United States of America (USA)

History of Relations | Diplomatic Representation | Travel Info | Health Requirements | Climate Info | Currency Info | Trade Info | Visits and Meetings | Agreements | Interest Groups/ Organisations

History of Relations


South Africa and the United States of America established formal relations in 1789 when the US opened a Consulate in Cape Town. Cordial relations between the two countries became increasingly strained after the National Party Government adopted its Apartheid policy. In 1986 the US Congress introduced wide-ranging sanctions against South Africa in terms of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act (CAAA). With the launching of South Africa's democratisation process in 1990, gradual improvement in bilateral relations took place, which were normalised after the successful completion of South Africa's first fully democratic elections in April 1994.

Since 1994, various State Visits between the US and South Africa have taken place, further solidifying the relationship, as well as the close personal relationships between the respective leadership. President Mandela visited the US in October 1994, President Clinton visited South Africa in March 1998, President Mbeki visited the US in May 2000, President George W Bush visited South Africa in July 2003 and President Barack Obama visited South Africa in June 2013. Furthermore, representatives of the US Administration and several US Congressional Delegations (CODELS) have also regularly visited South Africa.

Bilateral cooperation is broad and deep and covers areas such as health, education, environment, energy, trade and investment, transport, science and technology and safety and security. Development assistance from the US Government is aligned to the priorities of the South African Government and contribute to addressing the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. The largest contribution of USAID funding is allocated to the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEFPAR) to help South Africa combat HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis. Lately, US funding and technical support has been channelled to support local efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and women and girls empowerment.

In the multilateral sphere, both countries are committed to the promotion and use of multilateralism, under the auspices of the United Nations, to tackle common global challenges such as climate change, cyber security, the COVID-19 pandemic, inclusive growth and global economic recovery. South Africa and the US also share a confluence of values in important areas such as democracy, human rights, the rule of law, good governance, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Overview of SA-USA Political Relations

The United States is a strategic partner for South Africa and a major export market for value-added products, a significant source of foreign direct investment (FDI), technology transfer, development assistance and tourism. South Africa and the United States have extensive relations that cover a wide spectrum of issues which are aligned to South Africa’s domestic priorities and the National Development Plan (NDP).

Trade and investment relations take place under the auspices of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), under which South Africa gains duty-free and quota-free access to the US market for value-added products. The benefits that South Africa receives through the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), has resulted in the creation of approximately 62,000 direct jobs in South Africa and also created many jobs in the United States. The bilateral trade between the two countries has (according to South Africa’s national statistics) increased from R117 billion in 2014 to over R189 billion in 2020.

Under former President Donald Trump, the two countries continued high level engagements and reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the already good bilateral relations between the two countries. The countries agreed on the need to work together, especially on a response to the COVID-18 pandemic. As a result of the US retreat from multilateralism and the “America First” policies of the Trump Administration, political relations became strained, however, bilateral cooperation in many areas continued to strengthen during this period.

With the return of the US to multilateralism under the Biden Administration and greater recognition of South Africa’s role and influence in the region and globally, opportunities opened again for elevation of the bilateral political and economic relationship, including for strengthened cooperation in the Africa context. Minister Pandor and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed their shared desire to expand South Africa-United States trade and investment relations and cooperate in areas such as public health, science and innovation and climate change. The US declared its support for the temporary TRIPS Waiver that was championed by South Africa and India at the WTO and agreed to support South Africa’s efforts to build capacity for the local manufacturing of vaccines. 

In February 2021, President Biden virtually addressed the African Union Summit and committed to working towards a new partnership between the United States and the African Continent based on solidary, mutual respect and cooperation. The US Government has also pledged to support the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and has given an undertaking to work with Congress for the renewal of AGOA, which expires in 2025.

Structured Bilateral Mechanisms

South Africa and the US manage the bilateral relationship through three structured engagements.  These are: the Strategic Dialogue (Ministerial level), Working Group on African and Global Issues (WGAGI) at Director-General level and the Annual Bilateral Forum (ABF) at Senior Officials’ level. The 11th Meeting of the ABF was hosted by DIRCO on 9 and 10 September 2020 and the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs co-chaired a successful session of the WGAGI with the Acting Director-General of DIRCO on 02 August 2021, in Pretoria. The ABF reviews sectoral cooperation that is funded by US development assistance and is implemented in conjunction with partner Departments, USAID and other US agencies in South Africa. The cooperation covers areas such as trade and investment, health, education, energy, transport, environment, safety and security, and science and technology. The development assistance is aligned to the National Development Plan (NDP) and South Africa’s domestic priorities.

Overview of SA-USA Economic Relations

Bilateral trade

The United States remains South Africa’s third largest trading partner with more than 600 US companies operating within our borders.  The US has also benefitted significantly from the economic relationship.  These benefits amount to US$ 412 billion per annum derived from US exports of goods and services and income from US investments in South Africa.  This translates into 25% of all US income derived from the continent of Africa and plays an important role in US economic development and have created more than 50 000 jobs in the United States.

The African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) has become the bedrock of the bilateral trade and investment relationship with the US. The bilateral trade between the two countries has (according to South Africa’s national statistics) increased from R117 billion in 2014 to over R189 billion in 2020  (Exports to the US - ZAR 116.21 billion, Imports from the US - ZAR 72.10 billion).


Since 1994 the US has consistently been the largest foreign direct investor in South Africa, representing some 40% of total FDI since 1994. US foreign direct investment (FDI) in South Africa (stock) was $7.8 billion (ZAR 116 billion) in 2019, a 6.8% increase from 2018. U.S. direct investment in South Africa is led by manufacturing, finance and insurance and wholesale trade. South Africa's FDI in the United States (stock) was $4.1 billion in 2019 (ZAR 59 billion), up 1.2% from 2018.  Sales of services in South Africa by majority U.S.-owned affiliates were $6.8 billion (ZAR 98 billion) in 2017 (latest data available), while sales of services in the United States by majority South Africa-owned firms were $97 million (ZAR 1,4 billion).

(Source: United States Trade Representative)


The United States has always been an important source of tourism for South Africa, featuring among the top three overseas countries.  The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the SA tourism industry quite severely due to the lockdown and travel restrictions that were imposed.  According to the Tourism 2020 report released by Statistics South Africa, foreign arrivals dropped by 71% from just over 15,8 million in 2019 - to less than 5 million in 2020.  In the case of the United States, visitor arrivals declined from 373694 in 2019 to 71959 in 2020.  In preparation for the lifting of international travel restrictions, US airlines such as United and Delta Airlines have started to reintroduce flights from New York and Atlanta, respectively, after suspending their flights to South Africa due to the pandemic.

US Official Development Assistance

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been in existence in South Africa since 1979, with the focus of its work changing over time. When the Agency first operated in South Africa, it provided grants and scholarships to students from disadvantaged background and functioned from the US Embassy. However, with the advent of democracy, the focus of its work changed as the Agency started to fund major projects in diverse fields, such as health, education, protection of environment, agriculture and food security. The USAID regional strategy is based on the premise that regional integration is a prerequisite for economic growth and dependent on high level coordination, with South Africa seen as a key centre for growth and investment.

PEPFAR, which was launched in 2003 under former President George W. Bush, is by far the most comprehensive of all USAID’s programmes. Almost 80% of the PEPFAR funding is used towards antiretroviral treatment. For the fiscal year commencing in October 2020, the US Congress approved R9 billion in PEPFAR funding. In the non-health sector, funding of R96 million has been availed for promoting economic growth, including youth employment; improving basic education; strengthening Government institutions, including those that combat Trafficking-in-Persons (TIP); promoting law enforcement; leadership development and Public Affairs Programmes. There is also support for exchange programmes, especially to empower women and the youth.

US Africa Policy

During their 2020 election campaign, President Biden and Vice President Harris published the Biden-Harris Agenda for the Diaspora, which aims to reset the US relationship with Africa based on mutual respectful, solidarity and a commitment to supporting democratic institutions on the continent; advancing lasting peace and security; promoting economic growth, trade, and investment; and supporting sustainable development. There will also be continued support for programmes such as the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which was initiated under the former Obama Administration, and is aimed at empowering Africa’s dynamic young leaders.

Diplomatic Representation

South African Representation in the USA

H E Ms N C Mfeketo
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

South African Embassy

3051 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC

USA Representation in South Africa

H E Dr R E Brigety II
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary

United States Embassy

8877 Pretorius Street

Tel: 012 431 4000

Consulate General
1 Sandton Drive
Tel: 011 290 3000
Fax: 011 883 7081  

Consular jurisdiction includes Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, and Free State Provinces.

Consulate General
Cape Town
2 Reddam Avenue
Cape Town
Tel : 021 702 7300
Fax : 021 702 7493

Consular jurisdiction includes Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape Provinces.

Consulate General
Old Mutual Building
303 West Street
Tel: 031 305 7600
Fax: 031 305 7691

Consular jurisdiction includes KwaZulu-Natal Province.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
100 Totius Street
Groenkloof X5, Pretoria
Tel: 012 452 2000
Fax: 012 452 2399

US Peace Corps
126 Verdoorn Street
Tel: 012 344 4255
Fax: 012 343 7774

US Commercial Service
15 Chaplin Road
Illovo 2196
Tel: 011 778 4813
Fax: 011 442 8798

Travel Info

Visa Requirement for South Africans

For more information in this regard please call the U. S. Visa Information Service at 011 275 6300. Information is also available on the website of the Embassy of the United States.

Health Requirements

General Health information is available on the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For further information go to Travellers' Health.



Washington is hot and humid in summer. Winters are cold, with light to moderate snowfall. Spring and autumn are pleasant for outdoor activities. Most buildings are, however, air-conditioned.

New York

The climate is very similar to that of Washington.

Los Angeles

The climate is more similar to South Africa, with hot summers and milder winters than the East Coast.


Chicago is commonly known as the windy city and can experience climatic extreme temperatures during summer and winter.

For up-to-date weather information click here.


The monetary unit is the US Dollar ($) (USD).

For current exchange rates click here.

State and Official Visits / Bilateral Meetings

No Information

Bilateral Agreements

If you have any queries with regard to treaties please contact the Treaty Section of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) at 012 351 1000.

Trade Info

For current information on trade statistics between South Africa and the United States, visit the website of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition of South Africa.

Interest Groups and Information

No Information

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa