Export Britain

South Africa

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Largest city

Administrative divisions
9 provinces

South African Rand (ZAR)

1,221,037 km2

(2010) 51,770,560

Calling code

Official language

11 official languages including: Afrikaans, English

Latest Business Opportunities

See more opportunities for South Africa.

Ease of trading across borders

Importing a standard container of goods into South Africa requires:



Africa, with 200-300 million of its people approaching relative middle-class status, is seen as the next great growth story after China and India. South Africa is the economic powerhouse of Africa. South Africa is the 25th largest country in the world by area and the 24th most populous country with over 51 million people. South Africa is a multi-ethnic nation and has diverse cultures and languages. The country is politically stable and has a well-capitalised banking system, abundant natural resources and an established manufacturing base.

Economic snapshot (% annual growth rate)

GDP 3.5 2.5 3.8
Export of goods and services 5.9 0.1 5.5
Import of goods and services 9.7 6.3 4.3
Inflation 5.0 5.7 5.3
Short-term interest rates (%) 5.6 5.1 6.4
Exchange rate (per £) 13.05 13.62 14.63
Population 0.6 0.5 0.5
Unit labour cost -0.9 -5.5 0.9
Source: Oxford Economics

Economic outlook

The economy continues to grow, driven largely by domestic consumption. GDP growth is expected to pick up modestly from 2.5% last year to 2.8% this year and 4% in 2014. Domestic demand will remain the key driver of growth, although at a slower pace than in 2012. The Rand has remained weak, albeit not as weak as in late March. This currency weakness may help exporters by improving price competitiveness, but there is a risk that this could be undermined by higher wage claims or by higher imported inflation, and so may not have much stimulatory effect on the economy.

Trade outlook

More than half of South Africa’s trade is with developed countries, i.e. the EU, Nafta and Japan. Brazil, India and China doubled their exports to South Africa and also increased their share of South Africa’s imports from 8% to 14%. This development is hardly surprising considering that India and China are the fastest-growing economies in world, and have population of more than a billion each. South Africa’s trade still relies on the developed world for markets but is slowly shifting towards developing countries for sources of supply. The domination of the developed world as a supplier is being challenged by middle-income developing countries.

SWOT analysis

Strong financial sector
Political stability
High level of unemployment
Growing middle class
Strong infrastructure
Wages are rising faster than inflation

South Africa's trade with the UK

Sector segmentation growth

Sectors to watch:
  • Coke & refined petroleum products
  • Utilities


  • Machine tools
  • Electric fittings

Fastest-growing exporters into South Africa

1 China
2 Denmark
3 Germany
4 Middle East
5 US
6 Saudi Arabia
7 Japan
8 India
9 Nigeria
10 Thailand

Total merchandise trade - Leading import partners

Total merchandise trade - leading import partners
Opportunities for UK businesses

South Africa is one of the most sophisticated, diverse and promising emerging markets. Strategically located at the tip of the African continent, South Africa is a key investment location, both for the market opportunities that lie within it and for the opportunity that exists to use the country as a gateway to the rest of the continent. South Africa has spent R642-billion on infrastructure development in the past three years – and plans to spend more than R827-billion over the next three years. Opportunities lie within the energy, transport, healthcare, and education sectors.

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