SAfrica trade deficit nearly $2 bn in 2011
South Africa's posted a trade deficit of 15.1 billion rands ($1.9 billion, 1.5 billion euros) last year after recording a surplus in 2010, which an official said Wednesday reflected higher economic activity.
The continental powerhouse’s imports rose 23.5 percent to 722.6 billion rands in 2011, while its exports rose by 19.9 percent 707.5 rands, according to results released by the South African Revenue Service (SARS).
The deficit came close to 70 billion rands a year from 2006 to 2008, and turned to a small surplus in 2010 following the 2009 recession, so the latest figure reflects more dynamic economic growth, said SARS official Andrew Fischer.
“The trade balance is much closer to the growth of the economy,” Fischer told AFP.
The government has forecast South Africa’s economy to have grown by 3.1 percent in 2011, after 2.8 percent growth in 2010 and a 1.8 percent contraction in 2009.
Oil and fuel products topped the country’s import list, though mobile phones also made the top ten buying list.
“We don’t have oil. Oil is the major component of import,” said Fischer.
“The other items are vehicles and vehicle parts, TVs, computers, those make out the major drivers on the import side.”
Exports were still dominated by mining products gold, coal, platinum and iron, “but manufacturing products also play a role,” according to Fischer. The country exports cars to the United States.
Asia (including the Middle and Far East) was the country’s major trade partner, accounting for 45 percent of imports and 35 perent of exports in 2011.
Trade with India and China have exploded the past five years.
Europe is the next biggest trade region (33 percent of imports and 26 percent of exports).
Trade with Africa (7.5 percent of imports and 15 percent of exports) was hampered by a lack of infrastructure, customs constraints and policies more geared to outside the continent.