This report on South African trade trends is one of Who Owns Whom’s series of trends reports. It includes information on trends by region, country and by product, various trade agreements and arrangements and the impact of external shocks and recent events.
South African Trade Trends
As South Africa is a small, open economy, international trade can be seen as the engine room of its economy. A huge trade surplus in 2021 came on the back of the commodity boom of the last two years which benefited minerals exports, while higher prices paid for the import of oil, wheat, sunflower oil and fertiliser resulted in imported inflation. South Africa’s trade potential can only be fully unlocked if companies are globally competitive, which is difficult in the current environment of failing road, rail and port infrastructure, electricity shortages and labour stoppages.
Events such as the outbreak of the pandemic and invasion of Ukraine can change the trade landscape overnight. While they did not have a material effect on South Africa’s trade numbers, there were price, direction of trade and supply chain effects. The external shocks resulted in rising commodity prices and mineral exports, and affected prices of some imported products. There was a significant change in the direction of coal exports as countries scrambled for alternative sources of coal and gas than from Russia. Major logistical bottlenecks resulted in additional freight costs.
Given South Africa’s high energy needs and its lack of energy resources, oil has consistently been the country’s top import product. Other major imports include high value-added products and final consumer goods, as well as capital goods for the agricultural, mining and manufacturing sectors. Imports also include intermediary goods used as inputs in manufacturing. Oil was the top import product in 2021 followed by vehicles and parts, and machinery. Exports are largely commodity- or agriculture-based, and precious metals and stones accounted for the most exports.
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Table of Contents[ Close ]
|2.||TRADE AS CATALYST OF SOUTH AFRICA’S ECONOMIC GROWTH||1|
|2.1.||South Africa’s Changing Trade and Industrial Policy Landscape||1|
|2.2.||Trade’s Contribution to South Africa’s Economic Activity||3|
|3.||SOUTH AFRICA’S TOTAL TRADE TRENDS||6|
|4.||SOUTH AFRICA’S REGIONAL TRADE TRENDS||10|
|5.||SOUTH AFRICA’S TRADE TRENDS BY PARTNER COUNTRY||14|
|6.||SOUTH AFRICA’S TRADE TRENDS BY PRODUCT||18|
|6.3.||Exports – A Strategic View||23|
|7.||SOUTH AFRICA’S TRADE WITH CHINA||25|
|7.1.||The Implications for South Africa||28|
|8.||SOUTH AFRICA’S TRADE WITH AFRICA||30|
|8.1.||Overall Trade Trends||32|
|8.5.||The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)||38|
|8.6.||Trade with Africa versus Trade with BRICS||40|
|9.||SOUTH AFRICA’S MAIN TRADE AGREEMENTS/ARRANGEMENTS||42|
|9.2.||Free Trade Agreements||44|
|9.3.||Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs)||49|
|10.||IMPACT OF EXTERNAL SHOCKS||57|
|Harmonised System Codes||69|