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South Africa

South Africa

Since the EU and South Africa concluded a Trade Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) in 1999, the two parties have enjoyed solid and growing trade relations. In June 2016, the EU and South Africa – together with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Swaziland – signed the Southern African Economic Partnership Agreement (SADC EPA) that regulates trade in goods between the two regions, thereby replacing the trade-related provisions of the TDCA.

Under the so-called 'SADC EPA', the EU has fully or partially removed customs duties on 98.7% of imports from South Africa while guaranteeing full free access for the rest of the signatory countries. Today the EU remains South Africa's biggest trade and investment partner.

Exporter stories

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Trade picture

  • South Africa is the EU's largest trading partner in Africa. A member of the African Caribbean Pacific group of countries, South Africa is by far the strongest of sub-Saharan Africa's economies.
  • South Africa's exports to the EU are growing and the composition of these exports is becoming more diverse. South Africa is gradually moving from mainly commodity-based products to a more diversified export profile that includes manufactured products.
  • South Africa's primary exports to the EU are fuels and mining products, machinery and transport equipment, and other semi-manufactured goods.
  • EU exports to South Africa are dominated by machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, and other semi-machinery items.

EU-South Africa: Trade in goods

Trade in goods 2017-2019, € billions
Year EU imports EU exports Balance
2017 15.9 22.0 6.2
2018 17.2 21.7 4.5
2019 19.0 23.0 4.1

EU-South Africa: Trade in services

Trade in services 2016-2018, € billions
Year EU imports EU exports Balance
2016 3.4 5.6 2.2
2017 3.9 6.1 2.3
2018 4.1 6.8 2.7

EU-South Africa: Foreign direct investment

Foreign direct investment 2018, € billions
Year Inward stocks Outward stocks Balance
2018 5.6 47.3 41.7

Unless otherwise mentioned “EU” concerns for all indicated years the current European Union of 27 Member States.

Date of retrieval: 22/04/2020

More statistics on South Africa

EU and South Africa

South Africa is an emerging economy. Large parts of its population live in poverty. The EU is South Africa’s most important development partner by far, providing a significant proportion of the external assistance funds it receives. The asymmetric nature of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) means that the African signatories are not required to respond with the same level of market openness that the EU provides.

The EPA contributes to improving the business climate between the partners by providing companies with a stable and forward-looking framework, in South Africa and across the Southern African region. It helps to boost bilateral and regional trade, thereby providing new opportunities to fulfil the objectives of the South Africa-EU Strategic Partnership.

The EU represents the most significant source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in South Africa. EU-based companies invest in a wide range of economic activities in South Africa and are major contributors to the country’s industrialisation and transformation agenda.

Following the termination of most Bilateral Investment Treaties with EU countries, South Africa adopted a Protection of Investment Act in 2015. The EU Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Southern Africa, established in 2015, provides a coherent approach on issues of concern to European businesses invested in the region.

Trading with South Africa