Spotlight series: South African Institute of International Affairs

4th July 2014
The latest article in our “Spotlight series” profiling research organisations based in developing countries looks at the work of the South African Institute of International Affairs.

SAIIA was founded in 1934 by a bipartisan group of politicians, academics and newspaper editors in Cape Town, with the objective of furthering the studies of international affairs. Today, SAIIA boasts dynamic evidence-based policy research programmes that focus on global issues but with an important South African and African perspective, to promote balanced dialogue and debate on issues crucial to Africa’s advancement and engagement in a dynamic global context.

Current and emerging topics that SAIIA is looking at include: governance and accountability (with a particular interest in natural resources); trade, investment (i.e. economic diplomacy) and development; South African foreign policy; existing and emerging powers and their role in Africa; and lastly, global challenges such as climate change and energy security.

Hopewell Radebe, Communications Manager at SAIIA told us that "whilst policy makers are our primary target because our research work is aimed at informing governments and influencing their policies, the sharing of research material with scholars and researchers is also fundamental".

However, as Hopewell ponts out, there are also challenges around the work SAIIA undertakes - local media tends to focus on domestic issues, there is insufficient understanding of the impacts  of international events on domestic politics, economic growth and development. As a result, very little space with regard to print and airtime in the broadcast scenario is dedicated to the country’s engagement with the world and how global issues affect ordinary citizens.

To counter this, SAIIA, in partnership with the Centre for International Governance Innovation has established the Africa Portal to make material such as research reports, books, journals and opinion pieces produced by African research institutions on African policy issues more accessible to a wider global audience.

SAIIA is also justifiably proud of its vibrant youth development programme, engaging with high school learners and educators across South Africa, to interest young citizens in the key international issues of the day, as demonstared in this video on building the next generation of South African leaders: