Flag South Africa

2019
Economic
Complexity
: 0.27, Rank 59 of 157

2019
Product
Exports | Imports
: $109B | $88.5B, 36 of 225 |  39 of 225

2019
Per Capita Product
Exports | Imports
: $1.85k | $1.51k, 97 of 219 |  129 of 219

2018
Service
Exports | Imports
: $14.5B | $15.6B, 27 of 88 | 27 of 88

Overview: In 2019 South Africa was the number 36 economy in the world in terms of GDP (current US$), the number 36 in total exports, the number 39 in total imports, the number 99 economy in terms of GDP per capita (current US$) and the number 59 most complex economy according to the Economic Complexity Index (ECI).

Exports: The top exports of South Africa are Gold ($16.8B), Platinum ($9.62B), Cars ($7.61B), Iron Ore ($6.73B), and Coal Briquettes ($5.05B), exporting mostly to China ($16.7B), United Kingdom ($8.5B), Germany ($8.1B), United States ($6.83B), and India ($6.03B).

In 2019, South Africa was the world's biggest exporter of Platinum ($9.62B), Manganese Ore ($3.16B), Chromium Ore ($1.92B), Titanium Ore ($583M), and Niobium, Tantalum, Vanadium and Zirconium Ore ($480M)

Imports: The top imports of South Africa are Crude Petroleum ($8.93B), Refined Petroleum ($4.25B), Cars ($3.85B), Vehicle Parts ($3.07B), and Gold ($2.7B), importing mostly from China ($16.1B), Germany ($9.85B), United States ($5.44B), India ($4.18B), and Saudi Arabia ($3.69B).

Location: South Africa borders Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, and Zimbabwe by land.

Latest Trends (January, 2021)

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Overview: In January 2021 South Africa exported ZAR208B and imported ZAR97.8B, resulting in a positive trade balance of ZAR110B. Between January 2020 and January 2021 the exports of South Africa have increased by ZAR110B (112%) from ZAR97.9B to ZAR208B, while imports decreased by ZAR-5.37B (-5.2%) from ZAR103B to ZAR97.8B.

Trade: In January 2021, the top exports of South Africa were Platinum (ZAR37.5B), Iron Ore (ZAR23.8B), Gold (ZAR11.8B), Coal Briquettes (ZAR7.77B), and Delivery Trucks (ZAR7.63B). In January 2021 the top imports of South Africa were Commodities not elsewhere specified (ZAR8.84B), Refined Petroleum (ZAR7.55B), Crude Petroleum (ZAR3.99B), Telephones (ZAR3.59B), and Cars (ZAR2.83B).

Origins: In January 2021 the exports of South Africa were mainly from O.R. Tambo Int Airport (ZAR51.7B), Durban (ZAR25.7B), Saldanha Bay (ZAR24.9B), Richards Bay (ZAR17.6B), and Cape Town (ZAR13B), while imports destinations were mainly Durban (ZAR47.2B), O.R. Tambo Int Airport (ZAR18B), Cape Town (ZAR9.62B), Port Elizabeth (ZAR6.57B), and Johannesburg (ZAR4.1B).

Destinations: In January 2021, South Africa exported mostly to China (ZAR29.6B), United States (ZAR20.5B), Germany (ZAR20B), Japan (ZAR15.6B), and United Kingdom (ZAR12.6B), and imported mostly from China (ZAR20.8B), Germany (ZAR8.54B), United States (ZAR6.41B), India (ZAR6B), and Japan (ZAR3.15B).

Growth: In January 2021, the increase in South Africa's year-by-year exports was explained primarily by an increase in exports to China (ZAR17.7B or 149%), Germany (ZAR13.4B or 202%), and United States (ZAR12.2B or 149%), and product exports increase in Platinum (ZAR23B or 159%), Iron Ore (ZAR14.9B or 167%), and Delivery Trucks (ZAR5.53B or 263%). In January 2021, the decrease in South Africa's year-by-year imports was explained primarily by an decrease in imports from Nigeria (ZAR-5.12B or -77.7%), Germany (ZAR-1.84B or -17.8%), and Ghana (ZAR-1.23B or -99.7%), and product imports decrease in Crude Petroleum (ZAR-6.14B or -60.6%), Cars (ZAR-1.4B or -33%), and Precious Metal Scraps (ZAR-446M or -96.5%).

Comparison in Time

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Flow
Value

This section shows the differences between South Africa's total subnational aggregate trade throughout time. To explore different subnational trade comparisons in time, visit South Africa's subnational profiles.

Explore South Africa's Subnational Data

Yearly Exports

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Value
Depth

Top Export (2019): Gold, $16.8B

Top Destination (2019): China, $16.7B

In 2019, South Africa exported a total of $109B, making it the number 36 exporter in the world. During the last five reported years the exports of South Africa have changed by $5.37B from $103B in 2014 to $109B in 2019.

The most recent exports are led by Gold ($16.8B), Platinum ($9.62B), Cars ($7.61B), Iron Ore ($6.73B), and Coal Briquettes ($5.05B). The most common destination for the exports of South Africa are China ($16.7B), United Kingdom ($8.5B), Germany ($8.1B), United States ($6.83B), and India ($6.03B).

Explore Visualizations

*Disclaimer:
South Africa is part of the Southern Africa Custom Union (SACU), a custom union among five countries of Southern Africa: Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, and South Africa. As part of SACU and given that some countries do not report particular trade with South Africa, the reported data has been gather under the Southern Africa Custom Union single entity, based on the BACI's methodology. The following visualizations shows trade data at Southern Africa Custom Union level.

Yearly Imports

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Value
Depth

Top Import (2019): Crude Petroleum, $8.93B

Top Origin (2019): China, $16.1B

In 2019 South Africa imported $88.5B, making it the number 39 trade destination in the world. During the last five reported years the imports of South Africa changed by -$17.9B from $106B in 2014 to $88.5B in 2019.

The most recent imports of South Africa are led by Crude Petroleum ($8.93B), Refined Petroleum ($4.25B), Cars ($3.85B), Vehicle Parts ($3.07B), and Gold ($2.7B). The most common import partners for South Africa are China ($16.1B), Germany ($9.85B), United States ($5.44B), India ($4.18B), and Saudi Arabia ($3.69B).

Explore Visualizations

*Disclaimer:
South Africa is part of the Southern Africa Custom Union (SACU), a custom union among five countries of Southern Africa: Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, and South Africa. As part of SACU and given that some countries do not report particular trade with South Africa, the reported data has been gather under the Southern Africa Custom Union single entity, based on the BACI's methodology. The following visualizations shows trade data at Southern Africa Custom Union level.

Flow

Fastest Growing Export Markets (2018 - 2019)

Fastest Growing Import Markets (2018 - 2019)

*Disclaimer:
South Africa is part of the Southern Africa Custom Union (SACU), a custom union among five countries of Southern Africa: Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, and South Africa. As part of SACU and given that some countries do not report particular trade with South Africa, the reported data has been gather under the Southern Africa Custom Union single entity, based on the BACI's methodology. The following visualizations shows trade data at Southern Africa Custom Union level.

South Africa Exports Services (2018): $14.5B

South Africa Imports Services (2018): $15.6B

In 2018, South Africa exported $14.5B worth of services. The top services exported by South Africa in 2018 were Travel ($8.84B), Transportation ($2.18B), Other business services ($2.1B), Computer and information services ($622M), and Government services, n.i.e. ($367M).

The top services imported by South Africa in 2018 were Transportation ($6.73B), Travel ($3.35B), Other business services ($2.08B), Royalties and license fees ($1.79B), and Computer and information services ($1.24B).

Tariffs by Product

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The top product import tariffs by their MFN Ad Valorem value for South Africa are Pineapples, otherwise prepared or preserved (55%) and Pineapples, otherwise prepared or preserved (49.5%).

Click any of the products in the bar chart to see the specific Ad Valorem Duty Rates by partner country.

Explore Tariff Data

*The tariffs applied to imports for South Africa are:
136: Most Favoured Nation duty rate treatement
163: Preferential tariff for Argentina
173: Preferential tariff for Brazil
217: Preferential tariff for European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries
219: Preferential tariff for European Union countries (AA) Association Agreement
288: Preferential tariff for Paraguay
330: Preferential tariff for Uruguay
347: Regional Preferential tariff for SADC countries
371: Southern African Customs Union rate

Economic Complexity

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Economic Complexity Ranking

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Scale

During the last 20 years South Africa's⁩ ⁨economy has become relatively less complex, moving from the ⁩⁨37th to the 59th⁩ position in the ECI rank.

These economic complexity rankings use 6 digit exports classified according to the HS96 classification. We consider only countries with population of at least 1 million and exports of at least $1 billion, and products with world trade over $500 million. To explore different rankings and vary these parameters visit the custom rankings section.

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Comparison Map

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Value

This section shows exports, imports and economic complexity data at subnational level for South Africa. Click any of the Port in the geomap to visit the specific subnational profile.

Explore Subnational Data

Most Specialized Products by RCA Index

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South Africa has a high level of specialization in Chromium Ore (119), Manganese Ore (68.9), Granulated Slag (48.2), Niobium, Tantalum, Vanadium and Zirconium Ore (47.8), and Platinum (39.4). Specialization is measured using RCA, an index that takes the ratio between South Africa observed and expected exports in each product.

Most Complex Products by PCI

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The highest complexity exports of South Africa according to the product complexity index (PCI) are Rolled stainless steel sheet, width < 600mm (1.43), Hydrides, nitrides, azides, silicides and borides (1.33), Ketones and quinones, their derivatives (1.22), Phenols and phenol-alcohols (1.21), and Rolled stainless steel sheet, width > 600mm (1.18). PCI measures the knowledge intensity of a product by considering the knowledge intensity of its exporters.

Export Opportunities by Relatedness

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The top export opportunities for South Africa according to the relatedness index, are Crude Petroleum (0.28), Uranium and Thorium Ore (0.28), Raw Cotton (0.27), Other Ores (0.27), and Petroleum Gas (0.27). Relatedness measures the distance between a country's current exports and each product. The barchart show only products that South Africa is not specialized in.

The product space is a network connecting products that are likely to be co-exported. The product space can be used to predict future exports, since countries are more likely to start exporting products that are related to current exports. Relatedness measures the distance between a product, and all of the products it is currently specialized in.

Diversification Frontier

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Depth

The Complexity-Relatedness diagram compares the risk and the strategic value of a country's potential export oppotunities. Relatedness is a predictive of the probability that a country increases its exports in a product. Complexity, is associated with higher levels of income, economic growth, less income inequality, and lower emissions.