa to gradually make progress despite still significant structural constraints (starting with the weak education system).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Cooperation aims to support the emergence of South Africa. The French cooperation network in South Africa covers all sectors: culture, science, research, health, academic and linguistic cooperation.

The cultural cooperation system is mainly structured around the Cooperation and Cultural Action Service (SCAC) at the Embassy (Pretoria), the Institut Français in South Africa (IFAS) and the 14 Alliances Françaises (the main ones located in South Africa’s largest cities: Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth). The French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) remains a key partner of the main South African festivals in fields including dance, plastic arts, music, books and film. In the research field, there is a major presence of French public bodies and a French Research Institute Abroad (IFRE). Several solidarity funds (Solidarity Fund for innovative projects for civil society and Priority Solidarity Fund) have been allocated to innovative research projects in various areas: human rights, local governance, agriculture, etc. The network also includes two French lycées with almost 1,500 students in the cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.

In the field of science, France has become South Africa’s fourth-largest partner, with over 940 articles co-signed by scientists from the two countries in 2017. This figure, which is growing by an average of 16% per year, demonstrates this vibrant collaboration which covers all scientific areas.

Support for training and capacity building in South Africa remains a central thread for French cooperation, meeting both South African needs and the priorities of our attractiveness policy. It is based around a programme of French government grants and five bilateral training centres, including three training centres for research and innovation, in particular the French South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI) (which has two branches, in Cape Town and Pretoria) and two vocational training centres: the French South African Schneider Electric Training Center (F’SASEC), a centre of excellence set up by the Ministry of National Education in the area of energy developed with the Schneider Electric company, and the Product Lifecycle Management Competency Centre (PLMCC), a centre of excellence set up by the Ministry of National Education in the area of industrial software developed with Dassault Systèmes.

Updated: 06.06.19