South Africa’s economy is intricately linked to its trade relationships with various countries around the world. The UK in particular has been singled out as an important trade partner.

As a nation rich in natural resources and diverse industries, South Africa both exports a wide range of goods and imports essential products to meet domestic needs.

Below are lists of its main trade partners, based on data covering the period January – May 2024.

Top 5 countries South Africa exports to:

  1. China (11.7%)
  2. USA (7.8%)
  3. Germany (7.8%)
  4. Mozambique (5.9%)
  5. UK (5.6%)

The main month-on-month export movements for April and May 2024 were mineral productsprecious metals and stones, and vegetable products.

Top 5 countries South Africa imports from:

  1. China (18.8%)
  2. Germany (7.3%)
  3. USA (7.2%)
  4. India (7.0%)
  5. UAE (4.0%), UK (1.7%)

The main month-on-month import movements for April and May 2024 were machinery and electronicsmineral products, and original equipment components.

Overall South Africa recorded a preliminary trade balance surplus of R20.1 billion in May 2024, with exports totaling R178.4 billion and imports at R158.3 billion. This is inclusive of trade with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, and Namibia (BELN).

Trade between South Africa and the UK

Analysts say that the UK in particular will always be an important market for South Africa.

Based on data from January – May 2024, South African exports to the UK amounted to R42.24 billion, while imports grossed R13.19 billion for the same period.

This left South Africa with a trade surplus of roughly R29.05 billion with the UK.

The UK is also the number one destination for wine exports (22.3% share), the number one market for apples & pears (11.9% share) and the number two market for grapes (17.7% share).

The UK has also been the number one source market in tourism, with 356 160 tourists visiting South Africa in 2023. However, this has fallen since pre-pandemic levels.

“To think in 2019, UK tourist arrivals were 436 559, 22% higher than the 356 160 in 2023. [South Africa] still has some catching up to do,” says Rob Cannavo, Honorary Consul for South Africa to UK.

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