Who Owns Whom

South African Trade Trends Report 2022

Marthinus Havenga | South Africa | 31 October 2022

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Report Coverage

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.

Introduction

• As South Africa is a small, open economy, international trade can be seen as the engine room of its economy.
• With total trade worth R3.2tn in 2021, and a contribution of almost 60% to GDP, an increase in trade can steer the country onto a new and elevated growth path.
• The huge positive trade surplus in 2021 came on the back of the commodity boom which benefited minerals exports, while higher prices for the import of oil, wheat, sunflower oil and fertiliser resulted in imported inflation.
• The potential that trade holds for the country can only be fully unlocked if South African companies are globally competitive, which is difficult in the current environment of failing road, rail and port infrastructure, electricity shortages and labour stoppages.

Outlook

• South African importers and exporters have the ability to change the growth path of South Africa fundamentally, even in a world where protective measures and localisation efforts are on the increase.
• Government must play its role in creating a stable economic environment free from impediments to international trade.
• Without world class infrastructure such as roads, rail and ports, products can’t reach their destinations. Electricity supply and costs must be resolved.
• The country must lessen its dependency on commodity exports. Commodity prices will come down in future and affect the trade balance.
• The concentration of trade partners imports presents a risk and efforts should be made to diversify.
• If companies make full use of market access opportunities and industrial support measures available, enhance their global competitiveness and re-align their growth strategies to be more outward-orientated, then the trade prospects are endless.
• Africa probably holds the most potential, with AfCFTA providing the impetus for eliminating trade barriers.

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South African Trade Trends Report
South African Trade Trends Report 2022

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Table of Contents

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PAGE
1. INTRODUCTION 1
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
3.1. Long-term Trends 6
3.2. Short-term Trends 9
4. SOUTH AFRICA’S REGIONAL TRADE TRENDS 10
4.1. Imports 10
4.2. Exports 12
5. SOUTH AFRICA’S TRADE TRENDS BY PARTNER COUNTRY 14
5.1. Imports 14
5.2. Exports 16
6. SOUTH AFRICA’S TRADE TRENDS BY PRODUCT 18
6.1. Imports 18
6.2. Exports 20
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
8.2. Trade Partners 33
8.3. Traded Products 35
8.4. Intra-African Trade 37
8.5. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) 38
8.6. Trade with Africa versus Trade with BRICS 40
8.7. Red Flags 42
9. SOUTH AFRICA’S MAIN TRADE AGREEMENTS/ARRANGEMENTS 42
9.1. Customs Union 43
9.2. Free Trade Agreements 44
9.3. Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) 49
9.4. Non-reciprocal Arrangements 50
9.5. Non-reciprocal Arrangements 54
10. IMPACT OF EXTERNAL SHOCKS 57
11. OUTLOOK 66
12. REFERENCES 67
12.1. Publications 67
12.2. Websites 68
Appendix 1 69
Harmonised System Codes 69