Sweden, South Africa and the business of partnership in the 1990s

Marketing internationalism in an era of globalisation


  • Nikolas Glover Uppsala University




Swedish-South African relations, Swedish internationalism, Export promotion, Economic diplomacy, Partnership, Multinational corproations, Public relations


This article examines the background and ambitions of the large-scale Swedish-South Africa Partnership Week that was rolled out across South Africa in November 1999. The Swedish delegation was spearheaded by Prime Minister Göran Persson and consisted of 800 Swedes; high-level ministers, diplomats, civil society representatives and business leaders. The analysis places particular emphasis on the involvement of Swedish multinationals and the central role played by the public relations agency Rikta Kommunikation. Its focus lies on the broader pedagogical function that the Week was intended to have, primarily from a Swedish point of view. I argue that the stated aim to forge an economic partnership between Sweden and South Africa as the logical extension of decades of historical political solidarity was a means of ensuring that citizens learned to understand the pressures and demands of the new era of globalisation. The foreseeable end of Swedish aid to South Africa was to be the dawn of self-sustaining economic relations; “business interests” – for so long derided by the anti-apartheid activists – were henceforth to lead the way. In light of this, I conclude by arguing that the official launch and marketing of a bilateral partnership in 1999 can be seen as part of a government-funded effort to adapt Swedish internationalism to a new era.






Nordic Nineties