China becomes SA's top export destination

China overtook the United States as South Africa’s biggest export destination in the first half of 2009, reinforcing the Asian country’s push to build trade links with Africa.

South African Trade and Industry Department data also showed on Friday that China replaced Germany as its largest country trade partner.

The European Union remains, by far, South Africa’s largest regional trading partner for both imports and exports.

Data for South Africa—Africa’s biggest economy—showed exports to China stood at R27,6-billion for the year to June, against R35,8-billion for the whole of 2008.

Exports to the US were R19,1-billion compared with R66,5-billion for 2008.

China has ramped up trade with Africa this decade, particularly looking for the continent’s abundant mineral resources, surpassing competing countries in Europe and the United States that have been harder hit by an economic downturn.

China’s overall trade with Africa has increased tenfold over the past decade, hitting $107-billion last year, narrowly eclipsing the US.

South African imports from China measured R35,24-billion for the six-month period against R31,45-billion for Germany and R23,3-billion for the US.

“China has already increased their footprint throughout Africa, not just South Africa,” Efficient Group economist Freddie Mitchell said.

“With South Africa, a lot of doors have opened up to them,” referring to China’s biggest bank, ICBC, buying 2% of Standard Bank, the continent’s biggest bank by assets.

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