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International Partnerships

South Africa

South Africa is the second largest economy in Sub-Saharan Africa and EU’s largest trading partner on the continent. Since the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa has enjoyed macro-economic stability. However, its upper middle-income country status masks the many problems the country still faces in terms of poverty, inequality, unemployment, education, and health.

More than 1 in 2 South Africans live below the national poverty line (about 37€/month), around a third of the population is unemployed, inequalities remain high, and the legacy of apartheid is still very much felt in terms of distribution of wealth. South Africa’s educational system is does not operate properly and the country registers the world’s largest HIV/AIDS caseload.

South Africa also faces economic challenges, such as a slow growth rate and a manufacturing production in decline. Despite recent efforts to attract investment to support economic growth and job creation, the government’s reforms are insufficient to address unemployment, and improve service delivery and the business climate.

Agricultural community South Africa
Agricultural community, South Africa
© European Union, credit: Guy Stubbs

    Our priorities

    The South Africa-European Union Strategic Partnership, one of ten in the world and the only country-level EU strategic partnership on the continent, provides a broad strategic framework for programming and building on the commitments to multilateralism, peace, and security. The partnership is guided by:

    The 2030 Agenda: the SDGs and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda

    The Global Strategy for the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy

    The new European Consensus on Development

    European Green Deal

    The UNFCCC Convention and Paris Agreement on Climate Change

    The proposed areas of intervention, where the EU adds significant value, are the following:

    Sustainable, resilient, transformative and inclusive growth

    We focus on building opportunities for the key areas that link EU and South African development priorities, including addressing the nexus of poverty, inequality and unemployment, building state capacities and active citizenship. Also, adapting to climate change in order to transition to a climate-resilient, low-carbon economy and to contribute to a just society while creating space for recovery and growth, linked to a digital economy, innovation, skills development, economic inclusion of women and youth, and the fight against corruption.

    Reducing inequalities

    We promote a multidimensional approach to addressing inequalities and building on the lessons of EU-funded programmes which have conceptualised innovative approaches to unemployment solutions for South Africa. We will increase investment in technical and vocational education and training skills development, especially in emerging sectors of the economy and support South Africa’s youth while developing its potential. EU interventions also focus on digital and innovative solutions and capacity development for both the demand and supply side as important enablers for more efficient, transparent and inclusive service delivery.


    We aim to enhance EU-South Africa’s strategic partnership toward sustainable development. The activities in this area will provide a substantial contribution to furthering EU-SA partnerships, aimed at safeguarding global public goods and enhancing regional and global integration. There is strong potential to leverage the EU-SA strategic partnership priority areas and other priorities of mutual interest and promote SA’s role regionally and globally, creating opportunities for a broader European public and economic diplomacy and strengthening people to people bonds between the EU and South Africa.

    Our programmes

    The Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) for South Africa for 2021-2024 amounts to €129 million.

    Priority area 1: ‘Sustainable, resilient, transformative, and inclusive growth’ strives to accompany South Africa on its path towards more sustainable, green, and resilient growth. Working on a green and resilient economy would provide a substantial EU contribution to SA’s pressing socio-economic challenges while enabling the country to progress towards its long-term national development objectives.

    Priority area 2: ‘Reducing Inequalities’ ensures the support of South Africa in reducing inequalities, with the EU making a crucial contribution to one of the country’s deep-rooted challenges. EU engagement will also support the reduction of unemployment while meeting EU priorities and interests.

    Priority area 3: ‘Partnerships’ promote the enhancement of EU-South Africa’s strategic partnership towards sustainable development, leveraging priority areas and other mutual interests to promote SA’s role regionally and globally.


    8 MARCH 2022
    Multiannual Indicative Programme 2021-2027 for South Africa - annex
    (1.22 MB - PDF)
    15 DECEMBER 2022
    Annual action plan 2022 for South Africa
    (1.84 MB - ZIP)
    16 DECEMBER 2021
    Annual action plan 2021 for South Africa
    (1.6 MB - ZIP)
    13 AUGUST 2014
    Programming documents 2014-2020 for South Africa
    (10.76 MB - ZIP)