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Belgium forges long-term relations with South Africa

Chris Simoens
09 July 2019
South Africa is no longer a partner country of Belgium. Instead, our country wants to focus on long-lasting partnerships between South African and Belgian research and training institutions.


The Belgian Development Cooperation has included South Africa among its partners for twenty years, but this partnership will come to an end in 2019. That does in no way mean, however, that relations between Belgium and South Africa will cease to exist, quite the contrary. It goes without saying that diplomatic relations will continue. That was also the intention of a closing seminary that took place in Pretoria on June 27, 2019: “One chapter closes, another begins”.

Through its development agency Enabel, Belgium has been exploring another formula to maintain the cooperation relationship. For South Africa, our country opted for an “exit programme” in which strong academic partnerships must pave the way for durable economic cooperation. To this end, Belgium has invested 1.5 million euros over a period of 31 months (2016-2019).

In its “National Development Plan: Vision for 2030”, South Africa identified education, training and innovation as priority areas. Although access to education - from primary to higher and university education - is relatively high, the quality of education is a problem.

The exit programme focuses mainly on ICT, health, the maritime sector and public financial management.

The exit programme focuses mainly on ICT (training of highly-qualified IT professionals), health (biostatisticians), the maritime sector (tailor-made training that meets the needs of South Africa’s maritime sector) and public financial management for decentralized levels in the whole country.

Particular attention is also paid to the empowerment of women, young people, people with disabilities (especially the deaf) and people living in rural areas. These historically disadvantaged groups need better access to higher education to increase their chances of employment.

Ultimately, with this programme, our country wants to lay the foundations for long-term partnerships between South African and Belgian research and training institutions. In turn, research and training must enable both our citizens to develop skills that are useful to the business world. A win-win solution for both countries.


South Africa Research Education