Joint Communiqué of the Third Meeting of the South Africa – The Netherlands Joint Commission for Cooperation

Joint communiqué of the third meeting of the South Africa - The Netherlands Joint Commission for Cooperation, 18 October 2023.

1. The Netherlands and South Africa signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of a Joint Commission of Cooperation (JCC) on 19 November 2015, which provides for regular meetings chaired by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the two countries in order to facilitate consultation and cooperation in various fields.

2. The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, Dr Naledi Pandor, hosted the Third Meeting of the JCC in Pretoria on 19 October 2023. The delegation of the Netherlands was led by Ms Hanke Bruins Slot, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

3. The Ministers exchanged views on international issues, including the following:

3.1 Peace and security developments on the African continent, with a focus on Mozambique, where the European Union has provided support to the SADC Mission in Mozambique (SAMIM), the Sahel and East Africa.

3.2 International peace and security developments, including Russia/Ukraine and the Israeli/Palestine conflict.

3.3 They reiterated their commitment to the international rules-based order enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, including respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, and support for the peaceful resolution of conflict. 

3.4 Multilateral Cooperation, including support for the reform of the United Nations Security Council in order to address international peace and security issues more effectively.

3.5 The Ministers agreed to collaborate closely within the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and through the South Africa - Netherlands Human Rights Dialogue on the international promotion of human rights.

3.6 The Ministers reiterated their support for the full implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in all its three pillars.

3.7 The Ministers agreed on the need for the Women, Peace and Security Agenda to be implemented globally and that women should play a prominent role in conflict prevention and peacekeeping operations.

3.8 Minister Pandor briefed Minister Bruins Slot on the outcome of the Fifteenth BRICS Summit, which was held in Johannesburg from 22 to 24 August 2023.

3.9 The Ministers underlined the strong, broad and friendly relationship between the Netherlands and South-Africa. The Ministers noted the progress that has been made in fostering the relationship between the two countries since the Second Meeting of the Joint Commission was held in The Hague on 22 November 2021. In this regard, they noted the following technical reports:

4 Agriculture

4.1 The Ministries of Agriculture of South Africa and the Netherlands signed a Letter of Intent on Cooperation in the field of Agriculture in November 2015. It revitalised the 1998 Terms of Reference for Bilateral Cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries of the Netherlands and the National Department of Agriculture of the Republic of South Africa.

4.2 The LoI also reactivated the Bilateral Committee on Agriculture (CoA), which has proven to be an efficient forum to identify opportunities for potential future bilateral cooperation, prioritisation of work and monitoring of results and challenges and strengthen cooperation in ways that generate mutual benefit for both.

4.3 The CoA has had rotational meetings to discuss issues identified and agreed upon in the LoI of November 2015. On 5 June 2023, the Parties met for the sixth bilateral CoA in The Hague, Netherlands. This successful meeting contributed to the promotion of cooperation and strengthening relations between the two countries. Issues of mutual interest have been discussed, including e-certification of animal products, cool logistics, just energy transition, climate smart agriculture, biodiversity, land reform and phytosanitary and veterinary trade issues. The next meeting is scheduled to take place in Pretoria in 2024. 

5 Arts and Culture

5.1 South Africa and the Netherlands enjoy strong cooperation in the field of Arts and Culture, particularly in the areas of Language, Underwater Heritage, Built Environment, Museums and Archives, and Audio Visual Production.

5.2 The Ministers celebrate the success of ongoing projects between Dutch and South African institutions; including between the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC) and the Nederlandse Taalunie (NTU) in the domain of human language technologies (HLT); Tongeren Museum (NL and Ditsong Museum (SA); Robben Island Museum, Marine Coastal Management, Centre for International Heritage Activities (CIE) in the Netherlands and SAHRA which created Maritime Underwater Cultural Unit (MUCH); South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) and the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed (RCE) in Oral Histories and Maritime Heritage; National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa (NFVF) and the Netherlands Film Fund (NFF) in audio visual production, Western Cape Archives and National Archief in digitization.

5.3 The Ministers agree to support ongoing and new partnerships between relevant institutions and promote cultural exchange and cooperation at all levels from institutional level to ‘grass roots’.

5.4 It was agreed that the following areas of collaboration would be pursued:

  • There is currently no institution in South Africa that is applying appropriate standards for the management and storage of large items of archival material. The National Archives and Records Services of South Africa wishes to collaborate and share expertise with The Netherlands in this area as part of their international visitors’ programme to share skills in mapping out the expertise available in SA, share best skills and best practises in conservation and storage of architectural drawings and explore possibilities for future collaborations and training in digitization, records administration, and preservation related matters.
  • Enhance and promote cultural cooperation in SA and Netherlands - the parties to meet and identify other areas for cooperation in the fields of Sports, Arts and Culture

6 Environment and Climate Change

6.1 The Ministers agreed to continue the bilateral collaboration on environment and climate issues, based on knowledge exchange, capacity strengthening and developing joint solutions to shared environment and climatechallenges. The Netherlands and South Africa will intensify their collaboration on climate mitigation   and adaption including the Just Transition, research collaboration, circular economy, green hydrogen, ecosystem-based adaptation, specifically in the field of water management, climate smart agriculture, and empowering the youth on       climate.

6.2 South Africa and the Netherlands are committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement and welcome the Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC. Both nations   recognize the urgent need for climate action to keep the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal in reach and are staunch supporters of multilateral cooperation in the efforts to reach the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

7 Energy, JETP and Green Hydrogen

7.1 South Africa and The Netherlands welcome the intensified exchanges on Green Hydrogen and the signature of a dedicated G2G Memorandum of Agreement on Green Hydrogen. Parties agree to take the next steps foreseen and agree to setup a Strategic Working Group.

7.2 Both parties highly value the energy transition cooperation in the Just Energy Transition Partnership and see this partnership as a crucial vehicle to halt climate change while also supporting economic and social goals of developing countries. Parties agree to strive for formalisation of the role of the Netherlands in the JETP.

8 Digitalisation (includes Cyber, Cyber Security)

8.1 The Ministers noted that the cooperation in the field of digitalization and cyber security, including through supporting and promoting knowledge exchange and private sector collaboration, has greatly developed. The Ministers welcomed the process that is underway for concluding a Joint Declaration of Intent on Enhancing Collaboration within the fields of Cyberspace and Digital Technologies.  

8.2 The Ministers welcomed the establishment of the South Africa – Netherlands Cyber Security School, led by Stellenbosch University and The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies to foster knowledge exchange and capacity building in the field of cybersecurity.

8.3 Recalling the commitment that South Africa and the Netherlands made during the Inaugural Meeting of the JCC in 2020 to regional cooperation in cyber security, both Ministers welcomed the various iterations of the Global Cyber Policy   Dialogue: Southern Africa meetings held respectively in October 2020, October 2021 and October 2022, where the parties agreed to continue the cooperation in this field.

8.4 The Ministers welcomed the frank and cordial bilateral discussions on international cyber issues held over the past years and the Ministers committed to continuing this engagement. The Netherlands announced that the Ambassador-at-Large for Security Policy and Cyber of the Netherlands intends to visit South Africa in 2024.

8.5 The Ministers acknowledge that international meetings and negotiations relating to cyber issues are of such a technical nature that these require expert knowledge and capacity of diplomats. The Ministers welcomed in this regard the training on cyber diplomacy for government officials organized by the Netherlands in 2022.

8.6 The Ministers decided to promote the empowerment of women in professional positions in the field of cyber, and to be cognizant of gender-implications of cyber.

9 Finance

9.1 Grant Funding for a Green Hydrogen Fund

9.1.1 During the State Visit to South Africa by Prime Minister Mark Rutte of The Netherlands in June 2023, a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of green hydrogen was concluded between The Netherlands and South Africa. At the time, an announcement was made regarding the two countries’ intention to launch a new ‘South Africa Green Hydrogen Fund’ (SA-H2 Fund).

9.1.2 The SA-H2 Fund is being positioned to be an innovative blended finance fund that will facilitate and accelerate the development of a green hydrogen sector in South Africa. The Fund will be supported by Invest International (a Dutch government entity), Climate Fund Managers, the Industrial Development Corporation (a South African government entity), Development Bank of Southern Africa (a South African government entity) and Sanlam Limited (a South African company) – in collaboration with other South African and international strategic partners.

9.1.3 The SA-H2 Fund initiative will aim to secure US$1 billion in funding, to be raised directly in South Africa or indirectly via other channels including international development partners. Invest International, on behalf of the Government of The Netherlands, intends to commit up to EUR50 million to the SA-H2 Fund via the Government of The Netherlands’ Development Related Infrastructure Investment Vehicle (DRIVE) programme. 

9.1.4 The Government of South Africa (mainly the National Treasury and The Presidency), the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in South Africa and Invest International have been engaged in a series of talks and discussions to finalise the institutional arrangements and framework agreement(s) to pave the way for the establishment of the SA-H2 Fund and the flow of the grant funding to the SA-H2 Fund of EUR50 million to be committed by Invest International.

9.1.5 The discussions between the parties will soon enter the phase of drafting the framework agreement(s). The framework agreement(s) are expected to be concluded by year-end.  

9.2 Grant funding for public infrastructure projects

9.2.1 The Government of the Republic of South Africa and the Government of the Kingdom of The Netherlands are currently negotiating a bilateral development cooperation framework agreement. Under this agreement, the Government of The   Netherlands will provide official development assistance (ODA) in the form of   grants and technical assistance of up to EUR100 million in the areas of: agri-food   (sustainable value chains); energy (renewable energy transition); healthcare (health infrastructure); green water infrastructure; and sustainable manufacturing.

9.2.2 The ODA funding will be utilised to address key infrastructure investment challenges facing South Africa. The grant funding can be used to cover up to 35 per cent of the costs of public infrastructure projects, while the technical assistance will be aimed at fast-tracking public infrastructure project preparation. The focus areas of the ODA funding are aligned to South Africa’s immediate and long-term development goals and objectives as articulated in the National Development Plan 2030, Medium Term Strategic Framework 2019-2024 and the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (2021).

9.2.3 The ODA funding will be implemented by Invest International (a Dutch government agency) on behalf of the Government of The Netherlands, specifically the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The appropriate South African implementing partners will be identified and selected through a process agreed to by the South African and Dutch governments through their respective representative departments or agencies.

9.2.4 The government of South Africa (represented by the National Treasury, which is responsible for overseeing and coordinating development cooperation and ODA), the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Pretoria and Invest International are engaged in talks aimed at advancing the conclusion of a development cooperation framework agreement and creating a viable project pipeline for investments. Other South African public institutions involved in the talks include the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), the Infrastructure Fund (IF) and the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).

9.2.5 The discussions between the parties will soon enter the phase of drafting the framework agreement(s). The framework agreement(s) are expected to be concluded by year-end.  

10 Higher, Technical and Vocational Education, Science and Innovation

10.1 The Netherlands and South Africa have a long and rich higher education cooperation history. Dutch and South African universities and knowledge institutes have intensively collaborated in various fields such as (digital) student exchanges, joint research, joint degrees, cooperation in European research projects.

10.2 Last year, the Netherlands employed an Education and Science Attaché in Pretoria as part of the implementation of the Dutch International Knowledge and Talent strategy in which South Africa is a priority country. South Africa has a Senior Science and Innovation Representative in Brussels, who is also in charge of knowledge cooperation with the Netherlands.

10.3 In October 2023, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands conducted a Knowledge Mission to South Africa, together with nineteen board members of Dutch knowledge institutions. One of the aims of the mission was to enhance cooperation between vocational education and training institutions. South Africa and the Netherlands have negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the fields of higher education, and technical and vocational education. The MoU was signed during the visit by the Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science to South Africa.

10.4 South Africa and the Embassy of the Netherlands continues to jointly co-host of a series of policy dialogues, which commenced in June 2023. The policy dialogues are geared towards a policy learning in the higher education and TVET sectors. 

10.5 The Netherlands and South Africa undertake a plethora of joint activities in the field of science and innovation. Both countries work together in the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project and acknowledge the project’s importance as it transcends ordinary radioastronomy projects and contributes the prestige and pride of the Dutch and South Africa’s science ecosystem. In 2022, both countries extended the MoU on science and innovation to continue collaboration on mutual benefit, especially in the field of astronomy, energy, agriculture, health and water. Both countries will hold a joint committee meeting in 2024 and are looking forward to discussing new potential areas of cooperation.

11 Migration

11.1 There is close co-operation between South Africa and the Netherlands to counter irregular migration, especially within the context of the work of the Southern African Immigration Liaison (SAIL) team, where the Netherlands play a leading role, especially insofar as information sharing on routes and trends are concerned, as well as operational co-operation to deal with travel documents and identity fraud   that affect both countries and the fight against irregular migration including the return of irregular migrants.

11.2 Consultations on the contents of the draft Memorandum of Understanding on Technical Cooperation in Migration Matters are in progress, and internal processes for the signing of the document will commence as soon as the draft has been agreed to.

12 Social Development

12.1 At the request of the Government of the Netherlands, the Parties are negotiating a Protocol to amend the Agreement on Social Security, which was signed in The Hague on 16 May 2001. The amendments proposed in the Protocol are mainly the result of a change in domestic laws in the Netherlands with respect to the exportability of benefits.

12.2 The Department of Social Development (DSD) of South Africa suggested that the Agreement be expanded to explore other areas of cooperation. In this regard, DSD and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment of the Netherlands are negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the field of Social Development, which makes provision for cooperation in the following areas:

  • Support to children and families, as well as development of universal social services for children and families;
  • Socio-economic protection of youth and services to older persons and their families;
  • Services and support to persons with disabilities, including disability mainstreaming;
  • Governance, coordination and oversight of social entities;
  • Exportation of social security benefits and general cross-border issues;
  • Funding models of social security and social welfare services;
  • Fraud, corruption and compliance;
  • Review (appeal) of decisions to refuse social security benefits;

12.3 The negotiations on the aforementioned Protocol to the Agreement on Social Security and the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the field of Social Development are progressing. Both parties are aiming at finalising the negotiations on both documents this year with a view to sign the amending Protocol and the Memorandum of Understanding in the course of 2024.

13. Trade and Investment

13.1 The Ministers noted that the global economy is recovering, albeit at a slower pace. The IMF forecasted a slow-down in the global economy from 3.5% in 2022 to 3% in 2023 and a further decline to 2.9% in 2024, with the slowdown more advanced in the global economies as opposed to developing economies. They noted that global growth will remain susceptible to the increasing climate and geo-political shocks.

13.2 The Ministers underscored the growing bilateral economic relations between the two countries underpinned by a significant growth in bilateral trade and investment in the past year. The significant growth in bilateral trade in 2022 was fuelled by the increase in demand for coal exports in Europe given the energy crisis. The South African side cautioned that a decline in exports of manufactured products may undermine its national industrialisation objectives and called upon the Dutch side to source value-added manufactured products for a more beneficial trade.

13.3 South African side informed the Dutch side of its second series of the next five-year mobilisation drive, i.e. investment target of R2 trillion, announced by the President at the 5th iteration of the Presidential Investment Conference. South Africa has managed to exceed the initial five-year investment conference target of R1.2 trillion, wherein R1.5 trillion was achieved. South Africa appreciates the investment commitments made by Dutch companies during the first series of mobilisation drives and looks forward to an further expansion of Dutch investment in the country. South Africa will continue to assist Dutch companies through investment facilitation value-chain and aftercare.

13.4 The South African side further informed its plans regarding development of green hydrogen sector and projects that contribute to the export market as well as the development of the local economy and regional prosperity. The Ministers recalled agreements signed during a working visit by Prime Minister Rutte in June 2023 in the form of Green Hydrogen Fund, Financial Pack on Water and Energy related Public Infrastructure, and Just Energy Transition. Implementation of these agreements is critical in resolving the energy and water crisis and as well as contributing towards reduction of carbon emission as the world moves towards clean energy. The Ministers  called upon strengthening commercial partnership in these sectors, i.e. green hydrogen, just energy transition and water infrastructure, as well as agriculture and agro-processing industries.

13.5 The Ministers agreed that the use of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures and technical measures should not be used as an unnecessary means to create technical barriers to trade within the SADC-EU Economic Partnership Agreement and called on the two blocks to find a mutually beneficial way to resolve these trade impediments.

13.6 The Ministers agreed to continue to strengthen bilateral trade and investment through trade and investment promotion missions and enhancing private sector cooperation. The Ministers further agreed to continue to have dialogue to share policies on economic development and investment climate.

14. Water Management

14.1 By means of the renewed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed on the margins of the United Nations Water Conference on 22 March 2023, the Republic of South Africa and the Kingdom of the Netherlands reaffirmed their excellent and longstanding partnership in the management of water resources. In the MoU, the Ministers agreed to strengthen and intensify cooperation onwater safety, flood   protection, and integrated water resources management, water for food and ecosystems, water supply and sanitation, water and climate change, and water governance. The goals of the MoU will be achieved through different partnerships, including:

  • Blue Deal programme: The Blue Deal South Africa aims to assist the improvement of clean, safe and sufficient water for 2.5 million people in South Africa by 2030, through partnerships between Dutch and South African water authorities.  
  • CocreateMYCITY: The Netherlands Embassy launched CocreateMYCITY to bring together specialists from South Africa and the Netherlands to discuss issues pertaining to cities. The Embassy hosts a one-day gathering every two years in one of the three cities (Johannesburg, Cape Town, or Durban). In 2023, CocreateMYCITY was set up in Durban to address water issues.
  • Hydronet: In order to produce individualized overviews, predictions, and warnings catered to the needs of the customers and stakeholders, HydroNET  combines weather and water data with models and information. The Department of Water and Sanitation has subscribed to the HydroNET system and appointed the National Steering Committee to oversee the implementation and provide strategic direction for Water Management Areas in South Africa.
  • Wetskills: Young water graduates from the Department of Water and Sanitation continue to benefit from this programme and are scheduled to compete in the upcoming Wetskills water challenge, which will be held in Lesotho from September 30 to October 13, 2023, and then in Amsterdam from October 28 to November 9, 2023.

14.2 The Ministers acknowledged the importance of the follow-up of the UN 2023 Water Conference. South Africa and the Netherlands agreed to work closely together on the implementation of the Water Action Agenda and the International Panel on Delta’s and Coastal Zones.

15. It was agreed that the Fourth Meeting of the South Africa – Netherlands JCC should be held in the Netherlands before the end of 2025.

16. The Joint Communiqué of the Third Meeting of the South Africa – Netherlands JCC was signed in Pretoria on 18 October 2023.

Dr. GNM Pandor

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa

Ms. Hanke Bruins Slot

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands