France and South Africa

High-level political dialogue

The French-South African strategic partnership was given new impetus during President Sarkozy’s visit to South Africa in 2008 and President Zuma’s visit to France in 2011. President Hollande’s visit (14-15 October 2013) strengthened these ties further. The French President and the Minister of Foreign Affairs also attended the funeral of Nelson Mandela on 10 December 2013. President Jacob Zuma made a State visit to France from 10 to 12 July 2016. On 22 March 2018, a Political Dialogue Forum (senior official level) was held in Paris between the two countries.

Ministerial contacts take place on a relatively frequent basis. On the French side, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development visited South Africa on 21 November 2015, ahead of COP21. The Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Tourism and French Nationals Abroad visited on 9 November 2016, the Minister of the Economy and Finance visited on 2 and 3 February 2017. The Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition visited from 13 to 18 July 2018, taking part in the ceremony organized to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth.

South Africa was represented by its Minister of Defence and Military Veterans at the ceremonies commemorating the armistice on 11 November 2018 and at the Paris Peace Forum.

Adequate bilateral economic relations based on a “balanced” partnership

French exports to South Africa amounted to €1.75 billion in 2017 and South African exports to France to €1.09 billion over the same period.

With a French trade surplus of almost €700 million, South Africa is a key partner. While the French market share is decreasing over time, it remains significant at 2.3% and France remains South Africa’s fourth-largest European supplier.

The bilateral relationship also profits 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). In this respect, the companies are actively contributing to the country’s industrialization, allowing South Africa to climb gradually upmarket despite its still strong structural constraints (in particular the weakness of the education system).

France is the 14th-largest foreign investor in South Africa, with a stock just below €1 billion but expected to increase in the medium term in relation, in particular, to the contract signed in 2013 by Alstom and the public transport company PRASA, worth €4 billion (with a French share of €400 million), for the supply of 3,600 train carriages by 2025.

The participation of the South African Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davis, in the VivaTechnology show in Paris from 24 to 26 May 2018, helped showcase our cooperation in technological innovation and supporting the African start-up ecosystem.

Cooperation aimed at supporting South Africa’s emergence

The French cooperation network in South Africa covers all key areas of French influence in terms of culture, science, research, health, universities and language issues.

The cultural cooperation network is primarily centred around the Cultural Cooperation and Outreach Service (SCAC) at the French Embassy (Pretoria), the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) and the 14 Alliance Française branches in the country (the main ones being in the five largest cities: Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, 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 (including the Solidarity Fund for innovative projects, aimed at civil society, and the Priority Solidarity Fund) are in place to finance innovative research projects in various areas, including human rights, good local governance and farming.

The network also includes two French schools (lycées) with nearly 1,500 students on three sites in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.

In the scientific field, France has become South Africa’s fourth-largest partner with over 940 articles co-signed by scientists of both countries in 2017. This figure, which increases 16% on average per year, illustrates the dynamism of this collaboration in all scientific areas.

Support for training and capacity-building in South Africa remains a guiding principle for French cooperation, to meet South Africa’s needs and the priorities of our attractiveness policy. It is built around a programme offering French government grants, as well as five bilateral training centres including three research and innovation training centres, such as the French-South African Institute of Technology (F’SATI), which has sites in Cape Town and Pretoria, and two vocational training centres of excellence linked to the French Ministry of National Education: the F’SASEC, in the energy field, developed in partnership with the company Schneider Electric; and the PLMCC, in the industrial software field, developed in partnership with Dassault Systèmes.

Updated: 26 November 2018