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.

On 28 May 2021, President Macron travelled to Pretoria for an official visit. Minister of State Zacharopoulou travelled to South Africa in October 2022.

French presence

French community: As of May 2019, there were 8,009 French people on the register, 36.8% of whom were binationals.

  • Johannesburg: 4,799 on the consular register
  • Cape Town: 3,210 on the consular register
    Two consular agencies in the Johannesburg district


President Macron travelled to South Africa in May 2021. At ministerial level, Jean-Yves Le Drian, former Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, travelled to South Africa in February 2019. In 2020, Franck Riester, former Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, travelled there. In 2021, Ms Barbara Pompili, former Minister for the Energy Transition, went there. And in October 2022, current Minister of State Chrysoula Zacharopoulou travelled to South Africa.

Economic relations

In 2021, trade between France and South Africa increased by over 20% to reach €2.6 billion. South Africa is a major partner in Sub Saharan Africa (largest customer and second-largest supplier).

With almost 370 French companies set up in South Africa, France ranks 11th in terms of foreign investors in South Africa, representing FDI stock of over €3 billion in 2020. These companies are active in most sectors and employ over 65,000 people. Most French investment stock is focused on manufacturing industry (chemical and pharmaceutical industries in particular), construction and finance. French companies announced further investments of 50 billion rand during the South Africa Investment Conference in Johannesburg in March 2022.    

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

The cultural cooperation network is primarily centred around the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) and the 14 Alliance Française branches in the country (the main ones being in the six 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 May 2022, our two countries signed a Television and Film Coproduction Agreement. The IFAS co-organized the first Europe-Africa “Our Future” forum on the theme of “Paths to Democracy” in October 2022.

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.
Vocational training is a structural part of the French-South African partnership. 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.

Other cooperation


With South Africa, France launched the first JET-P (Just Energy Transition Partnership) programme, with Germany, the EU, the United States and the United Kingdom, which was announced during COP26 in Glasgow. The AFD will provide €1 billion (including via a €500 million loan to the ESKOM public electricity utility and a €300 million loan to the Treasury – signed during COP27 in November 2022). This partnership aims both to decarbonize the energy mix and provide support to help people convert.


Our cooperation in the area of healthcare was recently seen via the creation of a vaccine production hub, located in Cape Town. This structure aims to enable vaccine production in Africa, including based on mRNA technology, to promote technology transfers in the field of healthcare.


The Innovation for Democracy Foundation (Fidemo) was inaugurated in October 2022 in Johannesburg. It aims to be a centre for discussion and actions in order to revitalize democracy.

Strategic partnership with the European Union

Since 2007, the EU and South Africa have had a strategic partnership, fuelled by some 20 sector-specific dialogues for which there are high-level meetings.
The EU-South Africa relationship mainly centres around economic and trade issues. The EU and its 27 Member States are not only South Africa’s largest trading partners, but also its biggest source of foreign direct investment (FDI). The investment generated by the EU created over 300,000 jobs and offers major potential in areas such as green technologies, the manufacturing industry, the energy sector, digital technology/automation and services.

The EU is South Africa’s largest development partner. Its bilateral cooperation programme, which amounts to €281 million, is strengthened by grants targeting areas of thematic action. Furthermore, the European Investment Bank has made available €462 million in long-term loans.

Updated: 5 April 2023