SA trade with BRICS big but unbalanced

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In recent years trade between South Africa and its BRICS partners (Brazil, Russia, India and China) has increased markedly.

The value of trade between these countries and South Africa now equals trade between South Africa and the rest of Africa. In 2016, the imports and exports between SA and the rest of the continent amounted to R427 billion. In the same year SA trade with the BRICS partners amounted to R425 billion.

SA trade with these two groupings is substantial, and together these groups account for approximately 40% of all SA international trade.

However, there are massive discrepancies in the direction of trade with these groups. While SA exports to Africa are far more substantial than imports from the continent, the opposite is true of SA trade with the BRICS group.

South Africa’s biggest trading partner in these groups (Africa and BRICS) is China. Over 70% of SA trade with BRICS is with China – that country accounts for 70% of all SA trade with the bloc.

The graphic below displays the relative volume of trade between SA and its BRICS partners.

However, China exports almost twice as much to South Africa than it imports from the country.

The situation is even more unbalanced with regard to Brazil which exports almost four times to SA than it imports.

Fortunately, SA trade with Brazil is relatively small and accounts for less than 4% of the BRICS total. The situation with regard to Russia and India is more equitable – imports from these countries match exports. However, imports and exports with Russia account for only 2% of all SA trade with BRICS.

– By Michael O’Donovan