In 2016, South Africa exported goods valued at R1, 079 trillion and imported goods valued at R1, 097 trillion, resulting in a trade
deficit of R18,142 billion.
South Africa’s top export products included pearls and precious or semi-precious stones, Ores, slag and ash, mineral fuels and mineral oils, vehicles and accessories, iron and steel, nuclear reactors, machinery and mechanical appliances, fruit and nuts, electrical machinery and equipment, aluminium and related articles, as well as plastics and related articles to name but a few.
The country’s top import products included mineral fuels and mineral oils, nuclear reactors, machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical machinery and equipment, vehicles and accessories, original equipment components, plastics and related articles, photographic, cinematographic equipment, medical instruments, pharmaceutical products, miscellaneous chemical products and organic chemical compounds.
With regard to the utilisation of KwaZulu-Natal's two seaports, namely Durban and Richards Bay, Durban harbour is South Africa’s premier multi-cargo port and is considered amongst the busiest in Africa, handling in excess of 80 million tonnes of cargo per annum. The Port of Durban is the leading seaport in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and the premier trade gateway between South Africa the Far East, Europe and the USA, as well as both East and West Africa. This is a focal point in the transport and logistics chain, with 60% of all imports and exports passing through the port and it, thus, assumes a leading role in facilitating economic growth in South Africa. In 2016 cargo which passed through the Port of Durban was valued at R648 billion.
The Port of Richards Bay is located approximately 160 km North-East of Durban and 465 km South of Maputo, on the eastern seaboard of South Africa. The combination of specialised cargo handling facilities, rapid vessel turn-around times, deep-water infrastructure, excellent rail links to the hinterland and large 'Greenfield' development potential, has made the Port of Richards Bay one of the world’s leading bulk ports, handling well in excess of 80 million tonnes annually, representing approximately 60% of South Africa’s seaborne cargo. In 2016 cargo which passed through the Port of Richards Bay was valued at R145 billion.
South Africa is regarded as having the world's 36th biggest export economy.
In 2015, South Africa exported goods valued at US$93, 7 billion and imported goods valued at US$80,8 billion, resulting in a positive trade balance of US$12,9 billion. South Africa's top exports include gold, diamonds, platinum, coal briquettes and cars. Leading export destinations are China, the United States of America, India, the United Kingdom and Germany.
Its top imports comprise crude petroleum, refined petroleum, cars and computers. Top import source countries include China, Germany, the United States of America, Nigeria and India.