After the first democratic elections in 1994, South Africa dramatically increase its diplomatic footprint globally. By July 2022, South Africa had 98 embassies and high commissions, 14 consuls general and consulates and two liaison/representative offices abroad.

According to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, the President is ultimately responsible for the foreign policy and international relations of South Africa. It is the President’s prerogative to appoint heads of mission, to receive foreign heads of mission, to conduct state‐to‐state relations, and to negotiate and sign all international agreements.

The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation is entrusted with the formulation, promotion, execution and daily conduct of South Africa’s foreign policy.

The department’s overall mandate is to work for the realisation of South Africa’s foreign policy objectives. This is done by:

  • coordinating and aligning South Africa’s international relations
  • monitoring international developments
  • communicating government’s policy positions
  • developing and advising government on policy options to create mechanisms and avenues for achieving objectives
  • protecting South Africa’s sovereignty and territorial integrity
  • contributing to the creation of an enabling international environment for South African businesses
  • sourcing developmental assistance
  • assisting South African citizens abroad.

South Africa’s National Interest displays a people-centred, progressive and developmental outlook evidenced in its foreign policy, particularly as this has been expressed in the post-liberation canon of promoting Pan-Africanism, South-South solidarity and cooperation, North-South cooperation and multilateral cooperation.