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Trade Opportunities

As the largest economy in Africa, South Africa is a major industrial power and world leader in the production and export of minerals, exhibiting convincing manufacturing strengths. Economic and social policies are ensuring the international reintegration of the economy and the creation of an environment for sustained export growth and healthy net capital inflows. South Africa is numbered in the top seven best-performing economies in the world and is placed third in terms of industrial production growth.

Since the dawn of democracy, South Africa's gross domestic product has been growing at almost 3% per annum. Despite the current unpredictable global environment and South Africa's categorisation as an emerging economy, the economy bounced back to 2.8% in 2010, after plunging -1.7% in 2009. The recession was the first one after 56 quarters of continuous expansion, the longest expansionary growth in the history of South Africa.

Key reasons behind this above-average performance are the increasing competitiveness of South African industry and an improvement in the domestic demand for goods and services. Export diversification is also a major factor that has contributed to progress, with manufacturing - a dominant and robust sector in this diversified economy - expected to retain its strength. Other strong sectors include finance and business services, commerce, mining and agriculture, while the tourism industry and its associated conferencing capabilities are playing an increasingly important role in development of entrepreneurial activities. There is additionally a superior and well-developed transportation and communications infrastructure.

Foreign direct investment multiplied by 21 times, compared with the previous five years.

Doing Business in SA

Banking and financial aspects

South Africa's highly competitive banking and finance industry is as technologically sophisticated as any in the world, with the high-tech first-world service sector able to accommodate the most demanding needs of business, shipping agencies and foreign investors. The country's bankers, financial advisers, lawyers, tax consultants and experienced chartered accountants are able to advise foreign banks on legal issues and guide them through regulatory requirements with ongoing auditing services.

The South African Reserve Bank oversees the banking services industry, while the Financial Services Board governs the non-banking financial services industry. South Africa's principle financial service markets comprise the JSE Securities Exchange, the SA Futures Exchange, and the Bond Exchange of South Africa. Once approval is obtained for foreign loans, commercial banks also monitor and report on receipt and usage of loan funds. The well-established Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) is ranked among the largest in the world, providing opportunities for private investment in large South African companies, with volumes and foreign purchases having increased dramatically. It also offers opportunities to smaller, newer companies to seek investors through the Development Capital Market as well as a Traded Options Market for dealings in financial futures.

The financial market sees several established banking institutions, with four major groups controlling the bulk of the total banking assets. Flexible working relationships exist between local and foreign banks in this private enterprise system, and associations and alliances have continued to grow, with an increasing number of foreign banks in operation through fully active representative offices. Ideally located to service both European and southern African clients comprehensively, financial institutions are able to offer a full range of banking activities, including trade finance, foreign exchange trading, offshore banking and trust management. Commercial banks provide assistance to exporters in securing payments, while certain major financial institutions have international trade divisions offering more specialised services. The aim of small business units lies in assisting entrepreneurs, with innovative development initiatives offered.