Analysis of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to South Africa

The Secretary of State of the United States of America is expected to visit South Africa from 4 to 7 August 2012. Little has been said, officially, about her engagements during the visit, but many expect the visit to further the aims of the bilateral US-South Africa Strategic Dialogue, launched in April 2010.

The South African Institute of International Affairs will be following Mrs. Clinton’s visit. Dr. Scott Firsing is a current Bradlow Fellow at the institute and a US citizen living in South Africa. He has been following relations between these two countries for a number of years. As he anticipates the visit of America’s top diplomat to South African shores, Dr Firsing points out “The two countries are looking to expand on a wide-ranging partnership that, despite some political obstacles, has flourished during the Obama-Zuma administrations. This comes at a crucial time when African economics and security issues finally appear to be gaining prominence in Washington.”

Read: SPECIAL REPORT: Hillary Clinton in South Africa – Unpacking US-South Africa relations, by Dr Scott Firsing, 31 July 2012

Important Issues to watch:

• A major aim of the Strategic Dialogue is to advance economic cooperation. While the two counties recently updated the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), questions have been raised around the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. AGOA has, for more than a decade, given a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, preferential access to the US market.

• The emerging powers grouping, known as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), has been flexing its muscles and has had an impact on SA-US bilateral relations. For one, the BRICS support replacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency. Other issues of contention include the bloc’s opposition to a regime change in Syria and sanctions on Iran.

• In November 2012, America goes to the polls as President Barack Obama and Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, vie for the presidency of the United States. A month later, the ANC meets for its 53d national elective conference in Mangaung. It is difficult to predict what impact these two events will have on the bilateral relationship since some crucial strides where made, under a historically disliked Republican leadership from a South African perspective, in fields such as health. The US has contributed over $3.1 billion dollars to the fight against HIV/Aids, TB and the health system in general in South Africa.

SAIIA Commentary and Research on this topic:

  • Asymmetry as context: The rollercoaster of South Africa–US relations post 1994, South African Journal of International Affairs (by subscription), 28 March 2012
  • The United States, South Africa, And South Africa’s Global Health Agenda, SAIIA event, 15 August 2011
  • AGOA: The foundation of US-SA Trade – Ambassador Demetrios Marantis, SAIIA Feature article, 07 June 2011
  • US-Africa relations: The modest foundations of Obama’s four-pillar platform, SAIIA Feature article, 14 July 2009

Contact Details:

Dr Scott Firsing is available for media interviews and analysis.

Catherine Grant Makokera and Peter Draper are available on issues of trade and other economic issues between the US and South Africa.

To arrange for interviews, please contact:

Ms. Chevon Erasmus Porter
SAIIA Communications Manager
Mobile: +27 82 820 803
Tel: +27 11 339 2021


Ms. Riona Judge McCormack
SAIIA Content Manager
Mobile: +27 71 764 3690
Tel: +27 11 339 2021

2 Aug 2012