Economic News

South Africa’s 2023 Trade Surplus Soars, Gold Exports Shine

Published by
WIlliam Dube
  1. South Africa records a preliminary trade balance surplus of R6.9 billion in March 2023, driven by exports totaling R192.2 billion and imports reaching R185.3 billion.
  2. Gold exports contribute significantly to the growth in export flows, while higher importation of crude oil and petroleum oils boosts the value of imports.
  3. Trade with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, and Namibia (BELN) results in a preliminary trade balance surplus of R12.2 billion for March 2023.

South Africa has recorded a preliminary trade balance surplus of R6.9 billion in March 2023, according to a press release by the South African Revenue Service (SARS). This surplus is a result of exports amounting to R192.2 billion and imports of R185.3 billion, which includes trade with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, and Namibia (BELN).

However, the year-to-date (01 January to 31 March 2023) preliminary trade balance deficit of R6.2 billion is a significant deterioration from the R61.9 billion trade balance surplus recorded during the comparable period in 2022. Export flows for March 2023, at R192.2 billion, were 3.2% higher compared to March 2022 (R186.3 billion), while import flows were 30.9% higher, having increased from R141.5 billion in March 2022 to R185.3 billion in the current period.

On a month-to-month basis, exports increased by R40.8 billion (26.9%) from R151.4 billion to R192.2 billion between February and March 2023. Imports also increased by R44.6 billion (31.7%) from R140.7 billion to R185.3 billion over the same period. The growth in export flows was primarily driven by gold, while the value of imports increased due to higher importation of crude oil and petroleum oils.

SARS noted that, due to ongoing Vouchers of Correction (VOC), the preliminary trade balance surplus of R16.1 billion announced for February 2023 was revised downwards by R5.4 billion, with the final number standing at R10.7 billion.

Excluding trade data with BELN countries, the trade data for March 2023 recorded a preliminary trade balance deficit of R5.3 billion, with export flows at R174.7 billion and import flows at R180.0 billion. The preliminary cumulative trade balance deficit for 2023 was R35.1 billion compared to R34.0 billion trade balance surplus during 2022.

Between February and March 2023, exports increased by R37.9 billion (27.7%), while imports increased by R44.4 billion (32.7%) over the same period.

Trade statistics with the BELN countries for March 2023 recorded a preliminary trade balance surplus of R12.2 billion. The R12.2 billion preliminary trade balance surplus for March 2023 was a result of exports of R17.5 billion and imports of R5.3 billion. Exports increased by R2.9 billion (19.8%) between February and March 2023, and imports increased by R0.2 billion (4.6%) over the same period.

The preliminary cumulative trade balance surplus for 2023 with BELN countries was R29.0 billion compared to R27.9 billion in 2022. The trade balance surplus is an important indicator of the health of South Africa’s economy and its global trade relationships. The current surplus reflects a positive trend in the country’s export sector, particularly with gold, while the increase in imports highlights the growing demand for crude oil and petroleum oils.

Table 1: South Africa’s Trade Balance Overview (Including BELN)

PeriodExports (R billion)Imports (R billion)Trade Balance (R billion)
March 2023 (preliminary)192.2185.36.9
Year-to-date (2023)-6.2
Comparable period (2022)61.9
February – March 2023151.4 to 192.2140.7 to 185.3
Caption: Table 1 shows South Africa’s preliminary trade balance data for March 2023, including trade with BELN countries.

Table 2: South Africa’s Trade Balance (Excluding BELN)

PeriodExports (R billion)Imports (R billion)Trade Balance (R billion)
March 2023 (preliminary)174.7180.0-5.3
Preliminary Cumulative 2023-35.1
Cumulative Surplus 202234.0
February – March 2023136.8 to 174.7135.6 to 180.0
Caption: Table 2 presents South Africa’s preliminary trade balance data for March 2023, excluding trade with BELN countries.

Table 3: Trade Balance with BELN Countries (March 2023)

PeriodExports (R billion)Imports (R billion)Trade Balance (R billion)
March 2023 (preliminary)17.55.312.2
Preliminary Cumulative 202329.0
Cumulative Surplus 202227.9
February – March 202314.6 to 17.55.1 to 5.3
Caption: Table 3 highlights South Africa’s preliminary trade balance data for March 2023, focusing specifically on trade with BELN countries.
WIlliam Dube

William Dube is a finance and economic news expert with over 10 years of experience in economic anaylsis, financial product assessment and market analysis. With a numerous certificates from prestigious universities including but not limited to Yale University and the University of Pennyslivenia. William specializes in providing insightful news developments in South Africa and commentary on investment strategies, risk management, and global economic trends. You can contact him on william@rateweb.co.za

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WIlliam Dube

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