from Africa in Transition

The United States and South Africa: An Opportunity for Closer Relations

August 9, 2012

Blog Post

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Sub-Saharan Africa

United States

Heads of State and Government

South Africa

Elections and Voting

Notwithstanding official rhetoric to the contrary, the bilateral relationship between South Africa and the United States is not as close as it ought to be.  The partnership has been thin on African regional challenges and the dialogue often superficial on issues ranging from reform of the United Nations Security Council to the leadership of international financial institutions or nuclear non-proliferation.  South African specialists in international affairs frequently see the United States as favoring violence over negotiation (as in the case of Libya) or as riding roughshod over the sovereignty of other nations (citing American-driven UN sanctions against Iran.) Americans, in turn, have seen South Africa as failing to assume a leadership role in Africa and too often inappropriately ascribing Western involvement in Africa merely to “neocolonialism.”

In a Policy Innovation Memorandum the Council on Foreign Relations has just released today, I argue that a convergence of views between Washington and Pretoria on developments in Zimbabwe provides an opportunity to work together for a democratic transition and thereby establish a pattern of closer bilateral consultations and cooperation. I also argue that given Nigeria’s current difficulties, South Africa is now the only African country with the clout to partner with the United States on a range of African strategic issues.

Read it here.