The division coordinates Switzerland's relations with the countries and regional organisations of sub-Saharan Africa, including the African Union, and with the International Organisation of La Francophonie. These relations cover a diverse range of topics: business, development, peace and security, human rights and governance, migration, culture, science and technology.
Switzerland and sub-Saharan Africa
Switzerland maintains good relations with the 49 countries and with the regional organisations of sub-Saharan Africa, and upholds its foreign policy interests in the region. Switzerland carries out diverse activities in this region comprised of countries with varied profiles:
- Trade and finance: several countries in sub-Saharan Africa have considerable economic growth potential. Switzerland promotes exchanges and investment in the region through its embassies and consulates general as well as through the Swiss Business Hub in Pretoria.
- Development cooperation and humanitarian aid: Switzerland facilitates the development of systems of governance which ensure the provision of basic services to local populations, and provides humanitarian aid in times of crisis.
- Peace and security: Switzerland's long-standing engagement in sub-Saharan Africa allows our representations to contribute to peaceful, long-term solutions to conflicts. Switzerland provides facilitation and mediation support within the framework of its good offices.
- Human rights and governance: Switzerland holds dialogues on human rights and governance issues, in areas such as democracy, abolition of the death penalty and business and human rights.
- Migration and asylum: Switzerland is engaged in efforts in the areas of migration and asylum both in countries of origin and in neighbouring countries, which host most of the people fleeing crisis zones.
- Science, technology and culture: cooperation between companies and research institutes (universities and other higher education institutions) based in countries of sub-Saharan Africa and in Switzerland is growing. Cultural and scientific cooperation is a conduit for exchange and an opportunity to develop innovative relations, also by including civil society.
African regional organisations are playing an increasingly important role in shaping their member countries' domestic and foreign policy. Switzerland is expanding its relations with the African Union (AU), the main regional organisation for the continent. It is working with the AU on projects to strengthen peace and security.
Switzerland is also contributing to build the capacities of sub-regional organisations: the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), East African Community (EAC), and Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Role of the division
The division implements the Federal Council’s 2021–24 strategy for sub-Saharan Africa: it oversees and coordinates the aforementioned activities within the Swiss Federal Administration, working with Switzerland's representations in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa and their official representations in Switzerland. It also organises official Federal Council visits as well as political consultations with the governments of the region.
In this way, the division participates in the development of Switzerland's foreign policy in sub-Saharan Africa and ensures that Swiss policies are carried out in a coherent, effective way in accordance with the goals set out in the Swiss Federal Constitution and with Switzerland's interests.
The Francophonie Service is responsible for coordinating Swiss policy within the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF). The IOF is made up of 84 countries and governments with member, observer and associated status. Around a third of these are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Switzerland's priorities within La Francophonie are democracy, peace and human rights, the development of vocational training in the participant countries, as well as the promotion of cultural and linguistic diversity. The Francophonie Service works in close consultation with the related federal agencies and the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK) to determine how Switzerland positions itself within the IOF's three main bodies – the Francophonie Summit (conference of heads of state and government), the Ministerial Conference and the Permanent Council. The Francophonie Service also makes preparations for events (Francophonie Summit, Week of the French Language and La Francophonie, and workshops) and maintains regular contact with the Swiss representations abroad.