Between domestic interests and regional obligations: class compromise and the evolution of South Africa’s development cooperation programme

  • Janis van der WesthuizenEmail author
Original Article


This paper examines the evolving debate about South Africa’s role in international development cooperation since the emergence of the African Renaissance Fund (ARF) in 2001. It identifies three key discursive findings. First, various domestic stakeholders are supportive of South Africa playing a leadership role in international affairs, with the proviso that these international engagements feed back into economic growth and jobs at home. Second, much of the debate concerns the lack of sufficient accountability measures with the ARF. However, the politically problematic disjuncture between xenophobic attitudes and actions at the societal level and Pretoria’s claim to advance the ‘African Agenda’ as a pillar of its foreign policy complicates South Africa’s development cooperation agenda. With the creation of a fully fledged development agency, three countervailing discourses have emerged in order to ‘sell’ South Africa’s role as a player in development cooperation. First, the South African Development Partnership Agency proponents argue that the new agency seeks to align development assistance programmes more strategically with the country’s own economic interests. Second, the Foreign Ministry has promised more rigorous assessment procedures. Third, to counter anti-African immigrant attitudes, a counter discourse of interdependence by government officials prevails. This discourse emphasises moral values and the benefits that economic development in the region brings to South African businesses and reduces the flow of immigrants.


African Renaissance Fund (ARF) Development cooperation Regional powers South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA) South African foreign policy 



I am indebted to various anonymous JIRD reviewers for valuable suggestions, as well as to Aletta Brook, Nissan Besharati, and Stephen Brown for information and comments on an earlier draft. This work is based on the research supported by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences. However, the author accepts sole responsibility for its contents.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of StellenboschStellenboschSouth Africa

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