Original Research

Promoting sustainable economic growth in South Africa through the production and export of low-carbon environmental goods

Antoinette van Niekerk, Wilma Viviers
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 17, No 4 | a607 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v17i4.607 | © 2014 Antoinette van Niekerk, Wilma Viviers | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 May 2013 | Published: 29 August 2014

About the author(s)

Antoinette van Niekerk,, South Africa
Wilma Viviers, Research Professor, South Africa

Full Text:



Many countries, particularly those in the developing world, are under increasing pressure to improve their growth rates in order to tackle pressing economic problems at the domestic level. Increasing export volumes can make a positive contribution to a country’s economic growth rate, but it can also endanger the environment. How to reconcile the often conflicting phenomena of increased export activity, stronger economic growth and a lower carbon footprint is the focus of this study. A core outcome of the study was the creation of a single list using a cross-section of international sources, of low-carbon environmental goods, and their ranking according to their inherent ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, South Africa’s capacity to produce them, and their economic benefits, as reflected in the export opportunities they present. These export opportunities were revealed through the application of the Decision Support Model (DSM), an export market selection tool that incorporates a systematic filtering and screening system. The results of the analysis should help guide policymakers in their strategic deliberations on which export sectors to incentivise and support with a view to encouraging more ‘green’ growth in South Africa in the years ahead. diffusion of such goods. If the production and export of environmental goods were to increase, it could have a potentially positive effect on economic and environmental objectives, such as raising economic growth rates and lowering greenhouse gas intensity, respectively. For the purpose of this study, an analysis of four existing lists of environmental goods led to the identification of 39 core environmental goods. These 39 goods were ranked according to three criteria: i) the potential environmental benefits of each environmental good, using consensus among role players as a proxy; ii) South Africa’s capacity to produce each environmental good, using the Revealed Comparative Advantage (RCA) of each good as a proxy; and iii) the potential economic benefits of each environmental good, using the potential export value as calculated by Steenkamp (2011) in the Decision Support Model (DSM) as a proxy. It emerged that the top five low-carbon environmental goods are: photosensitive semiconductors (HS-6: 854140); towers and masts (HS-6: 730820); electrical control and distribution boards (HS-6: 853710); gearing and screws (HS-6: 848340); and static converters (HS-6: 850440). In addition, the intensive and extensive product-country export opportunities for these top five low-carbon environmental goods were identified.


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Crossref Citations

1. 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  issue: 1  year: 2018  
doi: 10.4102/sajems.v21i1.1927