Exporting requires an enormous amount of thought and attention to detail,
especially to documentation. If documents are missing or wrongly completed
the transaction could be void. The documents required depend on the type of
product being exported, the South African documentary requirements for export
from South Africa, as well as the regulations set out by the importing country. An
exporter should therefore research and map the documentation process applicable
in South Africa for the specific product and then request the potential importer to
provide details of the importing country requirements. The exporter then needs to
establish if it is indeed possible to meet the import requirements.
7.1 Checklist of basic export documents
On the next page is a list of basic export documents. The documentation may
be required by both the importing country’s customs and the industry to allow for
successful importation and use of the product.
7.1.1 Commercial documents
Proforma Invoice: The Proforma Invoice is a common and important document in
international trade. It is meant to mirror the commercial invoice but is sent beforehand
by the exporter. In some cases it might be used as the first legally binding offer, in
other cases it might be used by the exporter to confirm the importer’s purchase
order. The Proforma Invoice specifies the basic terms of sale, including the price,
delivery and payment terms.
Commercial Invoice: The commercial invoice is prepared by the exporter and
can reflect some the following information:
• Names and addresses of buyer and seller
• Invoice number and date
• Complete description of goods
• Unit prices where applicable and final prices as per the agreed Incoterm®
• Terms of payment
• Transport mark and number
• Weight and quantity of goods
• Name of vessel if known and applicable
Certified invoices in most cases require that the commercial invoice be certified by an
authority, such as a Chamber of Commerce or the importing country’s embassy/high
commission or consulate in South Africa, certifying that:
- the goods are in accordance with a specific contract or pro forma,
- the goods are, or are not, of a specific country of origin
- and certifying any statement the buyer requires from the seller.
Packing List: A packing list itemises the goods shipped in each individual package,
such as a box, crate, drum or carton. Also included will be the number, weight and
measurement of the consignment.
7.1.2 Official documents
Export Certificate: Products regulated by the DAFF are to be inspected by PPECB.
Once the product has passed inspection an Export Certificate is issued. This document
is required by SA Customs to authorise exportation of the shipment.
Refer to Chapter 3 for a detailed discussion on this process.
Phytosanitary Certificate: A document that shows the origin of the shipment and
confirms inspection in the source country by the member of the importing country’s
National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO).
Should the importing country require a phytosanitary certificate, the exporter should
establish the phytosanitary conditions of the importing country. The exporter may
obtain the import conditions from the importer or his/her agent in the importing country
or from the NPPO of South Africa. In order to adhere to these conditions it might be that
further analysis of the product is required in order to issue the phytosanitary certificate
as per import requirements.
The NPPO of SA liaises with the NPPO of importing countries to establish
phytosanitary export programmes. In conjunction with the NPPO of South Africa, the
exporter establishes whether or not it is possible to comply with the import conditions
of the importing country. The agent or importer in the importing country must apply for
an import permit from the NPPO of the importing country. If the import conditions can
7.1.4 Transport documents
Air Waybill: This is a non-negotiable shipping document used by airlines for airfreight.
Bill of Lading: Used for seafreight, this is a legal contract between the owner of the
consignment and the shipping line or agent to transport consignments. It states all details
of cargo loaded onto a vessel.
Road Waybill: The Road Waybill serves as evidence of contract of carriage and as a
receipt for consignments of goods.
7.1.5 Financial and financing documents: The method of payment (Pre-Payment,
Open Account, Bill for Collection or Letter of Credit) agreed upon by the seller and
buyer will dictate which financial document applies to a given transaction. Inexperienced
exporters should contact the international division/branch of their bank for advice.