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Bilateral Relations
SA & DRC Bilateral Relations

Since the dawn of its own democracy in 1994, South Africa has been involved in the resolution of conflicts and promotion of peace and stability on the wider African continent. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Africa’s involvement was encouraged by its vision to see the end of human suffering and the emancipation of the DRC people following the intra- and inter-state wars of the late 1990s. South Africa played a role in bringing an end to the war by being directly involved in a number of mediation talks. It also hosted mediation talks in Sun City and Pretoria that resulted in the signing of the Pretoria Peace Agreement (Global and All Inclusive Peace Accord) on 17 December 2002. This in turn paved the way for the DRC’s first democratic elections in 2006.

During these first elections, South Africa rendered significant financial and logistical support enabling the DRC to host credible elections. Again in November 2011, South Africa provided critical assistance to ensure that the presidential and parliamentary elections continued as planned. The SANDF transported 1 863 tons of ballot papers and other electoral materials from South Africa to distribution hubs in the DRC. The South African Government contributed approximately R126 million to ensure that the elections took place and the DRC consolidated its democracy.

The rebellion in April 2012 of what became known as the 23 March Movement (M23) represented a serious setback to the search for stability and development in the DRC and marked another of the recurring cycles of conflict and suffering that seem to plague the DRC.  On 24 February 2013, South Africa joined ten other African countries as well as the UN, the AU, the ICGLR and SADC, in signing the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the DRC and the region.  This is arguably the most important international effort to date to resolve the challenge of the recurring conflicts in the eastern DRC.  The Framework sets out national commitments for the DRC, for the countries of the region and for the international community.  South Africa is a member of the regional oversight mechanism that is tasked with ensuring that the countries of the region adhere to their commitments.

In support of the objectives of the Framework for Peace, Security and Cooperation for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region, and following consultation with the African Union, SADC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, it was proposed that a dedicated intervention brigade be established within MONUSCO.  On 28 March 2013, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2098 which inter alia extended the mandate of MONUSCO in the DRC until 31 March 2014 and established an “Intervention Brigade” under direct command of the MONUSCO Force Commander with the responsibility of neutralizing armed groups, thus working for a return to stability that is an essential precondition for finding lasting political solutions.

The SANDF will join the defence forces of Malawi and Tanzania in participating in the Intervention Brigade to help the DRC reclaim state authority in the east of the Country by quelling the unacceptable deteriorating security situation that is caused by negative forces that are terrorizing innocent people and denying them basic human rights.

The overriding content of South Africa’s current bilateral relations with the DRC is aimed at assisting the country to develop the capacity to effectively manage its programmes within the framework of its own Post Conflict Reconstruction and Development (PCRD) programme.

The General Cooperation Agreement signed by South Africa and the DRC on 14 February 2004, has served to strengthen bilateral political, economic and technical cooperation and made provision for the establishment of a Bi-National Commission (BNC) as an annual forum for exchange and dialogue, with a strong focus on PCRD. South Africa remains committed to a PCRD strategy that is aligned with that of the African Union (AU) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

South Africa therefore supports the DRC Government in its approach to issues related to the integration of the army, demobilization and reinsertion into normal civilian life, especially in rural areas, the promotion of small scale development projects that would assist local communities to facilitate the reintegration of demobilized soldiers, the issue of women and children in armed groups and the integration of disabled soldiers.

The following government departments are currently active in the DRC in capacity building programmes:

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation is assisting its DRC counterpart in a capacity building programme which include the training of diplomats. To date South Africa has trained more than 700 DRC diplomats who are ready to serve their country in its foreign missions, including Ambassadors.

The Department of Public Service and Administration helped the DRC develop its anti-corruption strategy. The strategy is now a tool that the DRC is using to address corruption around the country. The Department is currently also involved in the DRC’s public service census project. This project is aimed at helping the DRC to identify its public servants and to establish effective control of its public service. To date the counting has been finalized in 8 of the 11 provinces of the DRC. Only 3 provinces (South Kivu, Orientale and Equateur provinces) are outstanding and will be completed soon.

Public Administration Leadership and Management Academy (PALAMA) has done excellent work in supporting the establishment of a National School for Public Administration (ENA) that has started with the training of public service officials. PALAMA will train a number of government officials in different areas, including project management, leadership, human resources and public administration.

The Department of Home Affairs provides capacity-building in population and immigration matters, the training of trainers, the identification of relevant equipment and infrastructure technology transfer which could be supplied by Home Affairs, and the development of standard operating procedures regarding immigration and population matters.

In addition to the SANDF’s significant multilateral presence through its participation in MONUSCO, the Department of Defence and Military Veterans continues its support bilaterally to the DRC Defence Force (FARDC) in terms of training and the writing of the Military strategy. To date South Africa has trained three battalions including the Rapid Reaction Force battalions 42 and 43 which are at the forefront of Defending DRC sovereignty in the Eastern part of the Congo. South Africa will continue to give support to the DRC government to build strong and effective military forces that will able to defend the government and its population at large and ensure that all Congolese people live in peace, contribute to the development of their country and reap the fruit of democracy and freedom.  

The South African Police Services provides continuous development and consolidation of organizational and operational capabilities of the National Police of Congo (PNC) to ensure safety and security in the DRC, facilitates sustainable development through train-the-trainer interventions, provides technical assistance and mentoring, and facilitates the development of a regulatory framework for policing, operational development support and infrastructure development. The SAPS has to date trained PNC members in a number of fields including human resource management, crowd management and VIP protection. The SAPS will continue to work with the PNC in number of fields and continue to share the necessary information to counter corruption.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) continues to support the Bas Congo spatial Development Initiative (SDI). The Bas Congo corridor provides Kinshasa with a crucial link to the coast and highlights trade and investment opportunities in the DRC. A number of South African companies do business in the DRC and are seen to be contributing positively to the development of DRC communities.

In June 2012 the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Ms Elizabeth Thabethe, led successful Investment and Trade Initiative (ITI) events that were presented in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi. The ITI is part of the Department of Trade and Industry's export and investment promotion strategy that focuses on targeted high growth markets with the objective of creating investment and export opportunities for South African companies and promoting South Africa as a trade and investment destination.

Trade relations between the two countries are showing positive growth from a relatively low base, with bilateral trade being heavily skewed in South Africa’s favour due to limited productive capacity on the part of the DRC’s economy. South Africa is the DRC’s biggest supplier of foreign goods and services, providing 21,6% of the country’s total imports.  In 2012, South Africa’s exports to the DRC amounted to R12,142bn whilst its imports from the DRC only amounted to R67m, resulting in a trade surplus of R12,074bn for South Africa (65.7% increase as compared to R7,934bn in 2011).  Exports from South Africa grew very significantly from 2006 to 2008 (R2,431bn to R9,161bn) before slumping heavily to R4,758bn in 2009.  Trade flows since then has been strong to reach R12,074bn in 2012, as reflected in the figures below extracted from SARS statistics:






  47 768 011

 2 479 644 104

2 431 876 093


  54 034 126

 4 369 539 310

4 315 505 184


  43 239 861

 9 203 936 291

9 160 696 430


  72 354 386

 4 829 931 726

4 757 577 340


100 511 011

 6 318 722 965

6 218 211 954


106 500 768

 8 040 664 774

7 934 164 006


  67 436 251

12 141 678 103

12 074 241 853

An exciting current project is the joint RSA-DRC development of the Grand Inga hydroelectric project.  On 12 November 2011, in the presence of President Zuma and President Kabila, the energy ministers of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Africa signed a memorandum of understanding which set out broad principles for the signing of the Treat that will enable the development of the first phase of the proposed 40,000-MW Grand Inga hydroelectric project on the DRC's Congo River.

Below are some of the South African Businesses in the DRC:

1.G4 Securicor 2.African Explosive Ltd 3.SRk  Consulting 4.Standard Bank DRC 5.Ruashi Mining 6.Hermis Transport 7.Group Five 8.Vodacom 9.F.H. BERTLING 10.AngloGold Ashanti 11.Shoprite 12.PG Glass 13.BSI Steel 14.Motor Engineering 15.South African Express 16.South African Airways 17.Bell Equipments, 18.Global Paints and Chemicals

Doing business in South Africa:

H.E. Mr Abel Mxolisi Shilubane
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