South African Institute of International Affairs

SAIIA is a South African research institute on regional and international issues. It is an independent, non-government think-tank whose purpose is to encourage wider and more informed awareness of the importance of international affairs.[1]

South African Institute of International Affairs
TypeResearch Institute
chief executiveElizabeth Sidiropoulos
Location, ,
26°11′25.72″S 28°01′54.85″E


The South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) was founded in Cape Town in 1934 by a group of academics, politicians, and newspaper editors.[2] It has been located in Jan Smuts House, on the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg, since 1960. Prior to this it was located in downtown Johannesburg. The General Secretary was Major Louis Kraft, a Belgian born writer, journalist and African traveller. An Office was established in Cape Town in 2008 to engage more closely with key stakeholders in Johannesburg.[3]

In the early 1990s the strategy of the Institute began to shift from speakers' meetings and a general conference programme to a more focused research agenda. The major research projects within the Institute produce a range of deliverables to donors and the wider public in the form of publications (such as policy briefs, occasional papers and research reports), workshops and conferences catering for a cross constituency audience, and media engagement.


The Institute's activities include :

  • Making input into policy development both locally and internationally
  • Undertaking research on current issues of importance to Africa generally and South Africa specifically
  • Developing linkages and joint programmes with international organisations and agencies throughout the world
  • Maintaining a resource centre and reference library (that is a United Nations depository as well as a World Bank Development Information Centre) for students and scholars of international relations
  • Organising conferences, seminars and speakers' meetings on a wide range of topics addressed by prominent South Africans and distinguished international guests
  • Encouraging an interest in international relations among the youth through its leadership programme for postgraduate interns and its various outreach programmes for university students and high school learners

Its project funding derives from grants from international governments, multilateral organisations and private foundations while some core institutional funding comes from local corporate, diplomatic and institutional members.

SAIIA is governed by an independent Council whose members represent the Institute's branches around South Africa as well as senior figures in business and civil society.

Research Output

SAIIA's research work currently focuses on:

  • Governance and accountability
  • Trade, investment (i.e. economic diplomacy) and development
  • South African foreign policy
  • Existing and emerging powers and their role in Africa
  • Global challenges such as climate change and energy security.

Youth Outreach

SAIIA's youth initiative (Youth@SAIIA), emphasizes the broader goal of fostering awareness on international affairs, and stimulating public debate amongst young people, whilst providing skills development that cultivates future leaders and researchers.

Notable Visitors

As part of its mandate to hold conferences, seminars and speakers' meetings, SAIIA has hosted a range of well-known South African and international figures. These include UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the late South African president Nelson Mandela and the then US Senator Barack Obama.


  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-22. Retrieved 2014-06-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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