Relations between Switzerland and South Africa are close and wide-ranging. South Africa has long been one of Switzerland's key economic partners on the African continent. At government level, the two countries prioritise collaborative efforts in economic cooperation, education, research and innovation.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland has set out a strategy for sub-Saharan Africa for 2021–24.
South Africa is a lion economy, making it one of the African countries that harbour high economic potential, particularly in terms of investment and trade, and that are characterised by dynamic growth.
Political meetings between the deputy ministers of Switzerland and South Africa about current and future bilateral cooperation are held every year.
Financial cooperation between the two countries is governed by two agreements on double taxation avoidance and the automatic exchange of information on tax matters.
South Africa is one of Switzerland's key economic partners on the African continent. In 2020 the volume of trade between the two countries exceeded CHF 2.8 billion. Switzerland mainly imports precious metals from South Africa and exports pharmaceutical products, machinery, precision instruments and watches.
More than 100 Swiss companies have subsidiaries or production facilities in South Africa, where they employ around 50,000 people. The Swiss embassy in Pretoria hosts a Swiss Business Hub, which is responsible for implementing Switzerland's export strategies in southern and eastern Africa.
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers who are citizens of South Africa can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
In 2007 the two countries concluded the Swiss-South Africa Joint Research Programme (SSAJRP), an agreement on scientific and technological cooperation.
cience Foundation and the National Research Foundation signed a lead agency agreement" further strengthening bilateral research cooperation.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
South Africa is one of the priority countries in the economic development cooperation programme of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
SECO's 2021–24 strategy aims to help develop a competitive economy for sustainable growth, promote a viable and resource-efficient private sector, and support the creation of favourable economic framework conditions to attract business and investment.
Swiss nationals in South Africa
According to the statistics on the Swiss abroad, as of September 2021 there were 8,134 Swiss nationals living in South Africa. At the end of 2020 there were 1,809 South African nationals living in Switzerland.
Switzerland and South Africa have close cultural ties, especially in the fields of music and dance. Most of these projects are funded privately. Pro Helvetia has an office in South Africa, located in Johannesburg.
History of bilateral relations
The second half of the 19th century saw a rapid development in trade relations between the two countries.
The first Swiss consulate in South Africa was opened in Pretoria in 1887, followed by another in Cape Town in 1916. In 1960 the representation in Pretoria was updated to an embassy.
The SDC became active in South Africa during the final phase of the apartheid regime and contributed to the efforts to achieve a peaceful political transition. Switzerland also supported the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). In 2015 the SDC coordination office in South Africa was closed and merged with the office in Zimbabwe. SECO has had its own cooperation strategy for South Africa since 2009 and a programme team at the embassy in Pretoria since 2010.