An analysis of the partnership between Asia and
Africa is complex as the key defining components
of historical, political and economic experience
and resultant institutions are fundamentally dissimilar.
Africa consists of a coherent continent with a largely
consolidated landmass, one central continental institution
and defined strategies in terms of action in multilateral
fora such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and
the G77. Despite religious, linguistic and ethnic
diversity, it has definable challenges and problems
and an existing vision of where it wants to be in
the foreseeable future.
Asia and Oceania on the other hand comprise a vast
and very diverse region, ranging from the deserts
of Australia and Rajastan to the small island nations
of the Pacific whose very existence is being threatened
by the effects of global warming, from tropical
jungles to megacities whose already burgeoning populations
continue to grow rapidly. Asia lacks a single coherent
continental organisation and the three major regional
organisations representing South Asia (SAARC), Southeast
Asia (ASEAN), and the greater Asia-Pacific Region
(APEC) are often in competition.
A major cohesive component and element in all the
states of this vast region is the common desire
to succeed economically and diplomatically. Success
has been achieved to greater and lesser degrees
without sacrificing unique Asian national identities.
These nations have not succumbed to IMF/World Bank/EU-imposed
directives and foreign dictates on domestic governments
and the formats of own domestic policies and programmes.
However, many of them have been duly influenced,
often positively, by the impact of colonial, legal,
administrative and governmental practices.
Although the Asian economic and financial crisis
reversed prosperity in many countries, the communities
in the affected countries have begun to recover.
The self-assurance, single-mindedness and Confucian
traditions of a vast area of the Asian region reflect
key characteristics that may well be harnessed and
deployed to the benefit of the African Renaissance.
In this regard, Asias involvement in Africa
can make a difference.
An important aspect of the Confucian tradition
is perhaps manifest in the unflinching ability of
governments and societies within some Asian countries
to educate their people. Even where abject poverty
is prevalent, education continues to remain a key
priority and part of their growing success story.
Another component of the Asian success story has
been the ability of communities and governments
to mobilise agriculture as a way of overcoming adversity
and economic setbacks notably in China, India
and Indonesia where progress towards self-sufficiency
has led to these countries developing export markets
for their own agricultural produce. This is a far
cry from three decades ago when they had great trouble
feeding their own populations.
Great emphasis is placed on research and the stimulation
of intellectual curiosity where even in poor countries
such as Indonesia and densely populated countries
such as India, a number of active research bodies,
think tanks, study programmes and civil society
groups focus on the pursuit of intellectual capacity.
Although the culture and traditions of the nations
of East Asia are centred in the historic Confucian
cultural tradition, they are highly individualistic
and exhibit different levels of socio-economic and
technological development. Broadly-speaking, the
two liberal democracies of Japan and South Korea
are highly developed, internationally integrated,
technologically advanced market economies, in contrast
with the reclusive and economically deficient North
Korea. On the other hand there is the rapidly emerging
international power of the Greater China region.
Although strong bilateral relations exist and are
growing between South Africa and regional powers
such as China and Japan, two important processes
are already taking place which, if successfully
managed, would substantially contribute to the realisation
of an African Renaissance. These processes are the
existing TICAD initiative of Japan and the process
commenced with the recent China-Africa Co-operation
For convenience sake, at the Department of Foreign
Affairs, the Asian region is sub-divided into the
Greater China Region, Japan and the Koreas, and
South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Australasia
and the Pacific.
The Greater China Region
Greater China comprises the Peoples Republic
of China (PRC or "China"), the Hong Kong
and Macao Special Administrative Regions of the
PRC, and Taiwan. Because of the economic confluence
(and congruence) among these entities, an integrated
approach has been adopted in the process of formulating
policy towards the region.
Despite the return of the territories of Hong Kong
and Macao to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 and 1999
respectively, political harmonisation has not as
yet been attained. The total reintegration of Hong
Kong and Macao will not occur before 2050. The imperfect
harmony in the region is highlighted by the unresolved
situation across the Taiwan Straits between China
Over the past 25 years, China has emerged as one
of the most influential nations on earth. This was
the result mainly of the fundamental economic reforms
instituted in China and the far-reaching effect
Chinas economic restructuring has had on the
global economy. Partly as a consequence of Chinas
sheer size, but mainly as a result of its vast and
rapidly increasing economic power, China is expected
to be the worlds largest economy by GDP in
the first decade of this century, and it has become
more assertive in the international arena. Emboldened
by her position as a Permanent Member of the UNSC,
and her increasingly dominant position in the Asian
region, indications are that, while still a developing
country, China envisages a position for herself
among the leading nations of the world.
However, in aspiring towards that ideal, and perhaps
also as a result of the mainly competitive relations
between China and the USA and the EU, the historic
friendly relationship between China and the developing
world and with Africa in particular
remained an important factor in Chinas foreign
policy considerations. In addition, China has been
playing a key role within the context of South-South
relations over the past 50 years, and has sought
to consolidate and maintain her position as a leader
of the developing world.
While recognising China's contributions towards
Africa, it is equally true that China has benefitted
from African support, particularly in the multilateral
arena. Within the context of the African Renaissance,
there is an opportunity for Africa to consolidate
and affirm its long-standing relationship with China,
while also seeking opportunities in China for African
enterprise. In creating a New Partnership between
Africa and China on the basis of equality and mutual
benefit, Africa can engage China in its renaissance
Presently, bilateral trade with Africa accounts
for only 1% of Chinas total trade roughly
equal to Chinas trade with Brazil. China is
also a major competitor with Africa, for Foreign
Direct Investment more than 60% of total
FDI to developing countries is invested in China.
South Africa established diplomatic relations with
the PRC on 1 January 1998. The basis of relations
between the PRC and South Africa is the Pretoria
Declaration signed by the two countries in 2000
and the Beijing Declaration, signed following the
Sino-Africa Conference in October 2000. At present
China is South Africas 10th largest trading
The relationship between Africa and Taiwan had
for many years been circumscribed by the rivalry
between Taiwan and China for diplomatic recognition.
However, relations between Taiwan and Africa are
increasingly being influenced by commercial considerations.
In addition, Taiwan continues to inform policy development
in Africa on democratisation, economic development,
and the introduction of new technology. The challenge
for Africa is to avoid allowing the rivalry between
Taiwan and China to deter African States from seeking
optimum benefits from the Greater China region.
South Africa follows the One-China policy i.e.
the Government in Beijing is recognised as the legal
representative of China, in keeping with international
The economic integration of the Greater China Region
is a fait accompli. There is indisputable evidence
that this region is poised to play a dominant global
role with a clear indication that key elements in
this region could play an important and constructive
role in the African Renaissance. Therefore, Africa
should seek to develop an even closer association
with this region.
The Sino-Africa relationship is increasingly defined
by the process set in motion by the Sino- Africa
Ministerial Co-operation Forum in October 2000.
The Beijing Declaration and Programme of action
clearly define the road ahead.
China has established a permanent committee to
oversee the process. In a follow-up meeting held
after the OAU gathering in Zambia in 2001, it was
decided that the next senior officials meeting to
monitor progress will be held in Ethiopia in 2002
followed by the next ministerial meeting between
Africa and China in 2003 also in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Japan and the Koreas
Both Japan and South Korea seek access to stable
and reliable sources of basic raw materials and
minerals for their industrial economies, as well
as markets for their manufactured products. In this
regard both are committed to the maintenance of
international peace because it is conducive to socio-economic
development and prosperity.
Japan has enunciated the viewpoint that poverty
is a source of destabilisation and conflict, and
that Africa is a major challenge to development.
Thus Japan uses its Official Development Assistance
(ODA) as an important foreign policy instrument
to strengthen international peace, stability and
security. Japan attributes great value to the UN
and is the second largest contributor to the UN.
In accordance with its quest for a status reflecting
its economic and political power, Japan intends
to become a Permanent Member of a reformed Security
Since the upgrading of South Africas relations
to full diplomatic relations on 13 January 1992,
the bilateral relationship with Japan has expanded
across a wide spectrum. In 1994, and again in 1999,
Japan granted South Africa Official Development
Assistance packages, each in the amount of US 1,5
billion dollars. Japan has been South Africas
most important trade partner in Asia for several
years and South Africas third most important
trade partner internationally.
In January 2001, the then Prime Minister Yoshiro
Mori paid a historic visit to South Africa during
which he outlined Japans Africa Policy. In
October, President Mbeki paid a highly successful
State Visit to Japan. On 2 October, a Joint Communiqué
"Japan-SA Partnership in the New Century"
was issued, which provides a guideline framework
for future co-operation. The bilateral relationship
Japan is keen to synchronise the TICAD process
(Tokyo International Conference on African Development)
with President Thabo Mbekis New Partnership
for African Development (NEPAD). Co-operation in
this regard has been underway for some time. In
December 2001, Minister Dlamini Zuma attended a
Ministerial Meeting on TICAD III in Tokyo. The NEPAD
initiative enjoyed a high profile during this meeting.
South Korea has advanced itself from developing
to developed status in less than fifty years and
senses an obligation to mentor the developing world
via its own development experience. Thus South Korea
has committed itself to strengthening mutual collaboration
with Africa and to support African efforts aimed
at resolving internal conflicts by themselves. However,
the scope of South Koreas contribution is
restricted in view of its development priorities
in the Korean Peninsula.
Although South Africa and South Korea only established
diplomatic relations on 1 December 1992, South Africas
historic ties with South Korea date back to South
African participation (under UN auspices), in the
Korean War 1950 1953. At the current time
the bilateral relationship is excellent and South
Korea is an important trade partner of South Africa.
South Korea has also assisted South Africa in the
field of human resources capacity building. South
Africa fully supports the "Sunshine Policy"
(engagement / rapprochement) of President KIM Dae-jung
vis-à-vis the Democratic Peoples Republic
Although there has been a measure of rapprochement
in the Korean Peninsula, North Korea, driven by
its very real economic development needs, still
remains an unknown quantity in terms of operating
within the parameters of accepted international
practice. While the prospects for the long-term
settlement of tensions have improved considerably
in the short-term, the road to comprehensive reconciliation
in the long-term still remains a cherished ideal.
South Africa and North Korea established diplomatic
relations on 10 August 1998. In its interaction
with North Korea, South Africa stresses that it
places great value on stability in Northeast Asia
and on the peaceful resolution of differences in
the Korean Peninsula. In this regard South Africa
welcomed the South Korean initiative regarding an
inter-Korean Summit of June 2000, which began a
mutual process of defusing tensions in the region.
The security situation in Northeast Asia remains
a priority concern for all the nations of the region
because of their focus on economic reform, development,
recovery and sustainability.
South Asia, South-East Asia, Central Asia, Australasia
and the Pacific Islands
Countries in this vast area have different cultures
and religions and varying levels of political and
economic development. Diplomatic relations between
South Africa and countries in the area in some instances
date back more than fifty years in the case of Australia,
and as little as eight years in the case of Bangladesh,
Pakistan and other countries.
In the South Asian region, India and Pakistan are
the two dominant countries. Like most countries
in the region, both are members of the Non-Aligned
Movement (NAM) and the Commonwealth, and play an
active role in the international political arena.
Although Pakistan is currently suspended from participation
in Commonwealth institutions, the country has participated
actively in the international campaign against terrorism
and is a key state with regard to the campaign against
terrorism in Afghanistan. India, with its huge population
and tremendous expertise in the field of information
technology, remains an important partner for South
Africa, and great potential exists for increased
trade and technology transfer between the two countries.
Educational exchange between South Africa and India
is increasing and this has further potential for
capacity building for South African citizens in
a wide range of subjects.
In the South East Asian region, a number of countries
are still recovering from the effects of the Asian
economic crisis, which began during the middle of
1997. Increased unemployment and poverty caused
worsening social conditions and contributed to a
general increase in crime, particularly drug-related
offences. However, some countries in the region,
especially Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore hold
substantial potential for increased economic relations
with South Africa, including inward tourism, investment
and trade, while Indonesia, the Philippines and
Vietnam similarly hold substantial future potential.
Educational exchange programmes with Singapore and
Malaysia have already benefited numerous South African
students, and the potential exists to further utilise
and expand such educational and training programmes
to contribute to capacity building in South Africa.
In Australasia and the Pacific Islands region,
Australia and New Zealand remain South Africas
largest trading partners. In the case of Australia,
competition with South Africa for export markets
is strong, as both countries often export similar
products, and continually seek new markets. South
Africa is Australias most important partner
and fastest growing market on the African continent
and, as an export market, accounts for over fifty
per cent of Australias trade with Africa.
Australia remains committed to supporting the democratic
transition in South Africa by providing aid in support
of human resource development, particularly for
capacity building in the public sector.
Following are current issues pertaining to South
and Central Asia, South East Asia, and Australasia
and the Pacific Islands:
South Africa and Australia enjoy cordial relations.
Cultural, institutional, political and trade relations
have expanded rapidly since 1994. Relations received
a further boost with the establishment of a Joint
Ministerial Committee in 1997. Australia assists
with human resource development and institutional
capacity building through Ausaid. Multilaterally
the two countries are members of most of the major
Southern Hemisphere organisations, including the
Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation,
and share similar views on most issues. South Africas
major exports to Australia are electrical, mining
and industrial machinery, auto parts, paper related
items, ferro-alloys, iron and fertiliser. Australias
major exports are aluminium, meat, measuring and
control instruments. South Africa values relations
with Australia as a stable partner in the Southern
Hemisphere. Australia can provide assistance in
establishing new commercial links and a diversification
of South Africas markets in South East Asia.
Cordial relations exist with New Zealand, diplomatic
relations having been re-established in 1994. The
Joint Cape Town Communiqué signed in 1996
reflects the current status of relations and seeks
to strengthen co-operation with regard to Commonwealth
issues and bilateral relations. South Africas
major exports to New Zealand are paper products,
motor accessories, fruits, pig iron, textile fabrics
and sulphates. New Zealands exports to South
Africa include transmission apparatus for radio-telephony
and agricultural products. Close co-operation exists
within the multilateral field with New Zealand being
very supportive of South African policies and initiatives
in regard to disarmament, the Cairns and Valdivia
Group, and illegal fishing. New Zealand provides
assistance through projects aimed at training, education,
rural development and capacity building.
South Pacific Islands
South Africa is accredited to Fiji, Samoa and the
Cook Islands through its High Commission in Canberra.
No trade exists at present. It is however the aim
of the High Commission to enhance political and
trade ties. South Africa, through the appointment
by the Commonwealth Secretary-General of Justice
Pius Langa of the South African Constitutional Court
as Special Envoy to Fiji, sought to assist with
the process of democratisation in Fiji.
India and Pakistan
Within the South Asian region, the continuing tension
between India and Pakistan over Kashmir remains
an international concern and poses a potential threat
to the stability of the region. Should this issue
not be resolved, or should the dispute worsen, the
demonstrated nuclear capabilities of both countries
pose a serious potential risk, which is of great
concern to the international community.
Following the defeat of the Taliban, Afghanistan
must now struggle to rebuild itself economically
and politically. South African companies and NGOs
have a role to play in the field of landmine clearance
and human relations and developmental projects.
South Africa has yet to normalise its relations
with the interim authority of Afghanistan.
The current cease fire between the Government of
Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) promises to
usher in a more peaceful era. South Africa supports
a negotiated settlement between the parties.
The 1999 overthrow of an elected Government by
the army has resulted in international and particularly
Commonwealth censure. The military Government has
indicated that democratic and political reforms
will be undertaken to bring democracy, stability
and prosperity to Pakistan. Elections are scheduled
to take place no later than October, 2002.
Following the terrorist attacks on American cities
in September, 2001 and Americas declared war
on terrorism and states that harbour terrorists,
both India and Pakistan promised to assist the United
States in their campaign to root out international
terrorism. With the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan,
Pakistan has to contend with pockets of extremist
and fundamentalist groups within its borders who
remain critical of its governments assistance
to the United States and its allies.
Successful elections were recently held in Bangladesh
and there are opportunities for South Africa and
Bangladesh to co-operate and exchange ideas on mutually
beneficial development projects.
Malaysia is a key trading and investment partner
for South Africa in South East Asia. Due partly
to strong historical and cultural links between
the two countries, bilateral trade and people-to-people
co-operation remain important areas in our relations.
Malaysia is one of the largest sources of foreign
direct investment into South Africa. It is a gateway
for two-way tourist traffic, due to direct air links.
South Africa and Malaysia co-operate on issues affecting
Human rights abuses by the military Government
in Myanmar have led to condemnation by the international
community. There has been pressure on the country
to return to democratic government and to abolish
practices such as forced labour and torture. In
addition, the conditions in Myanmar have caused,
and have contributed to, a refugee problem
especially for neighbouring Thailand. This has not
helped relations between the two countries. South
Africa has welcomed the recent release of Daw Aung
San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy
as well as the UN brokered discussions which are
being held between the ruling military junta and
Indonesia was for many years a staunch supporter
of the Anti-Apartheid Movement. It now regards South
Africa as a model of successful transition and reconciliation.
In addition to historical and cultural links between
the two countries, South Africa and Indonesia remain
key allies on issues affecting developing nations
(the "South"). This co-operation is especially
evident in international fora such as the UN and
UN supervised elections took place in East Timor
on 30th August 2001 and South Africa welcomes the
inauguration of Mr Xanana Gusmao as the country's
first democratically elected President on 20 May
2002. The East Timorese view South Africa as a model
of successful liberation and reconciliation politics.
Due to extensive oil and gas deposits in East Timor,
there are opportunities for co-operation in these
areas between South Africa and East Timor.
South Africa and Singapore enjoy cordial relations.
Trade between the two countries has increased by
48% in the last year. South Africa imports electronics
and telecommunications equipment from Singapore,
and exports iron, steel, non-ferrous metals, fruit,
fruit juices and organic and inorganic chemicals
to Singapore. Singapore is a major financial hub
in Asia, utilised by some South African financial
institutions as a base for access to the Asian market.
Singapore is also a gateway for tourists from South
East Asia travelling to South Africa. South Africa
has also benefited with regard to human resource
development in terms of training offered by the
Singapore Technical Co-operation Programme.
The year 2002/3 marks the 10th anniversary of the
establishment of consular and diplomatic relations
between South Africa and Thailand. In 1999 Thailand
was South Africas largest trading partner
within the Association of South East Asian Nations
(ASEAN). Good potential exists for the further expansion
of trade relations, particularly in the automobile
and jewellery industries. On the multilateral front,
mutually beneficial co-operation is expected on
World Trade Organization (WTO) matters, as Mr Supachai
Panitchpakdi of Thailand assumes the post of Director-General
of the WTO during the second half of this year.
Thailand has indicated its interest in and support
A major problem in Asia is transnational narcotics
trafficking and production. Afghanistan, Pakistan,
Myanmar, Thailand and other countries are all affected
in some way. Though the production of opiates in
Asia has slowed down during recent years, traffickers
are continually looking for new transit routes and
markets. Narcotics are not only being exported to
the West but are also a serious problem among the
youth of South-East Asia. South Africans should
under no circumstances get involved in drug trafficking
in this region, as the offence carries the death
penalty in countries such as Singapore and Thailand.
To avoid being unwittingly involved in the trafficking
of narcotics, tourists should never carry parcels
on behalf of other people when travelling to or
in South-East Asia. The drug problem has also stimulated
other social problems, such as prostitution.