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South Africa: Exports to the US soar to US$ 4.9bn

Published date:
Monday, 23 October 2006

Growth in South Africa's exports to the US continues to accelerate.

Figures released this month by the US International Trade Commission show that in the year to August, South Africa exported goods to the value of $4.9 billion (R37 billion) to the US. This represents growth of 29 percent from the same period last year, up from growth of 25 percent in the year to June.

Of South Africa's total exports in the first eight months, $1.2 billion was exported under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (Agoa) trade programme launched in February 2003. This compares with $989 million last year.

Sub-Saharan Africa's total Agoa exports in the period were worth $30 billion, compared with $23 billion in the previous year.

The programme was designed to liberalise trade between the US and 37 designated sub-Saharan countries. Some of the benefits come from the generalised system of preferences programme, which gives duty-free access to the US market for certain products. It was originally intended to run until September 2008, but has been extended to 2015.

South Africa is the third-largest sub-Saharan exporter to the US. It was outstripped only by Angola, with exports of $7.4 billion over the eight months, and Nigeria, with exports worth $19.7 billion.

Angola's Agoa-related exports were worth $7.3 billion and Nigeria's $18.3 billion. These were almost exclusively energy-related products, including oil and natural gas, according to the Agoa information website (

Mainly through its oil exports, Nigeria accounted for more than half the exports under Agoa, said the website.

The value of exports has been boosted by the rise in international crude oil prices, from about $50 a barrel at the start of this year to recent highs of more than $78. Recently it has traded at about $60.

Significant Agoa exports have also been recorded by Lesotho, Madagascar and Kenya. "However, only a dozen or so of the Agoa-eligible sub-Saharan countries have recorded any significant exports to the US and many recorded less than $1 million worth of US-bound exports in 2005," said the website.

SA Revenue Service figures show that South Africa's exports to the US last year, at R29.2 billion, were about 9 percent of total exports.

Research by the Industrial Development Corporation for the first half showed about one-third of South Africa's exports to the US were platinum group metals, 7 percent were diamonds and 5 percent were cars.

The sharp rise in platinum group metals prices would have contributed to the stronger growth in South Africa's exports. The platinum price began the year at less than $1 000 an ounce, rose to $1 300 in May and fell to close to $1 000 after August.

The recent slide in commodity prices makes it unlikely that the acceleration in export values will be maintained in the rest of the year.

“AGOA Latest AGOA Trade Data on

Click here to view a sector profile of South Africa’s bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include:

  • AGOA-beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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