20 Most Valuable South African Export Products

Most Valuable South African Export Products

Platinum conceptual

Freedom Day for South Africa falls on April 27, a public holiday when South Africa celebrates the first post-apartheid elections held on that day in 1994. Freedom Day is also a good time to reflect on the successes of Africa’s third-richest economy (behind Egypt and Nigeria) in terms of export sales.

Based on 2016 data, the most valuable South African export products include precious metals including platinum and gold as well as raw diamonds

Major base metal exports from South Africa are iron, manganese, chromium and aluminum.

South Africa earned a total $8.1 billion from its exports of cars and trucks. Among top energy exports, South Africa generates the most cash from coal-related products compared to its exports of refined petroleum.

South Africa also exports wine and fruits.

The following list shows from which products South African exporters earned the most money. Unlike most information currently available on the web, the items below are detailed at the 4-digit tariff code level. This can help entrepreneurs identify more precisely which products in which the South Africa has strong competitive advantages compared with other nations — and therefore opportunities for trade partnerships.

Most Valuable South African Export Products

Below are the 20 most valuable export products that South African exporters shipped in 2016. Shown within brackets is the percentage change in value for each item from 2009.

  1. Platinum (unwrought): US$6.0 billion (down -10.9% since 2009)
  2. Cars: $5.3 billion (up 72.2%)
  3. Coal, solid fuels made from coal: $3.9 billion (down -8.1%)
  4. Iron ores, concentrates: $3.6 billion (up 14.3%)
  5. Iron ferroalloys: $3.5 billion (up 32%)
  6. Gold (unwrought): $3.4 billion (down -22.7%)
  7. Trucks: $2.8 billion (up 222.7%)
  8. Processed petroleum oils: $2 billion (up 82.4%)
  9. Diamonds (unmounted/unset): $2 billion (up 51.3%)
  10. Centrifuges, filters and purifiers: $1.6 billion (down -0.2%)
  11. Manganese ores, concentrates: $1.4 billion (up 166.6%)
  12. Chromium ores, concentrates: $1.3 billion (up 97%)
  13. Fresh or dried citrus fruit: $1.2 billion (up 84.8%)
  14. Aluminum (unwrought): $785.9 million (down -21.7%)
  15. Chemical woodpulp (dissolving): $729.4 million (up 93.9%)
  16. Electrical energy: $695.3 million (up 515.8%)
  17. Wine: $661.6 million (down -7%)
  18. Flat-rolled stainless steel items: $621.6 million (down -24.3%)
  19. Automobile parts/accessories: $597.5 million (down -5.6%)
  20. Apples, pears (fresh): $548.7 million (up 48.3%)

Twelve of the 20 most valuable South African export products posted a gain in value from 2009 to 2016. Exported electrical energy posted the greatest increase up 515.8%.

In second place were trucks, which improved 222.7% over the 7-year period. Exported manganese ores appreciated by 166.6% while international sales of chromium rose 97%.

South African exports of dissolving chemical woodpulp showed a respectable gains of 93.9%.

Overall, South African exports grew in value by 37.6% from $53.9 billion during 2009.

See also South Africa’s Top 10 Exports, South Africa’s Top 10 Imports and Top South African Import Partners

Research Sources:
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on February 9, 2017

The World Factbook, Field Listing: Exports and World Population, Central Intelligence Agency. Accessed on February 9, 2017

Trade Map, International Trade Centre, www.intracen.org/marketanalysis. Accessed on February 9, 2017