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Canada-South Africa Relations

Diplomatic relations and official representation

Official diplomatic relations between Canada and South Africa date back to 1939. Canada has a High Commission located in Pretoria and a trade office based in Johannesburg. There are also Honorary Consulates in Cape Town and Durban. 

South Africa has a High Commission in Ottawa, a Consulate-General in Toronto, and Honorary Consuls in Vancouver and Sudbury. 

Bilateral relations

South Africa and Canada’s relationship is based on the common shared values of equality, democracy, peace, security and prosperity. The strong ties between the two countries are rooted partially in the leading role Canada played in international efforts to pressure South Africa to dismantle its apartheid system and promote the establishment of a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, democratic society. Since South Africa's transition from apartheid and its first multi-racial elections in 1994, Canada-South Africa relations have been friendly and cooperative.

Post-1994, Canada supported South Africa's re-entry into a broad range of multilateral organisations and since then, the two countries have worked closely on important multilateral issues, including: the renewal of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; the creation of the World Trade Organization; and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which investigates allegations of serious and persistent violations of human rights and democratic principles and recommends measures for collective Commonwealth action. It is worth noting that South Africa's 1996 Constitution and Bill of Rights draw heavily on Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Canada presented former South African President Nelson Mandela with honorary citizenship in 2001 in recognition of his leadership in the fight against apartheid and his efforts to build a new united South Africa. Following Nelson Mandela’s passing in December 2013, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper led a delegation of eminent Canadians to South Africa to participate in ceremonies and memorials paying tribute to Nelson Mandela. In addition, in honour of Nelson Mandela, Prime Minister Harper announced the creation of the African Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarships Fund, in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, that allows early career public sector professionals from Africa to pursue further studies in Canada, as well as the creation of new graduate scholarships in honour of Nelson Mandela, which will recognize a number of gifted Canadian graduate students and help them study, at Canadian universities, subjects that marked the South African leader’s life.

In recognition of the breadth and depth of the partnership between Canada and South Africa, the two countries hold annual bilateral consultations on foreign policy, trade and development issues. These consultations cover issues as diverse as education and youth development, investment, mining, technical cooperation and defence relations.

There have been frequent visits at the political level in recent years, including the visit of the Governor General of Canada to South Africa in May 2013, the visit of former Deputy President of South Africa, Kglema Motlanthe, to Canada in November 2013, and the visit of the Canadian Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Christian Paradis, to South Africa in February 2014. 


South Africa is a major gateway to the African market, and South Africa is one of Canada's most significant political and commercial partners in Africa. South Africa was identified as an “emerging market with broad Canadian interest” in Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan, launched in 2013. According to Statistics Canada, Canada’s bilateral merchandise trade with South Africa totalled over $1.1 billion in 2013, consisting of more than $468 million in exports to, and more than $686 million in imports from South Africa.

Top Canadian exports to South Africa include power generation machinery, electrical machinery, sulfur, optical equipment, pharmaceuticals, malt, pork and vehicles. South Africa’s exports to Canada, include citrus, beverages (wine), nuclear machinery parts and minerals such as iron, titanium, chromium and copper.

Canada is a significant investor in South Africa. Canadian investments largely focus on the mineral and mining sector, as well as transportation, food processing, hospitality, information and communication technologies, and instrumentation sectors. A Double Taxation Agreement has been signed to facilitate trade and investment, between Canada and South Africa.

In addition to the dedicated business development resources at the Canadian High Commission in South Africa, Export Development Canada (EDC) and the Trade Facilitation Office of Canada (TFOC) also play active roles in South Africa.

According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 659 South African students were studying in Canada in 2012. 

Development assistance

Canada and South Africa signed a General Agreement on Development Cooperation in 2006. South Africa is committed to strengthening its regulatory and public administration systems and delivering better public health services to its people. Canada’s programming in South Africa is closely aligned with the country's most important priority areas as identified in the Government of South Africa's Programme of Action 2009-2014.

South Africa receives Canadian development assistance through a variety of channels, including direct government-to-government assistance as well as support to Canadian and South African civil society organizations and multilateral institutions. The goal of DFATD's program in South Africa is to help enhance public sector capacity, including accountability, transparency and citizenship engagement, to meet the needs of South Africans and to contribute to regional prosperity.

Between 1984/85 and 2011/12, Canada disbursed CAD $339.31 million through its various delivery channels for development activities in South Africa.

June 2014

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