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South Africa: Exports to US Worth $7.5bn Represent Slowdown in 2006

Published date:
Tuesday, 27 February 2007
Business Report (South Africa)

South Africa exported $7.5 billion (R53.2 billion) worth of goods to the US last year, according to the US International Trade Commission. At an average exchange rate of R6.7672 to the dollar for 2006, this amounts to R50.8 billion.

In dollar terms, the figure represents growth of 27 percent in the year, a deceleration from the 30 percent year-on-year growth recorded in the first nine months of 2006, compared with the first nine months of 2005.

Of the 2006 total, only $1.8 billion was exported under the African Growth and Opportunities Act (Agoa), which covers about 7 000 product items - most of them energy-related products, textiles and apparel, and transportation equipment.

Agoa, which was introduced to liberalise trade, applies to 37 sub-Saharan countries.

South Africa is the region's third-biggest exporter to the US. Number one is Nigeria, with exports worth $27.9 billion in 2006, followed by Angola with $11.5 billion.

In each of these two cases, products imported under the Agoa programme are almost entirely energy related and are by far the biggest component of total exports: 92 percent and 98 percent respectively.

According to the website, most Agoa-eligible countries record some exports to the US, but the bulk (by value) is concentrated among a relatively small number.

Nigeria, mainly through its oil exports, accounts for over half of all exports shipped under the trade programme.

South Africa's exports are more diversified but are also dominated by a single category.

A sectoral breakdown of SA-US trade for the full year is not yet available (this data is available on at this link), but figures for the first nine months show nearly $3.9 billion, more than two thirds of the January-September total, was made up of minerals and metals - largely diamonds and platinum group metals.

Prices are an important factor in the improved export figures. The average price of a production weighted basket of platinum group metals - platinum, palladium and rhodium - rose from $768 an ounce in 2005 to $1 139 in 2006.

"Diamonds are not a homogeneous product so prices are not readily available," said Roger Baxter, chief economist at the Chamber of Mines.

South Africa's most significant import category from the US, in the first nine months, was transportation equipment worth more than $900 million, followed by chemicals and related products worth $532 million and machinery at over $400 million.

South Africa, which imported $4.2 billion worth of goods from the US, recorded a $3.3 billion bilateral surplus in the year. This follows a surplus of $2.2 billion in 2005 and $2.9 billion in 2004.

Nigeria imported $2 billion worth of goods and its surplus for the year amounted to $25.7 billion; while Angola bought $1.5 billion worth from the US and its surplus stood at nearly $10 billion.

Exports from the region as a whole amount to $56.1 billion, while imports from the US amount to only $10.7 billion.

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available 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: (click each link to view)

  • 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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