Augmenting an African Renaissance

The DAP continued after the political transition in 1994; but it was replaced in 2000 by the African Renaissance and International Co-operation Fund (ARF), which was shaped to reflect the new priorities and direction of South Africa’s foreign policy, the latter having a strong African focus. President Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Nelson Mandela in 1999, promoted the idea of an African Renaissance, which sought “to build [a new African world which] is one of democracy, peace and stability, sustainable development and a better life for the people, non-racism and non-sexism, equality among the nations and a just and democratic system of international governance.”13

The ARF’s key sectors reflect central aims of the country’s foreign policy:

  • • Cooperation between South Africa and other countries;
  • • promotion of democracy and good governance;
  • • conflict prevention and resolution;
  • • socioeconomic development and integration;
  • • humanitarian assistance; and
  • • human resource development.14

However, the ARF comprises only a fraction of South Africa’s overall development assistance—just an estimated 3.8 percent in 2002, 3.3 percent in 2004, and 3 percent in 2009.15 Research undertaken by the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) in 2006 and 2007 indicated that in fact at least half of South African national government departments—apart from DFA/DIRCO—were active in various African endeavors, using funds from their own budgets and considerably exceeding the funds provided by the ARF. According to Braude, Thandrayan, and Sidiropoulos, “ARF spending was R50 million in 2003—2004 and 2004—2005, R100 million in 2005-2006, R150 million in 2006-2007 and R215 million in 2007-2008. The estimated allocation by the [then] Department of Foreign Affairs [alone] in 2008-2009 [was] R275.9 million.”16 They also note, “South Africa paid 15 percent of the total AU budget from January 2006, an increase from 8.2 percent. These contributions totaled R155 million in 2006, and R161 million in 2007, and [were] expected to increase to R172.5 million in 2008.”17

As Sidiropoulos notes,

Although not regarded as a “donor” and objecting to the moniker, under President

Mbeki South Africa built up a sizeable outreach to African countries in the form

of development co-operation. However, apart from the Fund, the government is only now beginning to put in place an overarching framework for this development

co-operation, which has been proliferating across many government departments.18

Indeed, South Africa’s preferred term is development partner, to connote equity and play down fears that it will try to dominate other states economically or politically—given its far more advanced economy, the potential for neoimperialist accusations, and its apartheid-era history of militarily attacking neighboring states that supported liberation movements. On a symbolic level, the change of its foreign affairs department’s name to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation is largely attributed to South Africa’s eagerness to emphasize its preference to act in partnership with African and other states in its foreign policy. More substantively, the government has indicated its commitment to establishing a South African Developmental Partnership Agency (SADPA), which will focus on building development partnerships as the basis of South Africa’s development policy framework.

There is currently no single agency driving South Africa’s overall development assistance efforts, which are instead split between three main groupings:

  • 1. The ARF, which operates out of DIRCO.
  • 2. Other government departments (spearheaded by the Departments of Defence, Education, Safety and Security, Minerals and Energy, Trade and Industry, but also including Agriculture, Justice, and Constitutional Development, Arts and Culture, Public Service and Administration, Public Enterprises, Public Works, and Science and Technology).
  • 3. A collection of statutory bodies, agencies, and parastatal companies [including the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Industrial Development Corporation, Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), National Research Fund (NRF), and the South African Management Development Institute (SAMDI)].

In 2006, the National Treasury undertook a mapping exercise to identify the volume and locus of assistance provided outside South Africa by various government ministries. In the absence of an overarching policy framework for development assistance, the research undertaken found that the monitoring of development assistance disbursements lacked rigor: there was no central database tracking disbursements, no overarching aid strategy, no separate reporting on development assistance in departmental budget lines, and no operational guidelines outside the ARF. This diffuse system and lack of institutional memory makes precise research on figures and, indeed, the effects and impact of aid difficult to ascertain.19 However, the National Treasury is exemplary in its system for tracking incoming development assistance,20 and the division responsible, the International Development Co-operation Chief Directorate, plans to develop a similar system to track outgoing funds. Nevertheless, to do this effectively will require the adoption of a coherent and uniform system across all government departments, with clearly articulated objectives.21

A trend of trilateral assistance—where South Africa and Western donors work together in a third African country—is also gaining importance since the model pioneered the delivery of flood relief to Mozambique in 2000. This proposed trilateral approach to development assistance could be particularly crucial in providing assistance to Zimbabwe, given that the rocky start to Zimbabwe’s GNU has not eliminated traditional donors’ mistrust. In a June 2009 trip to raise funds by Zimbabwe’s prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, various potential development partners [among them the United States of America and members of the European Union (EU) such as Germany and Sweden] expressed reluctance to engage bilaterally with Zimbabwe as democratic conditions remained uns atisfactory.22

China’s increased interest in Africa’s resources has made it an important player on the continent. Its policy of noninterference in other countries’ internal affairs, including governance issues, means that China has put fewer political conditions on its investments and assistance to African governments than traditional donors, providing a lifeline to beleaguered regimes such as the ZANU-PF. In July 2009, China extended US$950 million in credit lines to Zimbabwe, the largest loan secured by Harare’s GNU up until that point.23 South Africa’s engagement with Zimbabwe will, therefore, increasingly occur in a competitive context—where Chinese aid and business interests could prove more agile and proactive in contributing to Zimbabwe’s reconstruction.

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