Overview of the Chemicals Industry in South Africa & How to Buy Chemicals

Brief Introduction to South Africa

South Africa is located in the very southern part of Africa.         

l  It has a population of 58 million

l  Capital: Pretoria

l  Official Languages: 11 including English

l  Total Area: 1,221,037 km2

l  Currency: South Africa Rand


Economy of South Africa

South Africa is the second largest economy in Africa and with the most developed manufacturing and industries. The GDP is $283 billion

l  The South African economy is divided into agriculture: 2.8%, industry: 29.7% and services: 67.5% making it a diversified economy.

l  Main industries include: mining, manufacturing, information technology, machinery, textiles, steel, chemicals, fertilizer etc.

Main Export Partners:

1.           China 18.0%

2.           Germany 12.0%

3.           United States 6.8%

4.           India 4.2%

5.           Saudi Arabia 3.8%

6.           Japan 3.5%

Main Import Partners:

1.           China 18.0%

2.           Germany 12.0%

3.           United States 6.8%

4.           India 4.2%

5.           Saudi Arabia 3.8%

6.           Japan 3.5%

Chemical Use in South Africa

 Given the population size and economic growth, it is an attractive country for chemicals trade. South Africa's chemical industry is diverse and includes chemicals for plastics, fuels and pharmaceuticals. South Africa also manufactures synthetic coal-based, natural gas-based, petrochemicals and liquid fuels.  The chemicals sector contributes to about 3% of GDP and about 22% of manufacturing GDP in the South Africa.

  • Mining Industry

South Africa has one of the biggest mining industries in the world. Most of the mines process their own products include tailings. Camachem has been supplying reagents, xanthates and other to local mining companies.

  • Water Treatment Industry

South Africa has an estimated water capacity of 38 billion cubic metres, which is set to double by 2025. South Africa needs to invest more into its water and electricity sectors due to urbanization and growing economy. Camachem has supplied various water treatment chemicals to South Africa including calcium hypochlorite and aluminum sulfate.

  • Other Industries

South Africa’s general industry saw big decline and small recovery in manufacturing. Some good performing industries include automotive, basic chemicals, steel and food and beverages industries. South Africa's is reliant on export markets in the developed world and this affects growth. Camachem has supported various manufacturers by exporting industrial chemicals and special use chemicals for their operations in various sectors.

Local Chemical Suppliers in South Africa

South Africa has some leading global manufacturers of chemicals. Some local manufacturers of chemicals include Protea Chemicals, which supplies various chemicals in Gauteng and elsewhere. Other chemicals companies including global subsidiaries include:

  • Basf South Africa (Pty) Ltd
  • Clariant Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd
  • Dow Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd
  • Omnia Holdings Ltd
  • Orion Engineered Carbons (Pty) Ltd
  • Orthochem (Pty) Ltd
  • Pelchem (Pty) Ltd
  • Richbay Chemicals (Pty) Ltd
  • Rolfes Holdings Ltd
  • Sasol South Africa Ltd
  • Shell Downstream South Africa (Pty) Ltd
  • Chemical Logistics in South Africa

South Africa is accessible by both land and sea. For international trading the main sea ports are:

1.         Port of Durban

2.         Port of East London

3.         Port of Mossel Bay

4.         Port Elizabeth

5.         Port of Richards Bay

6.         Port of Cape Town

7.         Port of Saldanha Bay


 Picture of the Port of Durban, South Africa

l  The Port of Durban is one of the largest and busiest shipping terminals in Africa. It handles up to 31.4 million tons of cargo each year. Camachem usually exports chemical containers to Durban port where the client handles internal logistics. For some clients we export to Johannesburg where they can collect their cargo from local warehouse

What Chemicals does South Africa Import?

According to the latest trade data, South Africa imports USD 1.2 billion in inorganic chemicals and USD 1.4 billion in organic chemicals. They include chemicals such as caustic soda, SLES, titanium dioxide, glutaraldehyde, various xanthates such as SIBX, PAX, SIPX etc.

What are the requirements to import chemicals into South Africa?

Most chemicals do not need special permits to import, however, according the government website, “to import certain chemicals into South Africa you need permission from the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) which will decide if it is in the best interests of the public to import the chemicals.” Please refer to official government website here

Why does South Africa Import Chemicals?

Although the country manufacturers a lot of chemicals, some key reasons that imports are still needed include:

1.         Availability – the local industry has limited capacity and some clients require chemicals in a timely manner

2.         High Chemical Cost – Given limited competition and high production costs, some chemicals are more expensive that the world market price

3.         Long Lead Times – some of the big manufacturers have a very good reputation and so orders are many, this can mean a new buyer has to wait if they depend on these manufacturers

4.         Lack of Stable Chemical Quality – Although the large manufacturers have made a brand reputation with their quality, some of the smaller manufacturers can have variant chemical quality

5.         Cumbersome Procurement Process – the key reason to import is to combine all the above reasons and get a product that enables clients to focus on their business and not haggling over details of chemical procurement

Where can I buy chemicals for South Africa?

Our client's xanthates cargo prepared for export

Camachem has been exporting chemicals to clients in South Africa. We are optimistic about the chemical market and feel free to contact us at [email protected] or whatsapp us at +86-131-2037-9271 for FREE quotation

We also ship worldwide and for other countries you can check our experience here.


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