COVID-19 Blamed for Decline in Botswana-SA Trade

Four commercial border posts documented 9,8 billion pieces of goods in 2019 but 6,5 billion pieces of goods in 2020


The decline of inter-trade between South Africa and Botswana in 2020 was mainly due to restrictive measures imposed by the two countries in efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, a report released recently by South Africa’s Cross-Border Road Transport Agency says.
According to the report, the measures led to a need to limit travelling and freight movements to the essential goods and essential workers.
“Ultimately, the national lockdowns led to long delays in the movement of the most essential goods at Botswana’s border posts due to required COVID-19 testing by the truck drivers and truck crews for COVID-19 before crossing the border, long delays of up to five days before the truckers (could be) cleared to deliver goods in Botswana, or transit through the country, partially due to reduced business hours at the border posts and the need for trucks to be disinfected in some instances,” the report says.
South Africa’s total volumes exported to Botswana through four commercial border posts documented about 9,8 billion pieces of goods in 2019. However, in 2020 exports documented about 6,5 billion pieces of goods, a decline of 34 percent . The report says the highest decline in export values were realised in April 2020 compared to April 2019, with negative 71 percent. All the succeeding months to December 2020 also recorded a decrease.
The report notes that in 2020, Botswana emerged as South Africa’s major trading partner, listing the highest trade value of 29 percent (R81,3 billion) from South Africa’s total trade value of R278,9 billion at some commercial border posts in southern Africa.
Botswana was the second exporter (after eSwatini) to South Africa, recording 27 percent (999 million pieces of goods) of its total import volumes (3,7 billion pieces of goods), transported by road.
Grobler’s Bridge and Ramatlabama border post administered about 9 percent (349 million and 329 million pieces of goods, separately) of South Africa’s total trade volumes imported from all neighbouring countries, making it the highest in handling South Africa’s imports compared to other commercial border posts of Botswana in 2020.
In 2019, South Africa had an exceptionally healthy trade balance with Botswana since it exported around R95,3 billion to Botswana and imported about R11,2 billion from Botswana equalling a trade surplus of R84,1 billion. “In 2020, South Africa’s exports to Botswana valued about R74 billion which was 22 percent lower than the exports of 2019,” the report shows.
“The value of South Africa’s imports in 2020 declined 35 percent to R7,3 billion from R11,2 billion in 2019. Consequently, South Africa enjoyed a trade surplus of approximately R66,6 billion although it experienced 21 percent decrease from 2019 (R84,1 billion).”