South Africa flag South Africa: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of South Africa

Foreign Trade in Figures

South Africa is very open to international trade, which represents 56% of the country’s GDP (World Bank). The country mainly exports platinum (12.6%), gold (7.9%), iron ores (7.2%), motor vehicles (5.4%), and coal and similar solid fuels (4.6%). The main imports are petroleum oils (12.6%), transmission apparatus for radio-telephony (3.6%), motor vehicles (3.1), medicaments (2.6%) and automatic data processing machines units (2.1% - Comtrade).

South Africa's top exporting countries are China, the United States, Germany, the UK, Japan and the Netherlands. One-fifth of imports come from China, followed by Germany, the U.S. and India. South Africa is the EU's largest trading partner in Africa: exports to the EU have been growing and becoming more diverse, with the country moving from mainly commodity-based products to a more diversified export profile that includes manufactured goods. In 2019, the African Union launched the operational phase of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), establishing a single market for goods and services across 54 countries - making it the world's largest free trade area by number of countries.

According to the latest available data from WTO, in 2020, South Africa exported products for USD 85.8 billion, while it imported USD 84 billion of goods. The country imported services for a total value of USD 7.2 billion, whereas its exports of services in the same year reached USD 9.5 billion. South Africa recorded a trade surplus of almost USD 17.5 billion in 2020, its highest in the last 30 years (4.9% of GDP – World Bank).

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20162017201820192020
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 60.658.059.559.256.0
Trade Balance (million USD) 2,2184,8611,6922,67417,484
Trade Balance (Including Service) (million USD) 1,6404,4581,1581,72815,156
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -3.91.03.3-0.5-16.6
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 0.4-0.72.6-2.5-10.3
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 30.128.329.629.425.5
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 30.629.629.929.930.5

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Forecasts 20212022 (e)2023 (e)2024 (e)2025 (e)
Volume of exports of goods and services (Annual % change) 12.21.83.13.12.9
Volume of imports of goods and services (Annual % change) 15.111.34.44.03.6

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook ; Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
International Economic Cooperation
South Africa is a member of the following international economic organisations: African Union, WTO, G-20, G-24, G-77, ICC, IMF, among others. For the full list of economic and other international organisations in which participates South Africa click here. International organisation membership of South Africa is also outlined here.
Free Trade Agreements
The complete and up-to-date list of Free Trade Agreements signed by South Africa can be consulted here.
 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2020
China 11.5%
United States 8.4%
Germany 7.5%
United Kingdom 5.0%
Japan 4.5%
See More Countries 63.2%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2020
China 20.8%
Germany 9.1%
United States 6.4%
India 5.2%
Saudi Arabia 3.9%
See More Countries 54.6%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

Main Products

85.2 bn USD of products exported in 2020
Platinum, incl. palladium, rhodium, iridium,...Platinum, incl. palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium and ruthenium, unwrought or in semi-manufactured forms, or in powder form 12.6%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 7.9%
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 7.2%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 5.4%
Coal; briquettes, ovoids and similar solid fuels...Coal; briquettes, ovoids and similar solid fuels manufactured from coal 4.6%
See More Products 62.3%
68.9 bn USD of products imported in 2020
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 7.4%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 5.2%
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line...Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 3.6%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 3.1%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses incl. those in the form of transdermal administration or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 2.6%
See More Products 78.2%

Source: Comtrade, 2022. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

 

Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, 2021. Because of rounding, the sum of the percentages may be smaller/greater than 100%.

Return to top

Any Comment About This Content? Report It to Us.

 

© Export Entreprises SA, All Rights Reserved.
Latest Update: July 2022

Return to top