SA's foreign policy must prioritise US, Europe and China over Africa

US President Donald Trump.
US President Donald Trump.
White House

The US, Europe and China must come first when it comes to the pursuit of alliances around the globe. Other regions such as Africa, Russia and Latin America can come second for now, writes Phumlani Majozi.

In his State of the Nation Address last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said "Now is the time to focus on implementation". He was right – it is time for implementation. Implementation on everything – mechanisms to grow our stagnant economy – and fixes to our foreign relations. No talk now.

But what will matter the most, are the elements of what will be implemented. If Ramaphosa's Cabinet goes ahead and implements the ludicrous Nasrec resolutions – then South Africa is surely doomed – and will never come back under the governance of the African National Congress (ANC).

Amongst the things that need to be thought through and implemented by Ramaphosa's administration, is a strategic foreign policy that will contribute to South Africa's prosperity over the long-term.

Over the past ten years under the scandalous Jacob Zuma, South Africa's foreign policy hit the bottom. Because of this reality, most of my previous commentary on News24 has been focused on the shortcomings of South Africa's foreign policy.

Here, I'm departing from that habit. I will instead argue what I believe ought to be a strategic approach to our foreign policy going forward.

Ramaphosa, along with his newly appointed top diplomat, Minister Naledi Pandor have to take on a different path – that will reverse the reputational losses we saw under Zuma. The anti-West stance we have seen  over the past years must be reversed urgently.

Beyond the idea of a foreign policy that upholds human rights, we also need a well-crafted strategy on international affairs. At the core of our strategy, and top of our priority list, must be the ability to equally balance our relations with the United States of America (US), Europe and China. I think other regions such as Africa, Russia and Latin America can come second; at least for the next ten years.

Though there is much progress to celebrate on Africa over the past thirty years, the fact is that the continent remains dirt poor and politically dysfunctional.

Since the end of the Cold War, Russia has been a weak and declining super-power. And it doesn't look like Vladimir Putin will ever meaningfully reverse this decline – though he's trying hard – even using wrongful tactics.

Latin America has been largely ruled by left-wing zealots over the past years – so it's still trying to get its economic act together. And the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is now likely contributing to the slow pace of progress in that region.

It's on this basis that I suggest these regions – Africa, Russia and Latin America – along with the dangerous Middle East – be second on our foreign policy priority list. The US, Europe and China must come first when it comes to the pursuit of alliances and strong relations around the globe.

As a starting point to this foreign policy approach focused on US, Europe and China it's crucial for Ramaphosa to meet President Donald Trump of the US as soon as possible. There has to be a renewed, reenergised, lively engagement with the world's largest economy and military power – the US. This has been lacking – not just under Trump – but even during the Obama years.

Things became worse over the past three years, as Trump has been preoccupied by America's domestic affairs, the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula.

Ramaphosa has also been swamped by the storms of our politics – the factional battles in the ANC, the removal of Zuma as president of South Africa, and of course last May's election. These events are now behind us – it is time to fix our relations with the USA.

Yes Europe is divided and mired in political headwinds of its own – but it remains one of the richest regions in the world. Our relations with Europeans need to be restored and kept intact. We need European investments.

Britain has chosen to leave the European Union (EU) – which I think was the best decision by the Brits. We should seek to have a mutually beneficial trade deal with Britain after its departure from the EU. I see Brexit as an opportunity we should not lose sight of.

The Chinese are the world's next superpower and the engine of global economic growth. They are the world's second largest economy, the world's most populous nation, and accounts for more than 15% of global gross domestic product. Its burgeoning global political clout is becoming more and more visible. So we have to maintain and strengthen our relations with them. It's in our interest to cooperate with that country.

My view is that a foreign policy marked by the reversal of our hostility towards the West, and a reformation that continuously sharpens our relations with the US, Europe and China, will be fundamental to our economic success in the tumultuous global order of the 21st century.

It is Ramaphosa and Pandor's opportunity to pursue such a foreign policy for the benefit of our country and the restoration of our image around the world.

- Phumlani M. Majozi is a politics and foreign affairs analyst, a senior fellow at, radio talk show host, and non-executive director at Free Market Foundation South Africa. Views expressed here are his own; not of the Free Market Foundation South Africa. Follow him on Twitter: @PhumlaniMMajozi

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
President Ramaphosa has punted the idea of mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for South Africans. This is:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
The right thing to do. We desperately need more South Africans vaccinated to prevent further mutations and restore normality in our lives.
72% - 7920 votes
A risky strategy. Compulsory vaccinations may have unintended consequences and damage our rollout campaign.
28% - 3111 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.