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How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

Do you want to import from China to South Africa?

Are you looking for the cheapest way to import products from China to South Africa?

Then you’re not alone. As we know that China has become the greatest market for sourcing any kind of products worldwide at the best prices.

And, according to freshly issued data from China’s customs office, trade between China and Africa reached a new record last year.

Still, many importers fail to successfully import high-quality goods from China. Why? It is because they don’t have a clear understanding of the requirements to import items successfully. Are you also one of them?

No worries anymore. In this blog, we’ll explain everything you must know to import from China to South Africa. So, be sure to read the article till the end.

Let’s get straight into it!

Chapter 1: Which Products Can You Import from China to South Africa?


Are you wondering why to import from China to South Africa?

If you live in South Africa, there’s a good chance that you’ve invested in some products that were originally manufactured in China. Why? Because China is a huge exporter of goods to South Africa.

The United Nations COMTRADE reports that the top exports from China to South Africa are worth 15.22 Billion dollars.

The Chinese export a lot of products to South Africa including toys, machinery, automobile, clothes, jewelry, beauty products, and the list goes on.

In reality, you can import almost every kind of product from China to South Africa. And, the list of prohibited items is relatively limited and largely consists of products that make sense.

Simply avoid bringing in weapons, narcotics, poisonous chemicals, or counterfeit goods, and you should be fine.

Based on our research, we have found the following most popular products that China exports to South Africa. So, let’s find out!

1. Import cars from China to South Africa

Because South Africa lacks car manufacturing companies, they import them from China. China is a renowned car manufacturing economy that meets the needs of other countries like South Africa.

These cars arrive on special cargo ships that are capable of carrying a massive load of cars.

The ships that transport automobiles or luggage on wheels are regarded as roll-on/roll-off container ships. Because such ships got ramps that allow the car to easily roll on and off the ship.

Not to mention, cars priced above R200,000 are subject to up to 70% import duty from China. So, it makes imported vehicles from China more expensive than locally assembled cars.

2. Import electronics items from China to South Africa

How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

The most common types of electronic products China exports to South Africa include television sets, computers, refrigerators, phones, radios, and many more.

When transporting electronics items from China to South Africa, air freight is the best option.


Electronics products are fragile and should be delivered to the customer as soon as possible and in perfect condition. Therefore, the majority of exporters favor the use of air freight because it is faster and more reliable.

3. Import Bags from China to South Africa

Bags are also one of the best imports from China to South Africa. China is one of the world’s largest producers of designer bags of the greatest quality.

Because of the huge demand for the goods, South Africa imports bags from China in large containers. And, many importers use a transportation mode of Full Container Load (FCL) to import bags from China to South Africa.

4. Import clothes & wedding dresses from China to South Africa

How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

Wedding dresses are another important import from China to South Africa. China supplies a variety of wedding gowns to South Africa— each with a distinct price range to suit everyone’s budget.

The low-cost wedding gowns arrive in containers through sea freight and are displayed at various bridal boutiques. Besides wedding dresses, other styles of dresses are also available that people can order.

So, you can also import customize dresses from China. And, because particular materials and patterns are required, these dresses are high-end and quite expensive.

Importers commonly choose express shipping services like DHL to ship the clothes to their customers’ homes. However, the type of shipment will be determined by the type of clothing you are importing.

5. Import hair accessories from China to South Africa

Cosmetics, including hair for women, now account for a large portion of the global market. So you can easily import high-quality hair accessories from China to South Africa.

Not to mention, you can import hair accessories from China by air freights or by sea. However, if you require the hair or related accessories as quickly as possible, then air freights will be the best option.

6. Import machinery from China to South Africa

How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

The type & size of machinery which you want to import from China will determine the type of transportation to be used. Big and fragile types of machinery require special packaging. And, the shipping company has to take special care of such machines.

When the large machines reach South Africa, they may arrive in various parts that will need to be assembled. Other parts of the machines which are too large to fit inside a container will arrive on different container ships.

8. Import furniture from China to South Africa

Another common import from China to South Africa is beautifully designed furniture. China is a leader in the manufacture of various types of furniture. Many of them are made from a variety of materials, such as timber.

Manufacturers use a variety of woods, ranging from hardwood to softwood, to create various furniture designs.

Not to mention, the cost of shipping will depend on the mode of transportation you use. So, you can use both air freight and sea freight to import furniture from China to South Africa.

9. Import building materials from China to South Africa

How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

Some types of building materials are difficult to find in South Africa. This is why South Africa imports the majority of building materials from China.

Such building materials include floor tiles, marbles, roofing sheets, and other specially designed materials. Due to the high demand for building materials, we see great competition in the Chinese market.

10. Import shoes from China to South Africa

Shoes are also a major import from China to South Africa— with the majority arriving in containers through sea freight. Wondering why sea freight? Shoes are not fragile, like clothes, and therefore can be easily transported via sea freight.

The majority of Chinese shoes are of varying quality. And, as a result, the prices also vary. Because of the cheap labor and low cost of manufacturing shoes in China, many shoe companies have set their manufacturing units there.

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11. Import tires from China to South Africa

As we know that tires need replacements after some time because they wear out. China also exports many types of tires to South Africa.

Commonly, many importers use sea shipping to import tires from China to South Africa. It is because sea shipping is less expensive than air shipping.

12. Import toys from China to South Africa

Toys are also one of the greatest imports from China to South Africa. And, you can import a variety of toys from China through sea containers.

However, some of the toys are very expensive and they need special care while transporting. This is why we suggest using air freight for such types of toys.

The size of the toys will decide what kind of shipping container you should use to transport the cargo. If you’re importing larger toys in bulk quantities, then you should use large containers or several containers to be successful.

Chapter 2: How Long does it Take to Import from China to South Africa?

Wondering how to import goods from China to South Africa?

The shipment normally arrives in South Africa in 5 days by air from China. Customs clearance can also take 2 to 3 business days, so your products should arrive in your warehouse in 8 to 10 days.

In this chapter, we will further explain the different types of transportation and how long will it take to use them. So, let’s get started!

1. Airfreight from China to South Africa

As we have mentioned above, the air shipment normally takes 5 days to arrive from China.

Luckily, you can contact us at  Sourcing to obtain the most competitive rates for air freight. And, the rate will be determined largely by the volume and weight of your products.

2. Courier from China to South Africa

Now let’s discuss how to import products from China to South Africa through courier. Another quick and efficient way to send your parcels, documents, and small packages is through courier service.

Luckily, all of the big courier companies operate in China and South Africa.

Through courier service, you can expect to get your package within 3 to 4 business days. This includes customs clearance, among other things. Let’s have a look at some of the most well-known courier services:

  • FedEx shipping from China to South Africa

FedEx is a well-known American courier service. It provides services to both China and South Africa. Like most courier companies, the delivery duration of FedEx is 2 to 3 days.

The rates of FedEx courier service are higher than standard air freight. However, the products come faster and safer. What’s best? If you choose FedEx, you won’t have to worry about documentation and the customs clearance process.

So, if you need products urgently and your package weighs less than 1 CBM or 200 kg, FedEx is the best option.

  • UPS shipping from China to South Africa

Wondering how to import from China to South Africa through UPS shipping?

UPS is another well-known courier service. It is less costly compared to DHL and provides nearly identical performance and efficiency. The company delivers packages on a regular basis in both China and South Africa.

  • DHL shipping from China to South Africa

DHL is the world’s most well-known courier company. It guarantees to transport your parcel within 3 to 5 business days. It is a well-known and highly reliable company. The only drawback of this courier service is that it is the most expensive among others.

  • EMS shipping from China to South Africa

EMS is a government-owned courier service. The rates of this courier service are lower than those of the other companies mentioned.

Therefore, it is by far the most affordable courier service to import from China to South Africa.

Wondering how long does it take to import from China to South Africa through this service?

Unfortunately, it takes longer than any of the other options we’ve mentioned. So, you can think about it if the fast shipping is not a priority for you.

  • TNT shipping from China to South Africa

TNT also provides excellent courier service at a reasonable cost. It is also very famous and has a substantial market share. You can count on them to provide satisfactory shipping services. It is also widely accessible in both China and South Africa.

  • Door to door service from China to South Africa

Door to door courier means that you hire a shipping company to pick up your goods from your mentioned location and deliver it to you. They will charge of every step of the journey.

This includes documentation, loading, transportation, unloading, and customs clearance both at the ports of destination and discharge.


Chapter 3: How Much does it Cost to Import from China to South Africa

How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

Well, the actual cost to import from China to South Africa depends on several factors. These factors are:

  • Shipment cost
  • Import duties
  • Cost of hiring Logistics service providers
  • Incoterm

So let’s talk about the above-mentioned factors in detail!

1. Calculate the shipment cost to import from China to South Africa

Because both nations have active trade, importers can find all kinds of ships traveling to and from these 2 nations. All the major shipping companies serve both China and South Africa, so there is no shortage of ships.

Typically, shipping from China takes one of three ocean routes.

  • The Indian route
  • The Pacific route
  • The Atlantic route

The transportation time varies depending on the ship’s speed, the route, as well as the weather conditions. The importers use the following two modes to import from China to South Africa:

  • Sea freight from China to South Africa

The cost of sea freight is determined by the shipping company, the high season, and a few other factors. Under usual circumstances, sea freight costs approximately $25/CBM. However, it can vary, depending on how you negotiate the rates with the shipping company.

  • FCL shipping

FCL is an abbreviation for a full container load. And, you will need to use this type of shipment when your cargo is large enough to load in a container.

When you arrange a full container, the shipping line charges you a one-time fee. FCL containers are safe to transport your products from China to South Africa.

How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

Following are the attributes for FCL containers:

  1. Lengths: 20 to 40 feet
  2. Width: 8 feet
  3. Height: 8.5 feet
  • LCL shipment

LCL is an abbreviation for less than container load. Most imported goods are not big enough and they don’t need an entire cargo for shipping. In this situation, you obtain some shipping space in a container and your goods will be forwarded with other cargo.

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In the case of LCL shipment, the shipping line will charge you depending on the product’s CBM or weight. This type of shipping is quite common but it has some risks such as product damage and mishandling.

  • Airfreight from China to South Africa

If you need your products quickly and they do not weigh too much, air freight is the best option. Again, EJET Sourcing can offer you with best rates for transporting products through air shipment.

If your product weighs 100 kg, air freight costs begin at $2.83/kg. The cost will be greater if it is less than 100 kg. So, before you go ahead with this, carefully calculate your costs.

2. Estimate import duties imported from China to South Africa

When considering importing goods from China, you must be aware of the import duties. And, when you import products from any foreign country, your state will charge you a fee— allowing your products into the country.

The import duty will be determined by the type of products imported into the country as well as the cost of the cargo. The fee for bringing products into the country is divided into the following categories.

  • Calculation of the customs duties

How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

The very first thing you’ll need to do is to calculate the customs duties. To import from China into South Africa, you’ll need to fill out a declaration form.

You will be ready to fulfill the declaration form confirming your real intent with the help of a customs officer. The following are the most important questions you should answer on the form:

  1. The market value of all products that you are importing.
  2. Freight costs you are using.
  3. The HS code of the goods.
  4. Insurance cost of products.
  5. Product description and additional information about goods.
  6. The HS code of the goods.
  7. The name of an insurance broker.
  8. The total cost of all purchases that you are placing.
  9. The cost of transporting the shipment.
  • Anti-dumping & countervailing duties

Countervailing and antidumping duties are the fees you will have to pay on the items listed below:

  • The products that appear to be dumped by the government.
  • The products or imports that have been subsidized.

Such products require an investigation into the origin country’s export promotion and pricing. The entire investigation will decide what should be the rate for the import of such products.

The following factors influence the framework for deciding the type and amount of duty:

  • The value of the goods at customs.
  • The volume or quantity of products.
  • How VAT is charged is specified, and the VAT rate of 14 percent.
  • Tax value-added.

3. Cost of hiring a Logistics Company to import from China to South Africa

How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

If you want to make the importation process easier for you, then hiring logistics company services is the ideal option. You can use logistics companies such as freight forwarders and customs brokers.

For your consideration, logistics providers are available in both China and South Africa.

  • Cost of hiring a Chinese freight forwarder

If you use a freight forwarder from China, the entire process will be less expensive. It is because they are well-versed in the country and can find bigger discounts for your products.

The suppliers in China also have good terms with freight forwarders. Therefore, they can assist you in finding a supplier that is inexpensive and trustworthy.

You can also find freight forwarders in China on the internet. When looking for a freight forwarder, you must consider several factors.

These include the type of cargo handling equipment they have as well as their experience. You will also need to consider the following factors:

  1. Do they hold the necessary permits to act as customs brokers?
  2. Do they have a track record of providing positive customer references?
  3. Do they provide shipment tracking systems for your products?
  4. Do they provide any other logistical services to the clients?
  5. Do they offer a variety of shipping options, including LCL & FCL?
  • Cost of hiring a Customs broker

Customs brokers can also help you in clearing the cargo and dealing with hectic custom processes. They are ready to serve you in various ports throughout China and South Africa.

Customs brokers have sufficient and time-saving experience in dealing with cargo import and export.

The hiring cost of a customs broker will vary depending on the services you require. They provide a wide variety of facilities that may be of interest to you.

The services you select will decide the cost of the customs broker.

4. Choose the right Incoterm to import from China to South Africa

How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

To import from China to South Africa, you will also need to use Incoterms 2010. Why? These terms are global, and they are accepted by many professionals who work in importing and exporting products.

These terms are also legally valid, and you will utilize them anytime you negotiate transactions. Besides, they also clarify your relationship with the supplier of products. And, such terms explain clearly the supplier’s responsibilities regarding the shipment.

The following are the most important incoterms which you may come across while shipping products:

  • FOB

FOB stands for “Free On Board,” in which the buyer handles the contract and cargo insurance. The buyer is responsible for delivering the cargo to the loading port and clearing it for export.

Additionally, the buyer is responsible for the remainder of the responsibilities.

  • CIF

Cost, Insurance, and Freight,” in which the supplier pays for the cargo insurance and freight contract. His responsibilities will complete when the cargo has been safely loaded onto the ship.

From that point forward, the buyer will be responsible for the cargo.

  • CIP

CIP stands for “Carriage Insurance Paid.” Simply, carriage and insurance are paid to the appropriate authorities, and the supplier is only partially responsible for the shipment when it is delivered to the buyer’s specified destination.

The buyer is now in charge of the products for the remainder of the journey.

  • CFR

The incoterm “Cost and Freight” allows the supplier to bear only the freight cost but not the cost of insurance. The buyer will be responsible for the insurance cost, and he will be responsible for the products once on board.

  • CPT

The incoterm CPT stands for “Carriage Paid To.” It enables the seller to pay only for the carriage, and the buyer will be responsible for the rest of the process. This implies that the supplier will only ship the products to the carrier and the buyer will tackle the rest.

  • DAT

The term DAT refers to “Delivered at Terminal.” This incoterm means that it is the responsibility of the seller for shipping products to the destination port.

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The seller will cover all costs up to and including the port of destination. Whereas, the buyer will be responsible for the remainder of the journey to the matter of interest.

  • DAP

How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

The incoterm “Delivered at Place” says that the supplier will send the cargo to the final destination. The supplier will bear complete responsibility for the shipment until it is delivered to the buyer.

It could be at a particular warehouse or a location specified by the buyer. Whereas, the buyer will be responsible for import taxes, customs clearance, and duty on the cargo.

Additionally, the supplier should consider insurance in case there are any issues prior to cargo unloading.

  • DDP

The term stands for “Delivery Duty Paid.” It tells that seller is responsible for the delivery of products to the buyer after covering all costs. It includes all taxes, import duties, customs clearance, and every other cost.

  • EXW

The term stands for “Ex Works.” It tells that seller is responsible for the delivery of products to a specific location— including a warehouse or a factory.

Whereas, the buyer will be responsible for the products until they arrive at their destination. It includes transportation costs, export, and import clearance.

  • FAS

The term FAS stands for “Free Alongside Ship.” It refers to the seller will be responsible for the shipment once it has arrived at the ship’s qualifying spot.

The supplier will handle the export clearance. However, the buyer will handle the rest. The remainder includes insurance, cargo loading cost onto the ship, and other expenses until delivery.

  • FCA

The term “Free Carrier” refers to the supplier who will fulfill his obligations when he sends the shipment to the carrier.

From that point forward, the buyer will be solely responsible for transporting the cargo to its final destination. It includes the cost of transportation, cargo insurance, customs clearance, etc.

Chapter 4: Possible Risks & Problems Involved While Importing from China to South Africa

How to Import from China to South Africa—A Complete Guide 2022

Now that you know how to import goods from China to South Africa, it’s also important to understand some risks which you can face throughout the process.

As we know, sourcing products at the lowest possible cost is usually the main goal of any business. However, when it comes to importing, there is always the possibility that something might go wrong.

So, you must be aware of the possible problems you might face while importing from China. Below we’ve explained some of the common risks importers face. So let’s get started!

1. Poor communication with Chinese supplier

Dealing with manufacturers and suppliers from other countries can bring new communication and language barriers.

  • Solution:

In this situation, we suggest you hire an agent who is fluent in the local language and knows well about the industry to make the process easier for you. A native agent will help you in communicating your message properly, especially in the Chinese market.

2. Wrong deliveries or orders

If your package comes with outright omissions or defects, it will be difficult to obtain a refund. Why? It is because most manufacturers will consider a small business abroad as unworthy of going the extra mile.

  • Solution:

The majority of manufacturers consider a freight forwarder as a lifeline. As a result, if a freight forwarder files a complaint, he is likely to be able to get a brief about the matter. Why? Because they have to deal with fright forwards on daily basis.

3. Higher freight costs

Airfreight is always more expensive than sea shipping. But, what if your products aren’t large enough to fill a container? You might end up paying for the delivery cost of a full container—resulting in a waste of resources.

  • Solution:

Finding someone with whom to share a container and divide the cost would be the best solution. Meanwhile, you must have access to a network that provides such data in order to work with it.

4. The challenge of building a relationship

Conversational and contractual norms in the West are totally different from those in China.

This means that you will be unable to translate South African American norms into South African Chinese norms. So, in order to import from china to South Africa, you must consider this.

  • Solution:

It takes an average of ten years to understand how Chinese traditions work. So, we suggest you hire a local to assist you with this.

Chapter 5: FAQs about Import from China to South Africa


1. Which is the ideal way to import from China to South Africa?

There are two best options to import from China to South Africa: air freight and sea freight. And, you can choose any of these options depending on how quickly you want your products and the quantity you require.

2. What is an importation permit?

An importation permit is a certificate prepared by South Africa’s International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) in accordance with the Excise and Customs Act 91 of 1964.

This document enables the import of products subjected to customs duties or quantitative restrictions. So, before importing such products, the importer should apply for an importation permit.

3. What are the various licensing and registration procedures?

If you want to import from China to South Africa, you will need different licenses for the process. These licenses include:

  • Import Export License
  • Customs Registration number
  • Customs Registration Number (CRN)
  • Importer Exporter Code (IE Code)

4. What are South Africa’s major import ports?

Durban is South Africa’s major import port. Durban’s harbor is among the biggest in the world, with a capacity for container ships of up to 10,000 TEU.

Port Elizabeth is also used by some importers as a port of entry— though it is less popular compared to Durban.

5. Which documents are required to import from China to South Africa

The following documents may be required to import from China to South Africa:

  • Certificate of shipment
  • Bill of lading
  • Certificates of Origin
  • Courier waybill
  • Sea waybill
  • CIM consignment note
  • Air waybill
  • CMR


Importing from China to South Africa is not as difficult as you may have imagined. We hope the information you’ve read will help you in the importation process.

So, it really is time to contact your preferred freight forwarder to arrange for the delivery of your goods.

At EJET Sourcing, we focus on making the process of importing from China to South Africa as simple as possible.

Contact us today and we will give guidance on the best shipping options available to import from China.

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