South Africa: national involvement in the Indian Ocean region

International relations Marine management Defence Africa South Africa

South Africa’s involvement in international affairs has increased greatly since the end of the apartheid era. While its policies tend to prioritise development within the African continent, it maintains a degree of involvement in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Through varying degrees of multilateral interaction, South Africa has developed outward-looking strategic objectives, designed to ‘protect and promote’ its domestic interests. Involvement in regional diplomacy; maintaining and improving security; and continuing economic expansion, are all elements of South Africa’s involvement in the Indian Ocean Region. These priorities balance its burgeoning relationships with China and India.

Key findings:

  • South Africa is an emerging regional power. As such, it has taken on a greater leadership role within the region and has increased its participation in multilateral organisations.
  • Economic disparities, high levels of unemployment and low levels of investment are among the key challenges confronting South Africa.
  • Piracy is a continuing concern within the region and South Africa has increased its presence in regional waters accordingly. Co-operation with Mozambique, Tanzania and France, to secure important Sea Lines of Communication, has helped to prevent the southward expansion of Somali pirates.
  • The growth of the South African economy may offer an opportunity for increased trade with Australia, particularly in terms of the resources industry and Australia’s technological capacities.
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