The Silver Jubilee Of Sri Lanka- South Africa  Diplomacy  

By Srimal Fernando

2 July 2020

Marking the silver jubilee of diplomatic ties, Sri Lanka and South Africa have yielded solid accomplishments in continuing their long-standing corporation. Last year, South Africa and Sri Lanka was pivotal in reviving bilateral and economic ties based on common aspirations for a sustainable future.

The political ties between the two nations in the past were strengthened by several high-level visits from South Africa to Sri Lanka. Former South African President Jacob Zuma visited Sri Lanka in 2013 while the incumbent President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the South Asian nation in 2019 and in 2014 during his tenure as Deputy President. Taking these relations further, a statue of the late South African President Nelson Mandela considered a symbol of peace in the world, will be erected in Colombo. On the other hand South Africa has maintained good relations with the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Southern African Development Community (SADC), and Brazil Russia India China and South Africa (BRICS) member states on a number of key issues.

Moreover both nations are member states of regional intergovernmental unions namely the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) respectively. Furthermore there have been many deliberations on the possible cooperation between the common markets of SAARC and SADC for improved trading opportunities between South Asia and Africa. There are however, implications that influence the collaboration of these markets. The crucial question is how to secure such integration.  These initiatives will make economies in Southern Africa and South Asia have the potential of linking all the resourceful economies of the region together.
Trade diplomacy between the two countries have been based on apparel, tourism and maritime connectivity. However, bilateral trade between the countries leans in favour of South Africa. According to trade statistics for 2017, Sri Lanka’s imports from South Africa amounted to $286 million. For instance, the average tariff rate imposed on goods from SAARC nations entering the South African market is higher than the corresponding rate imposed for non SAARC nations. In contrast however, the trend in South Asia has been towards lower taxes when engaging in international trade

The next great change in the island nation’s Foreign relations with South Africa is within sight. It is the task of the foreign policy makers of both nations to deal with this special phase in accessing bilateral or multilateral networks. Such openings would have positive effects in advancing initiatives to build beneficial ties to achieve full potential in economic growth for Sri Lanka and South Africa.  If one adds to all this, the current diplomatic concerns are of great importance for both economies.

Throughout their diplomatic history, both sides knew to keep their faith alive. In this regard, the collaboration between the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, Republic of South Africa and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka seems well on the way to successful co-operation in the coming years.


Srimal Fernando is a Doctoral Fellow at Jindal School of International Affairs (JSIA), India and Advisor / Global Editor of Diplomatic Society for South Africa in partnership with Diplomatic World Institute (Brussels ) .He is the winner of the 2018/2019 ‘Best Journalist of the Year’ award in South Africa, and has been the recipient of GCA Media Award for 2016.In the field of politics, and Policy affairs, Fernando is a specialist, with over ten years of first hand experience in Sri Lanka and the Maldives