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Note: It is important that you initially enquire with your respective freight forwarder on what items are prohibited/restricted on their carriers (both air & sea) to each country destination. There may also be additional documentation, duties and specific licenses required for certain goods. For items, less than 10kg it may be best to use a reliable parcel delivery service rather than a freight forwarder.

South Africa is a middle income emerging economy, with a well-developed financial, legal sector. It has the largest Stock Exchange in Africa which is also among the world’s top 20. The UK is a valued trading partner with South Africa, with annual bilateral trade worth just under £10 billion. The UK’s Department of International trade is focusing on high value infrastructure opportunities, which are part of the South African government’s development plan.

How long does it take for goods to arrive?
For most countries in Africa, transportation by sea freight usually takes between 3-6 weeks depending on the type of service provided (e.g. door-to-door or door-to-port) and the distance between the origin and destination of goods. South Africa has ports scattered across its coast, some at large distances apart, for example Port Elizabeth to Durban (over 900 km). This will have effect incoming shipments from the UK with goods arriving to Port Elizabeth around 4 days faster than to Durban.
Air freight takes between 2-10 days, hinging on whether an express or economy service is selected and the type of delivery (door-to-door, door-to-airport etc).

How much would it cost to send goods?
Again, this largely depends firstly on the type of transport mode chosen for shipment. As Air freight is much faster than sea. This is reflected in prices. Type of service and destination also play a significant factor in price charged. A door to port service will have a lower collection rate than a door to door however you will have to get an agent in South Africa to arrange custom clearance and delivery to your final destination. Destinations closer to either Air or sea ports will attract lower charge per kg, as it takes less mileage to get goods to final point.

What can you send?

Examples of prohibited goods into South Africa but not limited to include, Cigarettes (with a mass of more than 2kg per 1000), poison and toxic substances, furs and antiques. Among restricted items are wildlife, cheese and medicine (vitamins, diet, herbal and food supplements may be imported for private use only and are limited to only two bottles). Further information on the full list of restricted and prohibited items are available on the South Africa Customs website.

What documents do I need?

Firstly, parcels should be labelled (ideally each within the consignment) clearly. Addressing parcels to South Africa is relatively straightforward. Documents required for shipments usually include:

  • A customs invoice/ packing list form
  • Air Waybill (Air Freight)

You can find further information on exporting and doing business in South Africa on the UK Department of International Trade: South Africa Guide.