The South African export market is thriving, showing a massive 7% increase from 2017 to 2018 with South Africa shipping USD 94.4 billion worth of goods around the globe last year. South Africa’s export market makes up almost a third (29.5%) of South Africa’s total Gross Domestic Product. In this article we will look at the top five South African products that are most in demand around the world.
What does South Africa export
South Africa’s top trading partners
South Africa’s top international trading partners include Germany, the United States, China, Japan, the United Kingdom and Spain. During the apartheid years, South Africa’s exports were affected by sanctions and other boycotts by countries opposed to apartheid. Once these sanctions were lifted, South Africa was able to resume its trade with the rest of the world bringing countries South Africa’s natural riches and more.
1. Gems and precious metals
South Africa is the second largest producer of gold and the world’s largest producer of chrome, manganese, platinum, vanadium and vermiculite. The gems and precious metals category is South Africa’s fastest growing export category with gems and precious metals up 17.4% from 2017 to 2018 and aluminium up 12.5%. South Africa’s platinum exports alone were valued at USD7.8 billion in 2018.
2. Coal, solid fuels made from coal
Coal and solid fuels made from coal is South Africa’s next biggest export totalling USD6.2 billion, up 8.6% from 2018. South Africa is the world’s third largest coal exporter. About 28 percent of South Africa’s production is exported and the rest is used in the domestic market. The top countries that receive South Africa’s coal are Japan, China and India.
You might be surprised to discover that cars make up South Africa’s third biggest export, totalling USD 6.1 billion in value, up 7.9%. In 2018 a total of 351 154 South African-made vehicles were exported to countries around the world. South Africa’s car export ‘heroes’ are the Toyota Hilux, the Volkswagen Polo, the BMW X3, the Ford Ranger and the Mercedes Benz C-Class.
4. Gold (unwrought)
Gold mining was once the major driving force behind the development of South Africa. Gold was discovered in the Witwatersrand and is one of South Africa’s most well-known exports. According to the Minerals Council of South Africa, the Witwatersrand Basin still remains the world’s largest gold resource but South African gold only accounts for 4.2% of global gold production.
5. Iron Ore
In 2018 the Iron Ore export market was valued at USD 4.2 billion, which indicated a drop of 11.7%. China is the major importer of all of South Africa’s iron ore products but China is currently reviewing their use of iron ore as they attempt to get their emissions under control. Iron ore is a key component in steel, the most widely used of all metals. South Africa’s iron ore operations are made up of a 69.7% shareholding in Kumba Iron Ore, which operates three mines situated in the Northern Cape and the Limpopo province.
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