Vietnam and South Africa to Double Bilateral Trade Value A Driving Force Behind Vietnam-Africa Relations

Vietnam and South Africa have a long-standing relationship that dates back to the 1950s when both countries were fighting for their independence. Over the years, this relationship has grown stronger, with both nations collaborating in various areas such as politics, culture, and trade. In recent years, there has been a significant focus on enhancing bilateral trade between Vietnam and South Africa, with the aim of doubling its value. This article will delve into the current state of Vietnam-South Africa trade relations, the challenges faced, and the potential for future growth.

Vietnam’s Expanding Trade Footprint in Africa: South Africa as a Gateway to the Continent

In recent years, Vietnam has been actively expanding its trade footprint in Africa, with South Africa being a key partner in this endeavor. South Africa is considered the gateway to the African continent, with a well-developed infrastructure and a strategic location that makes it an ideal trading hub. According to data from the General Department of Vietnam Customs, in 2019, Vietnam’s total trade with Africa reached $6.6 billion, with South Africa accounting for nearly half of this amount at $3.1 billion.


The Growing Importance of South Africa in Vietnam’s Trade Strategy

South Africa’s importance in Vietnam’s trade strategy can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, South Africa is the most developed economy in Africa, making it an attractive market for Vietnamese goods and services. Secondly, South Africa is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which provides access to a larger market of over 300 million people. Thirdly, South Africa has a well-diversified economy, with a strong presence in sectors such as mining, agriculture, and manufacturing, creating opportunities for trade and investment for Vietnam.

Furthermore, South Africa has a favorable business environment, with a stable political climate and a well-established legal system, making it an ideal destination for Vietnamese businesses looking to expand into Africa. The two countries also share similar economic structures, with both being major exporters of agricultural products, textiles, and footwear. This similarity in industries creates opportunities for trade complementarity and collaboration.

Vietnam’s Growing Presence in South Africa

Vietnam’s presence in South Africa has been steadily growing over the years, with more Vietnamese companies setting up operations in the country. In 2019, there were over 30 Vietnamese companies operating in South Africa, mainly in the fields of agriculture, fisheries, and construction. These companies have not only contributed to the local economy but have also created employment opportunities for the local population.

One notable example is the establishment of the Thien Ngoc Minh Uy Jewelry Company in South Africa, which has become one of the leading jewelry brands in the country. The company has not only brought Vietnamese craftsmanship to South Africa but has also introduced Vietnamese culture to the local market through its unique designs.

Addressing Trade Challenges and Enhancing Market Access: Facilitating Sustainable Vietnam South Africa Trade Growth

Despite the potential for growth in Vietnam-South Africa trade, there are still challenges that need to be addressed to facilitate sustainable growth. One of the main challenges faced by Vietnamese businesses is the lack of information and understanding about the South African market. This makes it difficult for them to identify potential partners and understand the local business environment.

To address this challenge, the Vietnamese government has been actively promoting trade and investment activities between the two countries. In 2019, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) organized a trade promotion delegation to South Africa, which included representatives from various industries such as agriculture, food processing, and construction materials. This delegation aimed to provide Vietnamese businesses with a better understanding of the South African market and to facilitate partnerships with local businesses.

Enhancing Market Access through Trade Agreements

Another way to enhance market access for Vietnamese products in South Africa is through trade agreements. Currently, Vietnam and South Africa are both members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and have signed various bilateral and multilateral trade agreements. These agreements provide a framework for trade and investment cooperation and help to reduce trade barriers between the two countries.

One significant agreement is the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Free Trade Agreement, which was signed in 2016. This agreement provides preferential treatment for Vietnamese goods entering South Africa, making them more competitive in the local market. Additionally, Vietnam is also negotiating a free trade agreement with the African Union, which will further enhance market access for Vietnamese products in the region.

Addressing Trade Imbalances

Another challenge faced by Vietnam-South Africa trade relations is the trade imbalance between the two countries. In 2019, Vietnam’s exports to South Africa were valued at $2.8 billion, while imports from South Africa were only $300 million. To address this issue, both countries have been actively promoting two-way trade and encouraging South African businesses to invest in Vietnam.

In recent years, there has been an increase in South African investments in Vietnam, with notable projects such as the $1.5 billion investment by Sasol, a South African energy company, in a gas-to-liquid plant in Quang Ngai province. These investments not only contribute to Vietnam’s economic growth but also help to balance out the trade relationship between the two countries.

Vietnam-South Africa Trade: A Catalyst for Economic Diversification and Shared Prosperity

The growing trade relationship between Vietnam and South Africa has not only brought economic benefits but has also contributed to the diversification of both economies. For Vietnam, the expansion into the African market has reduced its reliance on traditional trading partners such as China and the United States. This diversification has helped to mitigate the impact of external shocks and has made Vietnam’s economy more resilient.

On the other hand, South Africa has also benefited from the trade relationship with Vietnam. The increase in Vietnamese investments in the country has created employment opportunities and contributed to the development of local industries. Additionally, the influx of Vietnamese goods into the South African market has provided consumers with a wider variety of products at competitive prices.

Furthermore, the growth of Vietnam-South Africa trade has also contributed to the overall economic growth of both countries. In 2019, Vietnam’s GDP grew by 7.02%, while South Africa’s GDP grew by 0.2%. The increase in trade between the two countries has played a significant role in this growth, and it is expected to continue to do so in the future.

Envisioning a Future of Enhanced Collaboration: Vietnam-South Africa Trade as a Cornerstone of Vietnam-Africa Relations

The potential for growth in Vietnam-South Africa trade is immense, and both countries have recognized the importance of this relationship. In recent years, there have been efforts to enhance collaboration and strengthen ties between Vietnam and South Africa, which will further drive the growth of bilateral trade.

Exploring New Areas of Cooperation

One way to enhance collaboration between Vietnam and South Africa is by exploring new areas of cooperation. Currently, the focus has been on traditional industries such as agriculture, textiles, and footwear. However, there are other sectors where both countries can collaborate, such as renewable energy, information technology, and tourism.

In 2019, the Vietnamese government signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with South Africa to promote cooperation in the fields of science, technology, and innovation. This MoU aims to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and expertise between the two countries and to identify potential areas for collaboration.

Strengthening People-to-People Ties

Another way to enhance collaboration is by strengthening people-to-people ties between Vietnam and South Africa. This can be achieved through cultural exchanges, tourism, and education. In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of Vietnamese students studying in South Africa, and this trend is expected to continue.

Furthermore, promoting tourism between the two countries can also help to strengthen people-to-people ties. Vietnam and South Africa have a rich culture and history, and by promoting tourism, people from both countries can learn more about each other’s cultures and traditions.

The Role of Diplomacy

Diplomatic relations play a crucial role in enhancing collaboration between countries. In recent years, there has been an increase in high-level visits between Vietnam and South Africa, which has helped to strengthen ties and promote cooperation. In 2019, the Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam visited South Africa, and in return, the Deputy President of South Africa visited Vietnam. These visits have not only strengthened diplomatic relations but have also provided opportunities for business and trade discussions.


In conclusion, Vietnam and South Africa have a strong relationship that continues to grow, with trade being a driving force behind this growth. The potential for future growth is immense, and efforts are being made to address challenges and enhance collaboration between the two countries. As Vietnam expands its trade footprint in Africa, South Africa will continue to play a crucial role as a gateway to the continent. With the right strategies and collaborations, Vietnam-South Africa trade has the potential to double in value and become a cornerstone of Vietnam-Africa relations.

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