South Africa was Australia’s 25th largest trading partner in 2017. Exports of goods and services to South Africa totalled A$1.6b in 2017, down 18% from 2016. Australia’s main exports to South Africa include aluminium and coal. Imports reached A$1.8b, little changed from a year earlier, driven by cars. BMW and Mercedes are some of the luxury car producers that have assembly plants in South Africa. South Africa is the largest producer of platinum and second largest producer of palladium, after Russia; both metals are used in catalytic converters. The country also produces significant amounts of gold and diamonds.
Australia exported A$365m of services in 2017, most of which were travel related. South Africa isn’t a major source of tourists, accounting for <1% of all arrivals in 2017. South African student enrolments in Australia are very low, but are trending higher.
Bilateral investment between South Africa and Australia is broadly in line with trade relations. Australian investment in South Africa is centred on mining in the north-east. Rio Tinto extracts titanium dioxide and produces pig iron. BHP Billiton mines aluminium and coal. Increases in Australian mining companies operating in South Africa were the predominant cause for such substantial Australian investment growth in 2017, particularly with Ramaphosa’s emphasis on international investment in South Africa. Indeed, Australia is the biggest international miner on the African continent, with a total investment of some $40 billion according to the Australia-Africa Minerals and Energy Group.