South Africa's foreign policy towards Africa, 1994-2010: partner or hegemon
As part of post-war developments and the new political dispensation after a regime change in 1994, South Africa regained its international stature on the continent and further afield. Based on its phenomenal political recovery, and resourcefulness and capacity (though both limited), the post-apartheid South African government has pledged and is therefore expected to help develop the African continent. This commitment is well mirrored in its foreign policy, which strives for regional and African recovery and seeks to champion the cause of the South at large. Since 1994, South Africa has played a critical role in Africa. On multilateral grounds, the country has been preponderant in the development of SADC, the AU and other African multilateral institutions. For this research, three areas of development were considered: human rights, peace and security, and trade relations. Its human rights role, although mired in controversy – accusations of befriending and defending human rights abusers – has been fairly significant, at least on paper. With regard to peace and security, South Africa continues its peacekeeping efforts in several African countries by devoting its resources to peace missions under SADC, the AU and the UN. Notwithstanding the perceived aggressiveness in its asymmetrical trade relations with the rest of the region, South Africa has contributed largely to continental economic development through its foreign direct investment. It is against the background of its continental foreign policy and actual role that this research attempts to investigate whether South Africa is a partner or hegemon on the continent. This facet of South Africa’s post-1994 foreign policy towards and its role in Africa has been widely debated by political observers. Some political commentators contend that South Africa is a continental partner while others conclude it is just a selfish hegemon and a “bully”. Moreover, due to its post-1994 role on the continent, others suggest South Africa shares characteristics of both a partner and a selfish hegemon. This assertion particularly subscribes to the view that while South Africa may claim to be a partner, it is in reality seen to be an aggressive hegemon in its trade relations with the region; a viewpoint reinforced by the fact that South Africa, lying somewhere between the developed and developing worlds, should primarily be regarded as an emerging, middle-income country.
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