How to Import Goods from China to South Africa?

Jun 11, 2024 Chapter 2. Supplier

Importing goods from China to South Africa involves several steps and considerations to ensure a smooth and compliant process.


Is importing from China to Sell in South Africa a Profitable Business?

This does not determine whether a business is profitable or not. Before deciding what business to get into, you need to find your customers.

Do some research to understand what people in your target area need and want. You can easily do this by just searching online.


Here’s a detailed guide to help you navigate this process:



How to Import Goods from China to South Africa?



1. Research and Planning

Identify Your Product

  • Determine the specific product(s) you want to import.
  • Check if the product is allowed in South Africa and if it requires any special permits or certifications.

Market Research

  • Analyze the demand for your product in South Africa.
  • Understand the competition and potential pricing.


What are the hot products to import to south Africa from China?

‘Made in China’ products often have a poor reputation in South Africa, where they are nicknamed ‘Fong Kongs’.

However, many high-tech products can be imported from China to South Africa at competitive prices. These include internationally known products launched in China that are not yet available in South Africa, as well as the latest Android phones from brands like Xiaomi, Lenovo, and Huawei. It’s also more affordable to buy iPhones and Samsung products in China than in South Africa.

I know an interior decorator who successfully imports quality furniture and household accessories such as mirrors, wall decor, vases, planters, tabletop decor, curtains, clocks, and picture frames for her clients, running a thriving business.

In short, consider importing high-end tech products or quality household accessories.



2. Finding Suppliers

Online Marketplaces

  • Use platforms like Alibaba, Global Sources, and Made-in-China to find suppliers.
  • Verify the credibility of suppliers through reviews, certifications, and third-party audits.

Trade Shows

  • Attend trade fairs and exhibitions such as the Canton Fair to meet suppliers in person.

Quality Assurance


Top 20+ Best China Wholesale Website List to Buy Wholesale From China



3. Negotiating and Placing Orders


  • Discuss terms of payment, delivery timelines, and Incoterms (FOB, CIF, etc.).
  • Negotiate pricing and minimum order quantities (MOQs).


  • Draft a clear contract detailing the terms and conditions.
  • Ensure it covers product specifications, payment terms, delivery schedules, and dispute resolution mechanisms.


4. Shipping and Logistics

Shipping Methods

  • Choose between air freight and sea freight based on urgency and budget.
  • For larger shipments, sea freight is usually more cost-effective.

Freight Forwarders

  • Consider hiring a freight forwarder to handle the logistics, documentation, and customs clearance.
  • They can provide door-to-door service, simplifying the import process.


5. Customs and Duties

Import Regulations

  • Check the South African Revenue Service (SARS) for import regulations and documentation requirements.
  • Ensure compliance with the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa (ITAC) regulations.

Tariffs and Duties

  • Understand the applicable tariffs and duties for your product.
  • Use the SARS tariff code to determine the duty rate.

Required Documentation

  • Commercial Invoice
  • Packing List
  • Bill of Lading (for sea freight) or Air Waybill (for air freight)
  • Certificate of Origin
  • Import permits (if required)
  • Customs declaration form
  1. Duty rates in South Africa vary from 0% to 45%, with an average duty rate of 18.74%. Some goods are not subject to duty (e.g. laptops, electric guitars and other electronic products).

  2. VAT applies to most imports at 14% of the sum of FOB value, any duty and excise payable, and a 10% upliftment of the FOB value.

  3. There is no minimum threshold in South Africa, i.e. duty, VAT and other taxes where applicable, are payable regardless of the import value.

  4. Anti-dumping and countervailing duties are levied on goods considered to be “dumped” in South Africa; and on subsidized imported goods.



6. Customs Clearance

Customs Broker

  • Consider using a customs broker to handle the clearance process.
  • They can assist with the accurate completion of paperwork and expedite the process.

Payment of Duties and Taxes

  • Pay the necessary import duties and VAT.
  • Ensure all payments are made to avoid delays in customs clearance.


7. Delivery and Distribution


  • Arrange for transportation from the port of entry to your warehouse or distribution center.
  • Consider insurance to protect against potential loss or damage during transit.


  • Plan your distribution strategy within South Africa.
  • Ensure timely delivery to your customers or retail partners.


8. Compliance and Legal Considerations

Health and Safety Standards

  • Ensure the product complies with South African health and safety standards.
  • Obtain necessary certifications if applicable.

Intellectual Property

  • Verify that the product does not infringe on any patents or trademarks.


9. Payment and Currency Exchange

Payment Methods

  • Use secure payment methods such as letters of credit (LC), telegraphic transfers (T/T), or escrow services.
  • Negotiate favorable payment terms with the supplier.

Currency Exchange

  • Be aware of the exchange rate fluctuations.
  • Use forward contracts or other financial instruments to hedge against currency risk.




What is the Cheapest Way to Import Products from China to South Africa?

The cheapest way to import products from China to South Africa depends on two main factors: the price of the goods and the shipping fee.

Finding Affordable Goods:

  • Use platforms like 1688 to find suppliers offering lower prices for bulk quantities.

Optimizing Shipping Fees:

  • Shipping fees are influenced by the weight, volume, and delivery time of the goods. Choose the courier or shipping method based on these factors.



Tips for Successful Importing from China to South Africa:

  • Build Relationships: Establish strong relationships with your suppliers to ensure reliability and better negotiation leverage.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with changes in import regulations and market conditions.
  • Risk Management: Consider all potential risks and have contingency plans in place.




Importing from China to South Africa can be a profitable venture if done correctly.

By thoroughly researching and planning each step, ensuring compliance with all regulations, and establishing strong supplier relationships, you can minimize risks and ensure a successful import business.

If you’re new to importing, it may also be beneficial to consult with experts or hire services to guide you through the process.

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