Thursday, May 30, 2019

South African Foreign Policy under the Ramaphosa Government

Natasha Domiro, Research Assistant, Indian Ocean Research Programme,; original article contains links 

Cyril Ramaphosa e Michel Temer 2 (cropped).jpg
Ramaphosa image from Wikipedia

Cyril Ramaphosa has safely secured his position as President for another five years and South Africans are now pinning their hopes on him to clean up the government and restore the country’s international reputation. He ordered a review of foreign policy earlier this year and announced a renewed pivot towards Africa, so it appears that, in the Ramaphosa Presidency, African interests will again be at the forefront of the country’s international agenda. President Ramaphosa intends to achieve his administrative and domestic goals through the use of international relations with a focus on economic diplomacy.

The successful implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy objectives will depend on whether the government can clean up its departments, especially the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO), and ensure that diplomats are effectively pursuing a foreign policy focused on economic diplomacy. Despite the hopeful sentiments surrounding President Ramaphosa’s election victory, it does appear that foreign policy will remain stagnant and the practices that have shamed South Africa for much of the past two decades will persist. 

Analysis ...

At the forefront of President Ramaphosa’s foreign policy review is the rekindling of the “African Renaissance” sentiment and, with it, South Africa’s potential to once again become an influential leader on the African continent. The African Renaissance was popularised during Thabo Mbeki’s presidency. He encouraged South Africans to embrace an African identity and sought to promote the continent’s political, economic and social renewal, in an attempt to reintegrate Africa into the global economy. At the core of Mbeki’s renaissance was concern about the continent’s position within a rapidly globalising world economy. In short, therefore, the African Renaissance came to be defined as Africa’s political renewal and economic reintegration. The revival of the African Renaissance sentiment under President Ramaphosa appears to hold the same connotations. He has frequently reasserted his intention to grow the economy and expand South Africa’s soft power presence, by pursuing key leadership positions and agendas, both on the continent and internationally.

South Africa will assume the Chair of the African Union (AU) from 2020 and has asserted that the African Renaissance will be the driving force of its term in that position. There will be a particular focus on strengthening regional economic communities (Recs): the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), the Pan-African Women’s Organization (PAWO) and programmes such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).

The review panel tasked with assessing the strengths and weaknesses of South Africa’s current foreign policy trajectory acknowledged that the country has not lived up to its earlier promises. It conceded that: ‘The country has not sufficiently played the role it was expected to play or should have played in engaging a number of international issues.’ The panel urged the new administration to forge strategic alliances with specific African countries and to ensure that its other critical relationships – essentially economic in nature – are not neglected.

The need to leverage technology as a means of improving efficiency and effectiveness formed an essential part of the proposed new foreign policy path. The panel acknowledged that globalisation has perpetuated, if not exacerbated, the divide between developing and developed countries, but also pointed to its potential to accelerate regional, continental and global economic integration and development. In line with that acknowledgment, economic diplomacy was emphasised as a means of optimising South Africa’s economic potential and the use of its abundant natural resources. In the South African context, economic diplomacy can be defined as policies and activities that promote trade, foreign direct investment (FDI), tourism and technology transfers to South Africa. Its aim is to positively position the country in the world through imaging, branding, marketing and public diplomacy [JB emphasis], both domestically and internationally. South Africa’s economic diplomacy still requires a more specific definition, however, with distinctly expressed priorities. ...

Implementation of Foreign Policy

South Africa’s diplomatic and consular missions implement the government’s foreign policy directives to enhance its international profile. They also serve as strategic mechanisms for the achievement of national interests. In so doing, South African diplomats currently face numerous obstacles and limitations in trying to implement the government’s foreign policy objectives. ...

One such limitation is insufficient budget allocation to achieve departmental priorities. Closely related to that is the mismanagement of departmental funds. ...

A second problem is the limited availability of appropriate human resources. ...

A third limitation is the lack of coherence and co-ordination in South Africa’s foreign policy. Although the foreign policy review calls for a return to the African Renaissance and putting African interests first, these objectives cannot be achieved with inadequate inter- and intra-departmental co-ordination on multilateral issues and institutions. Public diplomacy strategies and programmes that enhance the understanding of South Africa’s foreign policy for all stakeholders, including national and international audiences, must be implemented to ensure the successful achievement of the government’s objectives. Presently, the implementation of South Africa’s foreign policy is difficult, due to the lack of clarity, definable goals and achievable objectives. ...

Before Pretoria can achieve any of its foreign policy objectives, South Africa’s international credibility needs to be restored. ...

Until the government deals with the domestic issues that are affecting the country’s foreign relations, however, Pretoria will only have limited success in achieving its foreign policy objectives.


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