Finding finance – a key question in exporting

One of the major stumbling blocks facing the would-be exporter is that the process of exporting is both long and costly. Finding foreign markets often means travelling to these markets, participating in a trade fair, placing ads and undertaking other forms of marketing activity, all of which inevitably cost considerably more than in the local market. Then, once you get an order, you still need to produce the goods and get them shipped to your overseas customer and you may be required to carry this cost for 30 days or more, before you get paid!

Where can you go to get financing?

For this reason, one of the main questions starting exporters have, is “where can I get financing” (let’s be honest that’s the main question of most businesses). Well, unfortunately there are not that many uniquely export-related financing sources. There are still the banks that serve as the main source of financing. Besides for the banks, there are a few other forms of financing that you might consider. At the same time, the Department of Trade and Industry provides a limited range of export incentives that are aimed at providing money to pay for very specific export activities.

Banks active in the international trade market

The big four banks in South Africa that offer all of the traditional banking services one would expect from an international trade point of view, are:


Standard Bank International division Foreign exchange Forex rates
First National Bank International division Foreign exchange Forex rates
ABSA Bank International division Foreign exchange Forex rates
Nedbank International division Foreign exchange Not listed


Then there are other less traditional and in some cases more specialised banks that also cover the international trade finance filed. These are:

  • Rennies Bank is not a traditional bank, but they are very focused on international financial matters and are therefore definitely worth approaching. Rennies have an international division that is particularly focused on international trade financing and payments, and they are also active in the foreign exchange market and operate numerous retail forex branches around the country. They offer a range of specialist forex services that are particularly well-suited for the foreign traveller.
  • Although not a traditional bank, Grindrod Bank is part of the Grindrod Group which is an organisation very focused on freight forwarding and international trade. Their banking division is aimed at facilitating international trade and you may well want to consider this bank together with those listed above.
  • Sasfin Bank is another bank worth considering because, while they are not traditional banks offering traditional banking services as those listed above, they are involved in trade finance and the financing of freight forwarding, customs clearing and logistics-related expenses.
  • Rand Merchant Bank is another bank that provides services aimed at the international trade community, in particular international investment financing. Providing foreign exchange is another of their services.
  • Investec Bank is definitely not a typical bank, but they do offer export credit facilities. for international trade activities
  • Although not really a bank, American Express run numerous forex outlets throughout the country and they are worth a call if you need to purchase (or sell) limited amounts of foreign exchange (you would use them more for travel purposes than for making or receiving international payments).
  • Land Bank is not really a bank. It is more of a financing institution and specialises in agricultural and agri-business financing.

These are typically retail-type banks (i.e. operating in the individual banking market) or banks that run specialised (non-trade) financing operations (such as vehicle or asset financing):

Other banks

  • African Bank – More of a personal bank than a corporate/business bank
  • Wesbank – Primary focus is vehicle financing
  • Capitec Bank – A retail bank focusing mainly on individual accounts
  • Go Bank – More of a savings bank
  • Imperial Bank – Primary focus is vehicle/medical/property financing
  • Meeg Bank – Another bank focused more on the individual than the corporate market.
  • Teba Bank – This is a bank established to service the entry-level individual market and they also operate in the micro-finance sector
  • Mercantile Bank – Who knows what they do – their website certainly doesn’t say much about them
  • GBS Mutual Bank – A local, Eastern Cape-based bank operating in the retail banking market.
  • The Banking Association – The industry ‘watchdog’