Further information on the closing event of the German South African Year of Science is available here.

South Africa is one of the BMBF’s priority countries in the area of scientific and technological cooperation (STC) throughout the world and the BMBF’s most important partner on the African continent. As the strongest economic power in Africa, with extensive raw material resources, South Africa is also an important partner for German industry. A number of German STC projects in industry-relevant fields are carried out in cooperation with German and South African companies. South Africa also plays a key role in regional cooperation with the countries of southern Africa and in the implementation of the EU’s Africa Strategy.


The establishment of a Binational Mixed Commission to promote bilateral cooperation was agreed on the occasion of President Mandela’s state visit to Germany in 1996. The initiative was the expression of the interest on both sides in developing a long-term and broad-based partnership between the two countries. The Commission is made up of representatives of the existing six Joint Commissions in the fields of development, defence, environment, economy, science/research, and culture and meets every two to three years. The Federal Foreign Office holds overall responsibility for the Commission within the Federal Government. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Federal Ministry of Defence (BMVg), the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and the Cultural Directorate General of the Federal Foreign Office are responsible for the respective Joint Commissions.

The partnership has developed very positively for both sides since the intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in research and technology was signed in 1996. Cooperation covers a wide range of research topics determined at the meetings of the Joint Commissions (JC) between the BMBF and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), which now take place on an annual basis.

The most recent Binational Mixed Commission took place in Pretoria in April 2010 and was chaired on the German side by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and on the South African side by the Minister of International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. The Joint Commission on Science/Research met immediately before the meeting of the Binational Mixed Commission.


In its specialist programmes, the BMBF mainly supports projects in fields related to sustainability, such as water, climate, the environment, energy, and biodiversity. Antarctic and marine research are also important areas of cooperation.

Germany’s scientific and technological cooperation (STC) with South Africa also includes technological development in areas such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and production technologies.

In addition, there are numerous bilateral collaborations and projects between universities, universities of applied sciences, and non-university research institutions. There are almost 100 cooperation projects between German and South African institutions of higher education. Several German research institutions, such as the Fraunhofer Society (FhG), are active in the area of applied research. Joint study programmes between South African and German universities receive administrative and financial support from the National Research Foundation (NRF), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and third parties.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Department of Science and Technology signed a joint declaration of intent on sustainability research on the occasion of Minister Schavan’s visit in 2008. This marked the start of a bilateral process of dialogue which began with the “D4S – Dialogue for Sustainability” conference in Bonn in June 2008. The German side was represented by members of the BMBF, BMU, BMZ, and science organizations. Representatives on the South African side were members of the DST, as well as the Department of the Environment, the Department of Minerals and Energy, the National Research Foundation (NRF), as well as representatives of universities and energy organizations. A follow-up conference, this time in South Africa, took place in October 2009 and identified industry-related sustainability and the sustainable use of resources (for example, land use and mining) as future priorities. It was agreed at the Joint Committee meeting in April 2010 to intensify and continue the dialogue until 2012.

Further countries with which Germany is conducting a dialogue on sustainability research are: Brazil, India, China, and Russia. The dialogue process with South Africa is the most advanced so far.



  • Visit to Berlin by the Minister H.E. Dr. Blade B. Nzimande of the Department of Higher Education on 8 and 9 March 2010 on the occasion of the round rable discussions on “Skills Development and the Dual System: Possible Ways of Cooperation.” The Minister also had an opportunity to meet Minister Schavan. In this context Minister Nzimande also announced an interest in cooperating with the BMBF in the field of vocational training. Return visits to the Department of Higher Education by representatives of the BMBF took place in April and October 2010 and served to sound out opportunities for future cooperation.
  • Upon the request of the Namibian Ministry of Education, the Academy of Science for South Africa (ASSAF) and the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina agreed within the framework of the TWAS conference in October 2009 to support Namibia in establishing an Academy of Sciences and carried out joint activities to achieve this objective in 2010.
  • Support for a film project
    The worldwide significance of biological crusts in various climate zones and the findings gained from research in Australia, Greenland, South Africa, Switzerland and Germany were shown in a popular science film. This film (duration: 52 minutes) was produced in association with ARTE and Hessischer Rundfunk (HR) and screened in spring 2011.


  • The 20th General Assembly of TWAS ((Third World Academy of Sciences) was held in Durban from 20 to 23 October and jointly financed by the South African Research Ministry and the BMBF. This event strengthened the role of the academies as independent advisory bodies to the national governments and signalled the BMBF’s serious interest in engaging in institutional cooperation with developing countries.
  • The second conference on “Innovation for Sustainability in a Changing World” took place in Pretoria on 26 and 27 October as part of the Dialogue for Sustainability agreed between the BMBF and the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • The conference on “Historical Memory” in Berlin from 29 to 31 October extended the range of subjects of German-South African cooperation to include the social sciences and the humanities.

2008 and earlier

  • Federal Minister Annette Schavan visited South Africa and Namibia at the beginning of February 2008. She was accompanied by a high-ranking delegation from science and industry. Members of the delegation included the President of the German Research Association, Prof. Matthias Kleiner, and the President of the Fraunhofer Society, Prof. Hans-Jörg Bullinger. The visit led to a further intensification of cooperation between Germany and South Africa. Minister Schavan visited the universities of Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Johannesburg as well as various renowned research centres. She also met with high-ranking representatives of German and South African companies. In addition, Minister Schavan and her South African counterpart Mosibudi Mangena signed an agreement on cooperation in sustainability research. Annette Schavan also welcomed the German research vessel Polarstern of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (part of the Helmholtz Association), which had just returned to Cape Town after an Antarctic expedition.
  • The successful presentation of the Max Planck Society’s Science Tunnel took place in Johannesburg in July 2007. In addition to funding from the BMBF and the Department of Science and Technology, the project also received financial support from German and South African companies. The opening ceremony was attended by Minister Mosibudi Mangena; Harro Adt, who was the German Ambassador at the time; and Prof. Theodor Hänsch, the 2005 Nobel Laureate in Physics, as a guest of honour. A further highlight was the visit to Germany by the South African Research Minister Mangena in August 2007, which included a meeting with Federal Minister Annette Schavan in Berlin.