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South Africa



Since the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa has enjoyed macro-economic stability and significant GDP growth. At the same time, spending in social services has risen. However, great social and economic disparities prevail: living standards, both in economic and social terms, vary highly between different population groups as well as between urban and rural communities. Almost 50% of the black population is reported to live below the national poverty line, compared with only 2% of whites. The government is committed to narrowing this gap through a set of comprehensive policy measures such as employment generation, Black Economic Empowerment, skills development and social grants. However, the turn-around has not yet been achieved, leaving the country exposed to the risk of growing discontent among the poor, which is threatening internal political stability.

Aid programmes

The overall objective for co-operation between the European Union (EU) and South Africa is the reduction of poverty and inequality. This is enshrined in the European Union-South Africa Strategic Partnership signed in 2007.

In this context, the Country Strategy Paper for South Africa (2007-2013) , which presents the framework for EU co-operation with South Africa, focuses on employment creation to reduce inequality, promote pro-poor sustainable economic growth and fight social exclusion.  It also aims to help build the capacity for service delivery and social cohesion by addressing bottlenecks in human and systems development.

The "value added approach" to development cooperation.

The objectives of EU - South Africa development cooperation remain, as in the past, firmly anchored in the view that the real value added of Official Development Assistance (ODA) is not the finance itself, but what comes with it, namely value added activities involving innovation, pilot programmes, capacity development, the sharing of skills and knowledge, and risk taking.  This value added approach to development cooperation lays emphasis not on the "heavy lifting" that might be expected of ODA in other countries, but rather on a more focused approach which gives space to Government to identify value added activities, provides technical assistance in areas where this form of assistance is most valued, and complements these activities with support to civil society organisations. Once development cooperation has proved its usefulness, activities can be replicated using the government's own budget/resources.

To achieve this, the traditional project approach will be progressively replaced by sector budget support

Additional activities focus on governance, including fighting crime and corruption as well as promoting safety, security, the rule of law and the consolidation of democracy. There will be a parallel focus on human rights, mainly through the strengthening of civil society, including NGOs and social partners. EU support will also foster regional co-operation and integration efforts within the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to promote peace and security and sustainable social and economic development across the African continent.

The multi-annual indicative programme for South Africa (2007-2013) amounts to €980 million to address these priorities.

Cross-cutting issues, in particular gender, environment, capacity-building, collaboration with non-state actors, good governance, innovation and, especially, HIV/AIDS have also been integrated in the majority of EU-funded programmes in South Africa.

Recent assistance

Before 1994, the EC and some EU Member States supported the anti-apartheid movement and assisted the needy population in South Africa. With the transition to a democratic government in 1994, co-operation increased. Now, the EU is South Africa's most important development partner, providing 70% of all external assistance funds: 25% from the EC, 20% from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and 25% from the EU Member States. However, with external aid only constituting 1.3% of the government’s budget and 0.3% of the GNP, South Africa is far from being dependent on international funds.

The Country Strategy Paper for South Africa (2003-2006) focused primarily on improved access to and use of social services, in particular health care services including HIV/AIDS prevention and care but also human resource development and water and sanitation. Additional funding has been allocated to actions supporting equitable and sustainable economic growth, deepening democracy as well as regional co-operation.

In 2001, the South African Government collaborated with the EC and some Member States to develop a multifaceted Water Services Sector Support Programme (WS-SSP). The objective of the WS-SSP is to significantly boost water supply and sanitation services through a variety of activities. The second phase of the WS-SSP (2004-2007) has seen an EU contribution of €50 million in the form of sector budget support to provide water and sanitation services to selected poor rural communities in three provinces (Limpopo Province, KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape)

For further details on projects and programmes in South Africa funded from the general budget of the EU, please visit the website of the Delegation of the European Union to South Africa.

Other sources of information

More information on EU relations with South Africa is available on the pages of the Delegation of the European Union to South Africa, which is also responsible for co-operation activities in the country.

Information on trade and external relations with the ACP region can be found on the websites of the Directorate-General for Trade and the EU External Action Service.

Last update: 27/11/2012 | Top