Opportunities abound in Georgia-South Africa trade

It’s been 22 years since Nelson Mandela walked out of prison, the first steps towards South Africa becoming a free country. And now, two decades later, South Africa is poised for a strong economic future that can be made even stronger with investment from the United States and states like Georgia.


  • According to the International Monetary Fund GDP projections, Sub-Saharan Africa economies will grow by 5.6 percent in 2013, which compares very favorably to the projected 3.3 percent for advanced economies.
  • South Africa has a well-diversified economy with a world-class financial system and infrastructure which makes it a strategic place to connect the world to Africa's burgeoning middle class and educated work force of 300 million people.
  • While global average tourism growth in 2012 was only 4 percent, South Africa experienced 10.5 percent growth. One out of every two heads of American investment firms recognized Africa as the most important investment destination, according to a recent survey.

Georgia ranked 8th among all states in exports to South Africa in 2012. Georgia companies sent nearly $244 million worth of goods to South Africa last year, an increase of 46 percent over 2011. While trade in 2012 represents about three percent of the total $7.5 billion in U.S. exports last year to South Africa, it is a significant amount of trade with strong growth potential.

At the same time, Georgia imported $570 million worth of goods from South Africa, a 64 percent increase over 2011.

Another “product” that Georgia exports to South Africa and to the African continent is books through Books For Africa (BFA), a non-profit with offices and warehouses in Smyrna, and St. Paul, Minn. In the five short years BFA has been in Georgia, it has helped ship millions of books to African children and students. Since its founding in 1988, BFA has sent 29 million educational and law books to 49 countries. It has shipped 900,000 of those books to South Africa.

Books for children in need are a stimulus to the education system, which leads, hopefully, to an educated work force and development of democratic states and the rule of law, which in turn fosters economic growth.

While the United States faces strong competition from Brazil, Russia, India and China, South Africa welcomes U.S. investment and is working closely with the U.S. government and its Doing Business in Africa initiative, launched last fall.

Investment in South Africa will help pick up the U.S. economy. At the same time, large South African corporations have billions of dollars in investment in the U.S. and thus contribute to economic growth and jobs.

South Africa has the second-best banking system in the world, a world-class stock exchange and a globally integrated legal system. It’s the gateway to the rest of Africa and, in many cases, the economic engine that drives the African economy. We need a new generation of American and Georgian business leaders who will embrace it in the 21st Century.