"Within one month our revenues had jumped over 50%."

Top 5 Most Profitable Products to Import From South Africa

raw gold nugget

Always a valuable import – Image courtesy of Rob Lavinsky / Wikipedia.org

Mention South Africa and people are likely to think of controversy and natural beauty. But if you look beyond the travel brochures and the political unrest, South Africa is actually one of the largest exporters of precious metals, minerals and agricultural products like food and wine. Countries from all over Africa and the world import goods produced and grown in the southernmost country of the continent. The largest international trading partners of South Africa include the United States, Japan, and various countries in the European Union like the United Kingdom, Spain, and Germany. China has increased its trade with South Africa in recent years, and may soon become one of the top countries importing goods from South Africa.

The mining industry in South Africa has driven much of the development of the country into the continent’s richest and most advanced economy. The Gold Rush in the late 1800s drove the majority of the growth in the mining industry. This influx of prospectors and mining equipment lead to the Mineral Revolution, which was the starting point for rapid urbanization and industrialization and economic growth in South Africa. Mining still accounts for 60 percent of the country’s exports.

Although South Africa is a major exporter of natural goods like gold, platinum, chromium, iron ore, coal, and agricultural products like fresh fruit, vegetables, teas, nuts, grains and wine, the country also is home to several automobile manufacturing plants, and exports cars and car parts to international trade partners. A recent trade agreement with the European Union is likely to increase the import of South African manufactured auto parts and motor vehicles to countries in the E.U.

Below are the top five exports from South Africa that are still very much in demand by developed countries around the world.


South Africa once was the world’s largest producer of gold in the world, but was recently surpassed by countries with larger surface areas to mine. However, South Africa remains one of the top five gold producers, with this precious metal making up 8 percent of South Africa’s exports. China and India currently consume over 60 percent of the world’s gold output and import gold from countries like South Africa, as the countries use up all the gold they produce.


South Africa accounts for 75 percent of global production of this precious metal. While the price of platinum has been sluggish in recent years due to lack of demand from the European market, prices of platinum have recently shot up due to other economic factors.


Coal makes up 6 percent of South Africa’s exports and is needed by most countries as a fuel resource. However, despite the country’s status as being the world’s third largest coal exporter, coal mining now accounts for only 3 percent of the GDP, a drop from over 14 percent in the 1980s.

Motor vehicles and car parts.

Nearly 5 percent of South Africa’s exports are automobiles and car parts from BMW, Ford, Volkswagen, Daimler-Chrysler, General Motors and Toyota production plants. There are also around 200 car part manufacturers in South Africa. The automotive industry contributes about 7.5 percent of the country’s GDP.

The lower production costs in South Africa make it moderately more affordable to produce automobiles. And with the growth of potential new markets due to a trade agreement with the European Union, motor vehicles and car parts are poised to grow as an export. As of 2007, however, the primary importers of South African-manufactured cars and car parts were Japan, Australia, and the United States.

farm field

Image courtesy of Dfmalan / Wikipedia.org

Agricultural products.

The agricultural industry contributes about 2.6 percent of the GDP for South Africa, but constitutes about ten percent of those formally employed. South Africa is one of the world’s largest producers of chicory roots, grapefruit and pears, cereals, maize, fiber crops like sisal, sugar, meat, malt, nuts and sugar.

These top five exports from South Africa are products that are in demand by its trading partners and contribute a great deal towards employing the nation’s people and keeping up a healthy economy. Naturally abundant with minerals, ore, metals, and certain agricultural products, South Africa is likely to continue to be a major source of export for many developed countries.

About the Author

Dave Landry is a small business finance manager and travel enthusiast who hopes to travel to South Africa soon. Dave is also a frequent contributor of National Debt Relief, where debt relief and counseling is provided to those in need.

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Author:Globial International Business Team

The Globial International Business Team researches, analyzes, and reports on all things related to global trade and business.


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