10 February 2021 – South Africa is very open to international trade, which represents 59.2% of the country’s GDP. The country mainly exports platinum (9.3%), motor vehicles (7.5%), iron ores (6.5%), coal and similar solid fuels (5.3%) and gold (5.2%). The main imports are petroleum oils (15.2%), motor vehicles (4.3%), transmission apparatus for radio-telephony (3.5%), automatic data processing machines and units (2.1%), and medicaments (2%).
According to the latest IMF data, the volume of exports of goods and services is expected to be 9.6% for 2021, up from the negative rate recorded in 2020 (-11.4%) due to the global economic crisis following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The same applies to the volume of imports, which is expected to increase by 11% in 2021 compared to 2020, when it reached a minus rate of -15.1%.
South Africa’s top trading partners are China, Germany, the United States, the UK, India and Japan. South Africa is the EU’s largest trading partner in Africa. Their 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 products. 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 2019, South Africa exported USD 90 billion worth of products, while it imported USD 107 billion of goods. The country imported services of the total value of USD 15.3 billion whereas its exports of services in the same year reached the total value of USD 14.4 billion. South Africa recorded a trade surplus of USD 1.7 billion in 2019. Source (World Bank).