What Can I Import From South Africa?

Last Updated: 05/07/2022

Hottest Products to Import From South Africa in 2022

Below are the hottest products to export from South Africa, with large growth potential:

  1. South African Wine (up 20% in UK exports 2021)
  2. Fruits and Nuts (up 11% in 2021 year-on-year)
  3. Vehicles (up 8% in 2021 year-on-year)
  4. Gems and Precious Metals (up by 30.4% year over year since 2019)
  5. Clothing and Footwear
  6. Rubber

South Africa’s Exports Strong for 2020

South Africa is an ideal gateway to import goods from with many natural resources and emerging markets as well as areas of economic growth. Starting an international trade business here is certainly worth looking at.

The Republic of South Africa shipped US$86.1 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2020.

The South African Rand has been trending downwards against GBP since June 2021, making exports even cheaper for the UK and other currencies and a very attractive market to import from.

South Africa’s biggest export products by value in 2020 were platinum, gold, iron, cars and coal which accounted for 37.5% of overall exports sales from South Africa. That percentage suggests a relatively diversified range of exported goods and many opporutnies for international traders around the world.

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If you’re looking for some ideas to import from South Africa and sell, here’s our 6 hottest ideas for 2022:

South African Wine

UK’s South African wine exports leap 20% in 2021

South Africa’s wines are held in very high esteem but South Africa is not taking full advantage of this by exporting more wine to the rest of the world. With a weaker currency, South African wines are comparatively cheaper to those of other countries with stronger currencies.

The UK is the biggest export market for South African wine, accounting for 25% of all exports by value.

South Africa saw an increase in global exports of 12% by value and 22% by volume of total goods.

China, African countries, USA and Canada were among the strong performing export markets for South African wine outside the UK.

The growth South African wines in the USA with imports of packaged wines up 18% over the previous year. South Africa was the only new world country to see positive growth in this period.

Fruits and Nuts

South Africa exported more fruit in 2021 with mandarin exports 30% higher.

Fresh fruit exports from South Africa gew by by double digits in 2021. The country exported more than four million tons of fresh fruit, 11% more than in 2020, when exports grew by 10%. In two years, South African fruit exports have grown from 3.3 to 4 million tons.

A third of South African fruit exports are destined for the EU27. The Netherlands is by far the most important South African fruit buyer. In 2021, that will total more than 900,000 tons. That gives the Netherlands a 22% share of total South African fruit exports.

The United Kingdom is in second place with 440,000 tons. The United Arab Emirates follows with 285,000 tons. Then it is Russia with 282,000 tons and China with 190,000 tons. Many countries buy South African fruit. No less than 45 countries took more than 10,000 tons. And 12 took more than 100,000 tons, including Bangladesh.


One of the key attributes to the growth of this industry in the last 13 years is government’s introduction of the Motor Industry Development Programme (MIDP) of 1995, boosting economic growth in this sector.

Vehicle exports at 295,268 units in 2021 reflected an increase of total goods 23,980 vehicles or a gain of 8.8% compared with the 271,288 vehicles exported in 2020. For the first half of 2021, vehicle exports were still on par with the record pre-Covid-19 vehicle export performance.

One of the key attributes to the growth of this industry in the last 13 years is government’s introduction of the Motor Industry Development Programme (MIDP) of 1995, the United Kingdom is one of South Africa’s most lucrative exporting partner

Gems and Precious Metals

South Africa has many natural resources and needless to say there is always a demand for diamonds and gold in western countries in particular and around the globe. The nations with the highest demand are Japan, USA, UK, Hong Kong, Germany, UAE and Belgium.

Gems, precious metals total goods sales hit US$20 billion in 2020 (23.3% of total exports).

Gems and precious metals showed the fastest economic growth among the top 10 export categories, up by 30.4% year over year since 2019 led by greater international sales of platinum and gold.

Whilst gems and precious metals could be a profitable venture, it’s important to understand what import and export control in South Africa there may be, required import permits and customs duty as these are likely controlled goods.

Clothing and Footwear

Top trading partner countries to which South Africa Exports Textiles and Clothing include China, India, US and UK.

However, the US recently extending the African Growth and Opportunity Act to 2025, which saw $2 billion worth of duty-free apparel exports from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to the US, the largest growth potential was exporting within the continent. The US was the biggest market, focus on them along with Europe, where 75% of trade was within the EU and profits high.


There is currently a growing realisation of the might that the African region has when it comes to rubber, where most countries still have massive unexploited areas highly conducive for natural rubber.

This is likely to lead to the dawn of a new era of fresh investments without affecting the environment and interests of the local population. Rubber and oil palm plantations are likely to expand in Africa bringing further investment and a great opportunity to export rubber globally.

South African Customs Union

The Southern African Customs Union is a customs union among five countries of Southern Africa: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia and South Africa. This could be used as an advantage as there are much less import and export controls from these countries and likely no import permits required on an array of controlled goods.

How To Import From South Africa

4 Steps To Success

If you’re now thinking to get involved in the import export world, I highly recommend it! Below is my personal testimonial of my experience, working 35+ years in import export. I’ve met some many great people, enjoyed my travels around the world and the satisfaction of negotiating deals and moving products around the world has been fantastic.

If the ideas above have inspired you, I recommend you take the next three steps.

Step 1: Sourcing Your Products

Once you’ve decided on some products, you’ll have to source where to buy them. Finding sellers of your products is also half the fun. If you’re in a position to travel and explore, do it! It’s a great opportunity to expand your horizons. Not so easy in these times of a global pandemic but eventually we’ll be able to travel again.

If you can’t travel, there’s always Google, AliBaba and AliExpress. This can be a great place to start your venture and import goods. For more ideas and an much more in-depth look into sourcing products, check out our blog in sourcing products internationally.

Step 2: Finding Buyers

Perhaps the biggest question is inevitably, how do I find buyers for my products?

This is without doubt the most common question that I’m asked. Well, the good news is, there’s more than one way to do this. The bad news is, there’s no “easy” way. It’s all going to take some hard work and perseverance but it can most certainly be done and some good profits are no doubt waiting for you.

For my biggest hints and tips after a lifetime in commercial buying and selling check out our blog post on finding buyers.

Step 3: Understand the Basics

You’re going to need to understand at a minimum, the basics of import and export control, customs duty and perhaps import permits. Don’t jump in and start buying products, hoping to sell them by crossing your fingers. You’ll lose money, time and cause yourself a lot of stress.

To start, have a read of our blog post, How To Start an Import Export Business. It’s only the bare minimum but it will give you an idea of what you need to start thinking about and you’ll pick up some handy tips that I learned over the year.

Step 4: Import Export Training Courses Online

If you’re still sold on the idea of international trade, I can only advise you to educate yourself. It’s going to save you a lot of pain! Our online import export courses are taught with a series of pre-recorded videos so you can start any time, study at your own pace and there’s no deadline to complete.

Our courses teach you the practical knowledge you’ll need to know to trade successfully, confidently whilst maximising your profits. Taught by Alan Bracken, with 35+ years of commercial experience in logistics, he skips all the theory you’ll never need to know but teaches you the practical side of how to move your goods around the world.

We were voted Best Trade Education Provider in 2017 by Trade Finance Global and our course has been validated by the London Institute of Shipping and Transport.

Check out our reviews on TrustPilot to see just how our courses have benefited our students.