In the first eight months of 2019, South Africa’s exports to China totalled R91.2bn, according to data from the South African Revenue Service. That puts the country on track to more than double the value of goods sold to China since 2010 – when full-year exports to the Asian giant came in at R59.1bn.The inflation-beating growth rate is partly thanks to a surge in exports of agricultural products and other goods not directly linked to mining, such as wood pulp and paper, textiles, and vehicles.While mining products will remain an important component of South Africa’s exports to China going forward, there is a big opportunity to ramp up trade in other goods and services. This could catalyse the growth of South Africa’s agribusiness, manufacturing, tourism, and services sectors.The opportunity before South Africa, and the rest of the continent, is immense. China’s population of 1.4-billion people is increasingly urbanised – making it more accessible to exporters. At the same time, the shift away from subsistence farming, and general self-reliance, towards consumption is opening doors for exporters.And amid a worldwide pushback against globalisation and free trade, China appears keen to find alternative suppliers of key goods and services to avoid being over-reliant on single markets.This all counts in Africa’s favour.Beyond mineral resources, we see major opportunities for South Africa and its African peers to raise exports of agricultural products and manufactured goods – including vehicles and medical equipment.As it does this, South Africa should play to its strengths, including its status as a mid-market supplier of goods and
services. In the agribusiness game, for instance, the country has positioned itself as a value-for-money provider of high-quality berries, apples and meat products.
Watch Financial journalist Arabile Gumede chatting to Craig Polkinghorne as part of Standard Bank’s 54 & One project.