Africa’s trade relations: Old friends, good friends and new friends


Africa’s trade relations: Old friends, good friends and new friends

African countries’ trading relationships have been changing in recent years. Trade with their traditional trading partners, the European Union and the United States (their ‘old’ friends) is declining. Trade with ‘new’ friends, such as China and India, is growing. For South Africa in particular, the rest of Africa has become a very important export destination. For South Africa and the other members of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), these African countries have become ‘good’ friends.

This collection of studies, prepared as part of the ongoing collaboration between the Trade Law Centre (tralac) and the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC), includes special focus on agricultural trade relationships and related issues such as climate change. Previous books have covered trade matters ranging from South Africa’s trade relationship with the Americas, Asia, as well as African countries. This book looks at all South Africa’s trading partners: new friends, old friends and good friends.

New friends: The so-called BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are new friends, with emphasis on the political dimension of the relationship. In agriculture terms, these countries offer opportunities as well as challenges. China is most competitive in industrial production, Brazil in agriculture and India in services. Although they compete with South Africa economically, diplomatically and politically, they are indeed our ‘new’ friends.

Old friends: Scholars such as Professor Nick Vink have argued that South Africa’s agricultural export product mix has remained the same for over 100 years, dominated by fruits and wines. These scholars further argue that the export destinations have also remained largely similar. These are dominated mostly the European Union (EU) member countries and United States of America (US). In the past two decades, following the removal of sanctions on South Africa, the bilateral agreements as well as the preferential market helped provide access for South African products into these markets under either Trade Development Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) with the EU and the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) with US. These are South Africa’s ‘old’ friends.

Good friends: African countries are described as ‘good’ friends. Regional integration is an important policy objective, and African markets are growing in importance for agricultural, industrial and services exports from South Africa. The negotiations to establish a continental free trade area were launched in June 2015, and could offer more opportunities as many African countries are growing at rates much faster than the South African economy.



 Ron Sandrey, Bonani Nyhodo, Hans Grinsted Jensen, Ethan Williams, Sifiso Ntombela, Masego Moobi, Yolanda Potelwa, Gavin van der Nest, Eric Makamole Mpitsa, Jacques Vermaak


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