Original Research

Evaluating South Africa’s utilisation of sustained export potential in sub-Saharan Africa

Gabriel Mhonyera, Ermie Steenkamp, Marianne Matthee
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 21, No 1 | a1927 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v21i1.1927 | © 2018 Gabriel Mhonyera, Ermie Steenkamp, Marianne Matthee | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 May 2017 | Published: 31 July 2018

About the author(s)

Gabriel Mhonyera, School of Economics, North-West University, South Africa
Ermie Steenkamp, School of Economics, North-West University, South Africa
Marianne Matthee, School of Economics, North-West University, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Regional trade could be a powerful engine of economic growth and sustainable job creation. However, South Africa’s exports to sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are typically smaller and more short-lived than its exports to its traditional markets. This is despite South African policymakers considering trade with SSA to be a priority.

 

Aim: The aim of the article is to evaluate South Africa’s utilisation of sustained export potential in SSA with a view to providing practical insights that will inform future policymaking and planning.

 

Setting: Despite the priority attention given to SSA in the country’s trade policy, South Africa is yet to make meaningful inroads into SSA’s largest and fastest-growing economies.

 

Method: The research method applied comprised three steps. The first step involved the identification, over a five-year period from 2010 to 2014, of consistently large and/or growing import demand in SSA for all products at the Harmonised System (HS) six-digit level, as well as the identification of products South Africa consistently exported competitively (sustainable exports). The second step entailed matching SSA markets with consistently large and/or growing import demand to South Africa’s sustainable exports. The third step involved evaluating South Africa’s utilisation of sustained export potential in SSA.

 

Results: The results reveal that South Africa is utilising just over half (54%) of its sustained export potential in SSA.

 

Conclusion: South Africa is, therefore, underutilising or not utilising close to 50% of its sustained export potential in SSA. Most of the export potential that South Africa is utilising is in Eastern Africa while most of the export potential that the country is underutilising and not utilising at all is in Central and Western Africa.


Keywords

exports; export sustainability; export growth; intensive margin; extensive margin

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