Author: Nicolas Cook, Specialist in African Affairs
South Africa is a multi-racial, majority black southern African country of nearly 52 million. It held its first universal suffrage elections in 1994, after a transition from white minority rule under apartheid, a system of state-enforced racial segregation and socioeconomic discrimination. South Africa entered a period of mourning in late 2013, following the passing of its first post-apartheid president, Nelson Mandela, who is viewed as the founding father of today’s nonracial South African democratic system. Due to its political, trade, and investment ties across Africa and its active role within the African Union, South Africa is influential regionally. It is viewed as a U.S. strategic partner in Africa, despite periodic foreign policy differences. In mid-2013, President Obama traveled to South Africa after visiting Senegal, prior to a visit to Tanzania. The trip centered on U.S.-African partnerships in the areas of trade and investment, development, democracy and youth leadership development, and peace and security. Key issues addressed in South Africa included bilateral political and trade and investment ties, development cooperation, and shared U.S.-South African aims regarding conflict mitigation and development across Africa.