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South Africa - Selling and buying

Contents extracted from the comprehensive atlas of international trade by Export Entreprises

Reaching the consumers

Marketing opportunities

Consumer behavior: South African consumers are generally very brand conscious. The middle class, particularly, has quite good consumption levels, including the new black middle class. These consumers are looking for sophisticated goods and tend to reduce the amount they spend on vital commodities or housing.

The after-sales service is extremely important in South Africa, especially in terms of providing technical and spare part services.

Consumer profile: The South African consumer is a well-informed consumer. Moreover, the dynamism in country’s economy has resulted into an increase in purchasing power and an expansion of the black middle class having higher disposable income levels.

Trade fairs are a good way to launch products in South Africa. “Freebies” are very popular. Another popular way to promote products is direct selling.

E-commerce is increasing but consumers use the web more for information than for buying.

Main advertising agencies:

Distribution network

Evolution of the sector: A major phenomenon in evolution of the distribution sector in South Africa has been the emergence of supermarkets or hypermarkets, which sell large quantities of almost all consumer goods on a self-serve basis. The hypermarkets, located in suburban shopping centers, have disrupted the traditional distribution chain by purchasing directly from manufacturers and bypassing the wholesaler, with low margins achieving high turnover, thereby placing price pressure on all competing outlets.
Types of outlet: Though there is growing black middle class with considerable disposable incomes, there are still huge differences in income in South Africa with 20% of households accounting for 60%. The big South African consumer market splits in two parts: a market of white people & some newly affluent back people with a high purchasing power, and a market of large majority of black people still with a very limited purchasing power. The majority of the retail sale is carried out by shopping centers, groups of small shops, big department stores (Stuttafords, Edgars, Woolworths), supermarkets (Checkers, Pick' n Pay) and hypermarkets (Hyperama and Makro). The traditional business remains developed, especially outside the conglomerations, but does not represent a big market share, as it is almost exclusively meant for poor population.

Market access procedures

Economic Cooperation: South Africa is a member of Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

South Africa is a member of Southern African Development Community (SADC).

South Africa has also signed some bilateral and multilateral commercial agreements.

Non tariff barriers: Import licenses are required for a certain number of products (refer to Schedule 1 of the Import Control Regulations Act). These licenses are delivered by the following authorities (as per the nature of the product): Department of Agriculture, Department of Water Affairs, Department of Sea and Fisheries, Department of Trade and Industry, Energy affairs and Department of Health.
Some products are subject to specific controls (caution: the list given below is not exhaustive):
- A phytosanitary certificate is required for vegetables and related products. It is delivered by the Ministry of Agriculture from the country of origin.
- A veterinarian certificate is required for the import of living animals and fresh, deep-frozen or canned meat.
- A certificate of disinfection is necessary for the import of woolen products, cotton, clothes, etc.
- A certificate of inspection by a recognized institute is required only for exporters who export for the first time in South Africa, it is not required when a good business relationship is established.
- A quality certificate may be asked for fruits and vegetables.
- A Phytosanitary certificates are required for animal products such as bacon, hides, skin and even honey. These documents are issued by the Department of Agriculture.
Average Customs Duty (excluding agricultural products): 5.8%. The WTO gives a sheet summarizing the Customs tariffs of the country.
Customs classification: South Africa uses a Harmonized System (HS).
Import procedures: Customs and excise duties are administered by SARS (South African Revenue Service) .

Besides the manual method, an electronic data entry and clearance system is also used for registered firms.

Import documents required for customs clearance: 1. Copies of the Bill of Lading 2. A declaration of Origin Form DA59. 3. Bill of Entry (DA500) 4. Four copies and one original of Commercial Invoice 5. One copy of the insurance certificate for sea freight 6. Three copies of the Packing List.

SARS offers a Single Administrative Document (SAD) to facilitate customs procedures. For restricted items, import licences are necessary. For more information, visit the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC).

Organizing goods transport

Organizing goods transport to and from: 80% of all freight carried in South Africa is done so by road. Nearly 7% of Gross National Product is spent on freight transport. About 69% of road-freight tonnage is carried by firms or operators transporting freight in the course of their business, and 29% by road haulage firms.
For more information, consult the South African Association of Freight Forwarders' website.
Sea transport organizations:
Air transport organizations:
Rail transport organizations:

Domestic business directories

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