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Focus on South Africa

Discover the context and perspectives of South African higher education and academic and scientific cooperation with France. The article also provides an introduction to the different French and South African technology and innovation portals. The aim is to connect French and South African scientists, entrepreneurs and innovators in order to co-develop a product, service, or technology, with mutual economic interests in mind.

South Africa

Some data on the national higher education system in South Africa*

In terms of funding, 48% come from public grants awarded by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). Tuition fees represent 33%, about €3,000 per year per student. 19% are financed by research contracts and other corporate donations.

With the DHET, the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) also plays a central role in the training at master and PhD levels, through a grants system which is managed by the National Research Foundation (NRF).

The country has 26 public universities (traditional and technological) - 5 of which are considered as the best on the African continent - welcoming almost one million students, as well as 131 registered private HE schools (208,978 enrolments in 2019).

Despite the role played by the State in the development and democratization of the system (significant increase in aid for poor students...), the annual number of degrees is very far from the needs of the country. For example, 3,445 PhDs are defended annually, while the objective of the National Development Plan 2030 is 5,000.

The provision of supervision is also insufficient because about 30% researchers in the country (excluding PhD students and postdocs) are doctorates (PhD), the others having at best a master or a bachelor. For this, in 2020, 40 doctoral scholarships were allocated to universities through the University Staff Doctoral Programme (USDP) which supports existing academics to achieve doctoral degrees.

In terms of student mobility, particularly with France, numbers are relatively low. Therefore, the number of French students in South Africa amounts to 200 and only more than a hundred South Africans out the 6,400 students involved choose the Hexagon as the destination for their international mobility.

Scientific and technical cooperation

A Franco-South African cooperation mainly based on research programs. With over 940 articles in 2017 co-signed by scientists of both countries (+ 16% per year), France is South Africa’s fourth-biggest partner.

The Hubert Curien Partnership "Protea" promotes the integration of young researchers and students as well as the exchange of postdocs, and for the South Africa in particular, the participation of students and researchers from historically disadvantaged communities. For more information about Protea, you can read the Call for projects on the website of Campus France.


Among the main cooperation programs with France is The F'SATI (French South African Technology Institute). Regarded in South Africa as a national resource contributing to the development of knowledge and the exchange of technology, this engineering school is located within the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in partnership with French institutions such as the Engineering School ESIEE Paris and the University of Paris-Est Créteil (UPEC).

F'SATI's impact is major in terms of development of research and teaching capacities, and has around 50 PhD candidates.

Based on the F'SATI model but in the agriculture field, the F'SAGRI (French South African Institute in Agriculture) is a bilateral institute, which was opened in 2015. Its goal: provide a high level training (master and PhD) from the Universities of Fort HareLimpopo and Venda and in partnership with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC)


Innovation & research portals & institutions

The Innovation Bridge Portal is an online platform created and supported by the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) of South Africa. This portal aims to create links between innovators, industry, public and private technology developments, and commercial funding partners. It is an online technology matchmaking platform for researchers, innovators, technology developers, and entrepreneurs on which to present their offers for technological innovation, and for funders and technology users to present challenges that can be addressed. The portal offers different research & innovation opportunities, insights and useful links, networking events, as well as support services.


The ESASTAP (Strengthening, Technology, Research and Innovation Cooperation) platform aims to support the deepening of scientific and technological cooperation between South Africa and Europe with a special focus on innovation. It was established as a platform that promotes different mobility & project opportunities, open calls, news and events, enriched policy dialogue linked to RDI cooperation between South Africa and Europe.


 IFAS Research is a French-South African social science research platform located in Johannesburg which   concentrates on research in humanities including archaeology, history, urban studies, social transformation and   intercultural relations. It helps to fulfil France’s ambition of contributing to the construction of the new South Africa via the promotion of research in the Human and Social Sciences.



SARIMA (Southern African Research & Innivation Management Association) brings together Research and Innovation Management practitioners, to strengthen these disciplines and institutional capabilities across the SADC region. It operates at an individual, institutional, national and international level. It has an operational and project team, volunteer committee members and a vast network of different partners and funders within Africa and abroad.


Other relevant platforms

For more information (only available in French)

« Fiche Afrique du sud » on Campus France website

« La France et l'Afrique du Sud » on the website of the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs

*data from www.statssa.gov.za & DHET's annual performance plan 2021-22


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