South Africa improved its global competitiveness ranking to 50th in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2011/12,
after having slipped to 54th in 2010/11. In 2012/13, the country maintained its position as the best place in the world to secure business
credit. It was also the 10th best country in investor protection.
The country’s strengths lie in its outstanding performance in financial market development, the accountability of private institutions and the effectiveness of its competition policies. The World Bank’s Doing Business Report of 2012 set the country’s ranking at 35th from 36th in 2011. The best recorded improvement was with regard to the ease of starting a business, the consequence of the introduction of the new Companies Act, which included the simplification of the company registration procedure.
The strength of KwaZulu-Natal as a preferred investment destination is its two major seaports - Durban and Richards Bay - as well as Dube TradePort, home to King Shaka International Airport.
The province also boasts:
Long-standing and traditional ties have been developed between South Africa - including KwaZulu-Natal - and its top trading partners and other important focus markets, with double taxation agreements and memoranda of understanding signed with various countries.
Growing increasingly important as a trading partner of the European Union, South Africa is also a full member of the World Trade Organisation. In addition, it enjoys strong political and economic links within the African continent and is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), offering trade opportunities within Southern Africa.
Companies locating in South Africa not only enjoy the opportunity to source inputs at very competitive prices, but often also benefit from a domestic market for their products and services. Investors are able to utilise South Africa and, particularly, KwaZulu-Natal with its excellent infrastructure and logistics mechanisms, as a trade gateway for the provision of products and services deep into Africa.
South Africa's increasing international presence has resulted in a number of trade agreements being negotiated with other countries. Facilitating the growth of the country's export markets, these favourable agreements have opened the door to innumerable opportunities for companies based here to increase their international trade
The African Growth and Opportunity Act provides potentially extensive opportunities for a variety of the country's economic sectors - from manufacturing to agriculture - to access the enormous US consumer market on a duty and quota-free basis on approved products.
The Trade Development and Customs Agreement with the European Union sees a positive trend in trade flows developing between South Africa and the EU, with the aim of zero duty.
Negotiations are in progress between the five-nation Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the four-country European Free Trade Association. A proposed US/SACU agreement was also finalised in 2004, with both of these covering the entire range of trade and trade-related issues (including market access, tariff and non-tariff barriers, intellectual property rights, investment, competition and government procurement).
The comprehensive US/SACU free trade agreement is the second most significant trade relationship exercise after AGOA between the US and African countries, increasing the number of products that SACU members may export to the US market. With a more balanced and equitable SACU pact having already been signed by leaders of member states towards the end of 2002, the International Trade Administration Commission now oversees the implementation of the SACU agreement, as well as other multi-lateral and bi-lateral trade agreements.
Exporting a range of products and services to a diverse range of markets, South African trade has weathered adverse international conditions very well. With specific trade and investment requirements being met, the country has fast become one of the world's popular and preferred trade destinations.