Since South Africa’s transition to democracy in 1994, the United States and South Africa have enjoyed a solid bilateral relationship. South Africa is a strategic partner of the United States, with strong collaboration in the areas of health, education, environment, and digital economy.
The United States first opened a consulate in Cape Town in 1799, and in 1929 established formal diplomatic relations with South Africa after the United Kingdom recognized South Africa’s autonomy within the British Empire. In 1948, the South African government instituted apartheid, which involved policies of racial segregation and white domination over the black majority and other non-white groups. U.S.-South Africa relations became severely strained by South Africa’s racial policies, leading the U.S. Congress to pass the 1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which imposed sanctions on the apartheid South African government.
The United States played an important role in support of South Africa’s 1994 democratic transition. In October 1994, U.S. President Bill Clinton received newly elected President Nelson Mandela on his first state visit to the United States with a State Dinner and public appearances. In 1995, the U.S.-South African Binational Commission was launched to support the rebuilding of South Africa, and U.S. President Bill Clinton visited South Africa in 1998. The United States and South Africa share strong educational and people-to-people ties, significant economic and political interests, as well as common development objectives throughout Africa. As a strong democracy and sub-Saharan Africa’s most developed economy, South Africa plays a key economic and political role on the African continent. The United States seeks opportunities for increased U.S.-South African cooperation on regional and international issues.