Finland's support to the South African anti-apartheid movement was transformed into development cooperation in 1995. The objective was to assist South Africa's efforts in building a socially and economically more inclusive and equal society. Currently, a wide range of development cooperation instruments are used: regional cooperation, local cooperation, as well as partnerships between Finnish and South African institutions and businesses.
For more than 20 years, the development cooperation between Finland and South Africa has notably focused on initiatives that promote environmental governance, implementation of renewable energy services, entrepreneurship, and advancement of innovations and information society. The objectives and priorities of the cooperation are defined by both countries but South African institutions are responsible for the implementation of the programmes. Finland's role is to support the initiatives by building capacity and providing know-how.
In line with a Declaration of Intent on Deepening Bilateral Relations and Strengthening Partnerships signed in 2009, grant-based bilateral cooperation has been phased out and focus has turned to building sustainable partnerships and working together on the African continent. This can be realized, for example, through partnerships in regional projects.