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, Asia’s 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 Forum.

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 People’s 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 and Taiwan.

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 China’s economic restructuring has had on the global economy. Partly as a consequence of China’s sheer size, but mainly as a result of its vast and rapidly increasing economic power, China is expected to be the world’s 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 China’s 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 programmes.

Presently, bilateral trade with Africa accounts for only 1% of China’s total trade – roughly equal to China’s 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 Africa’s 10th largest trading partner.

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 practice.

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 Council.

Since the upgrading of South Africa’s 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 Africa’s most important trade partner in Asia for several years and South Africa’s 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 Japan’s 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 is excellent.

Japan is keen to synchronise the TICAD process (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) with President Thabo Mbeki’s 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 Korea’s 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 Africa’s 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 People’s Republic of Korea.

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 Africa’s 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 Australia’s most important partner and fastest growing market on the African continent and, as an export market, accounts for over fifty per cent of Australia’s 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 Africa’s major exports to Australia are electrical, mining and industrial machinery, auto parts, paper related items, ferro-alloys, iron and fertiliser. Australia’s 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 Africa’s markets in South East Asia.

New Zealand

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 Africa’s major exports to New Zealand are paper products, motor accessories, fruits, pig iron, textile fabrics and sulphates. New Zealand’s 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.

Sri Lanka

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 America’s 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 government’s 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 developing countries.


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 the NLD.


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 the NAM.

East Timor

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 Africa’s 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 for NEPAD.


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.

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