New Zealand High Commission Pretoria, South Africa

New Zealand and South Africa

Former SA Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe and PM John Key in September 2011


Since the end of apartheid political, economic and social ties between New Zealand and South Africa have been evolving. A friendly relationship has been maintained through high-level visits by the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, during South Africa’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup in mid-2010 and by then Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe to New Zealand for the opening of the Rugby World Cup 2011.  Recognising that significant common interests make regular official consultation beneficial, New Zealand and South Africa have implemented annual Foreign Ministry consultations. The opening of the South African High Commission in Wellington in April 2009 was a significant step in the relationship, which signalled South Africa’s developing interest in its political, economic, trade, business and social linkages with New Zealand.

There are now some 55,000 South Africans resident in New Zealand. The presence of these expatriates, some of whom actively look to generate stronger links with their former home, creates genuine warmth in people-to-people ties. New Zealanders also support non-government organisations in Africa, providing substantially more through private donations to organisations like ChildFund than the New Zealand Government does in aid through formal channels.

A significant feature of the New Zealand-South Africa relationship is sports, in particular rugby and cricket rivalry. A continual schedule of competition – at national and provincial levels – maintains an active relationship. Both the FIFA World Cup in 2010 in South Africa, in which the New Zealand All Whites participated, and the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, in which the Springboks participated, have given a substantial boost to already strong sporting links.


South Africa is New Zealand’s 33rd most important market for two-way trade and the bilateral trade relationship is healthy and steadily improving. In the year to December 2013, New Zealand exported goods worth NZ$258 million to South Africa, and South Africa exported NZ$153 million worth of products to New Zealand. The profile of the trading relationship is diverse, with significant trade occurring in many sectors including automobiles, medical supplies, aircraft, machinery, transmission equipment, metals, carpets, paper, cosmetics, dairy, seafood, wine, fruit and industrial chemicals. Service trade is mostly connected to short-term travel, with around 15,000 South Africans visiting New Zealand in 2013.Around 14,000 New Zealanders also visited South Africa in 2013. Immigration New Zealand opened a branch in Pretoria in 2010. 

Although New Zealand Trade and Enterprise does not have a presence in South Africa, it covers the market from its Dubai office. One large New Zealand company active in South Africa is Fonterra, which has a major joint venture with local dairy company Clover. Specific sectors with potential for growth are food and beverages, agritech, aviation, healthcare, ICT and specialised manufacturing. There is also scope to develop high-end services such as education.

Trade between New Zealand and South Africa has grown steadily. However in 2011 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in conjunction with the South African Department of Trade & Industry, commissioned the attached independent study to examine the trade relationship between New Zealand and South Africa. It aimed to identify sectors already performing strongly and highlight others with growth potential. The completed study was launched by the Minister of Trade, Hon Tim Groser and his South African counterpart in September 2011.  It provides valuable insights into the dynamics of the current trading relationship.

Development Cooperation

New Zealand’s development relationship with South Africa is moving from one of donor-recipient to one of partnership and cooperation.  The change of focus reflects South Africa’s emergence as a donor in its own right within the sub-Saharan Africa region. South Africa will continue to be an important dialogue partner and New Zealand will also continue to follow South Africa’s broader role in regional development.

Official Visits

Prime Minister Key’s visit in 2010 was the first at Head of Government level to South Africa since 2006, when Rt Hon Helen Clark attended the Progressive Governance Summit hosted by South Africa, and undertook a bilateral visit. Prime Minister Key again visited South Africa in December 2013, this time for the sad but celebratory occasion as South Africa, and the world, said goodbye to former President Nelson Mandela. Other New Zealand Ministers who have come to South Africa over recent years include Minister Tim Groser, in his capacity as Minister responsible for International Climate Change Negotiations, in September 2011 and for the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 17) in December 2011.  Hon Annette King visited in 2007 as Minister of Transport and Hon Steve Maharey in 2006 as Minister of Education.  In 2008, Rt Hon Winston Peters made a substantial bilateral visit to South Africa and Zambia as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

File NZ-SA Trade Study.pdf

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