The close relationship between South Africa and Norway dates back to the pre-freedom years, when Norway actively supported groups opposing the apartheid regime. In the 1990s, a new era of cooperation in higher education and research was initiated, both bilaterally and multilaterally, including a number of joint projects between South African and Norwegian higher education institutions supported by the NUFU and NOMA programmes. Since 2002, a series of bilateral research cooperation programmes have provided support for 86 joint research projects based on the equal partnership principle, 19 of which are presently ongoing. The projects have been managed jointly by the National Research Foundation in South Africa and the Research Council of Norway.
Innovation Norway is an agency under the Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, with a mission to support and promote innovation and new business development between the two countries. Innovation Norway has been present in Pretoria and Cape Town since 1999, as the commercial section of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Pretoria.
Since 2013, South Africa and Norway have been conducting annual high-level bilateral consultations to identify areas of common political and economic interest. The talks include the focus areas of the SANCOOP-programme for cooperative research on climate change, the environment and renewable energy. Following the launching of Operation Phakisa, South Africa and Norway re-confirmed their mutual interest in exploring opportunities for development of ocean space and the “blue” economy, including the maritime sector, marine resources, and aquaculture. The two countries have further agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation on the environment and to explore opportunities in the area of renewable energies.