The rise of South Africa - tips for doing business there!

Neil Payne
Founder |
12th August 2014

‘The Rainbow Nation’ of South Africa is a radically varied land, shaped by the contrasting environments of the industrialised and the prosperous, and the agricultural and the impoverished, co existing side by side. It is seen as the economic powerhouse of Africa and forms part of the BRICS group of countries. The twenty-first century sees a dynamic, young, educated middle class rising out of the booming industrial, research and financial sectors. This young population will have great surplus income to push growth in South Africa.

With a climate that is geared for growth and open for trade, South Africa is the destination for UK businesses of all shapes and sizes. There are many opportunities for UK businesses within South Africa, from Advanced Engineering projects and their quickly developing infrastructure to possibilities in the education, agriculture and energy sectors.

The best way to test the water and start your business venture in South Africa is to visit the market and network with potential contacts. The UKTI offices based in Johannesburg, Durban and in the British Consulate in Cape Town can help you explore this country.

The South African government has advanced schemes in place to diversify the economic landscape by empowering the black community in business. The macro-economic management of governance is set to outperform Europe, and as a result the South African market is all the richer in terms of business opportunities. South Africa is currently the World Design Capital for 2014, a title which has attracted tourists and business interest.

South Africa’s prospects are undeniably rich, driven by an increasingly educated population and an abundance of natural resources. The diversity of South Africa may make it a challenging country to navigate, but the multitude of opportunities on offer cannot afford to be missed. 

5 top tips for trading in South Africa

  1. South Africa is a very diverse country therefore be prepared to adapt to different customs within each business.
  2. The business community can be seen as ‘risk adverse’ so always be prepared for lots of note taking and being asked for written details.
  3. Dress code for business meetings in Johannesburg is more formal compared to the more relaxed Cape Town or Durban.
  4. Although English is seen as the business language there are 11 official languages in South Africa, therefore expect slang and divergence from British English.
  5. Relationships are very important as are referrals through trusted third parties; therefore networking via trusted British and South African governmental bodies is highly recommended.

If you would like to know more about doing business with the exciting market of South Africa, contact our friendly international trade team at

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