"Over fifteen years after the South African majority gained its independence from white minority rule under apartheid, a system of racial segregation, the Republic of South Africa is firmly established as a regional power. With Africa's largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a diverse economy, and a government that has played an active role in promoting regional peace and stability, South Africa is poised to have a substantial impact on the economic and political future of Africa. The country is also playing an increasingly prominent role in the G20 and other international fora. South Africa is twice the size of Texas and has a population of almost 50 million. Its political system is regarded as stable, but South Africa faces serious long-term challenges arising from poverty, unemployment, and AIDS. The United States government considers South Africa to be one of its strategic partners on the continent, and the two countries commenced a new Strategic Dialogue in 2010, with the encouragement of the U.S. Congress. Bilateral relations are cordial; however, the U.S. and South African administrations have expressed differences with respect to the situations in Zimbabwe and Iran, among other foreign policy issues. South Africa begins a two-year term as a nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 2011; U.S. officials articulated frustration with the South African government on positions it took during its last term on the Council in 2007-2008."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31697