Last Updated on March 30, 2023

How to Launch a Business in South Africa

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Prepare a business plan.

Decide on a business structure.

Register your business name

Register for statutory requirements

Tax and Legal Requirements

Starting a business in South Africa has numerous financial, social, and economic advantages. First and foremost is the joy one associates with pursuing something one believes in, the social status one gain from peers, and their contribution to the economic upliftment of the country.

However, even with these advantages, the process can seem daunting to new entrepreneurs and, without guidance, could discourage you.

For foreigners looking to start a business in South Africa, the first step is to secure all necessary business and work permits as stipulated by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to launch a business in South Africa.

Prepare a business plan.

The first step in launching a business in South Africa is to have a detailed business plan. This outlines important aspects of your business, like the type of business, target market, marketing plan, legal, and other relevant details.

A business plan quickly and concisely communicates to potential business partners, investors, and government authorities what your business intends to accomplish.

Decide on a business structure.

A business structure describes the business’s legal structure and outlines each founding member’s roles and rights. In this regard, there are three types from which you can choose;

business woman sitting in front of a computer and looking out of the window

Sole proprietorship

This is one of the most straightforward business structures. The business owner is a sole trader because they alone run and manage the business. The owner is not recognized as a separate legal entity from the business, which means that the owner’s property is liable if the business cannot repay its debts.


This business structure recognizes two or more people who combine resources to start a business together. Each member contributes to the partnership, which guarantees their share in the eventual profits or losses of the business.

Partnerships are similar to sole proprietors in that the partners don’t enjoy a separate legal status from their business. In the event of failure to clear debts, the partners’ personal property is put on sale recoup the funds.


A corporation is a business structure in which members enjoy separate legal status from the business. Most corporations hire lawyers to oversee the complex registration process and to ensure the corporation complies with South African laws.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

This is a hybrid business structure that combines the best of partnerships and corporations. It awards personal liability protection to business owners while also enjoying the tax and business requirements.

Register your business name

After deciding on a business structure, you must register your business name. Select a name that reflects your brand values or promise; one that is easily memorable and not in use by another business.

According to South African law, there are different routes one can take to register a business name. The first is by registering online on the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) website. You can also register through your bank.

Register for statutory requirements

In South Africa, before your business can begin operating, there are some statutory requirements you will need to follow.

The CIPC is a South African agency that’s part of the Department of Trade and Industry. The agency assists businesses with registration and any intellectual property rights. This can be anything from designs, copyrights, patents, and trademarks.

Every business registered in South Africa must also register with the South African Revenue Service (SARs). The purpose is to ensure that your business meets all statutory regulations required by South African law. Once you register with SARs, you receive an income tax reference number; making it mandatory for your business to begin operations within 60 days.

Additionally, if you expect your business to have a turnover above R1 million per year, then you must register for Value Added Tax (VAT). You can also do this online through the SARs website by submitting form VAT101.

Tax and Legal Requirements


As a business owner, you’re responsible for the effective functioning of your business and the well-being of your employees. South African law stipulates that you must register for Pay As You Earn (PAYE) for any employees in your business that earn over R40000 per year. You will have to secure a Skills Development Levy (SDL) if your payroll exceeds R50000 annually.

Businesses must consult the Department of Labour to determine the necessary mandatory contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund. In addition, businesses dealing with fresh food or health-related matters are mandated to register with the local authority.

The tax and legal requirements for a business operating in South Africa are extensive, which is why you should check the SARs website to ensure that your business is in the right standing with the law.

Insuring your business

Many first-time business owners overlook the importance of insurance when starting their business. However, insuring your business can protect you from huge losses and regret further down the line. Consider getting insurance that covers the basics, such as natural disasters, theft, and fire.

Business insurance can also protect you if someone decides to sue you or your business. Explore insurance policies that cover both product and public liability.

Open a business account

Most businesses in South Africa require a bank account before they can start operating in the country. You must ensure that you have all the mandatory documentation like:

  •  Valid IDs for the business owner and partners.
  • Proof of business address. This can be a utility bill or the business owner’s residential address.
  • Three months of business financial statements.
  • Proof of CIPC registration.

Launching a business in South Africa is a relatively straightforward process. With a quick visit to the South African Revenue Service (SARs) and the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), you could be well on your way to running a business in South Africa.

What business structure we have in South Africa?

  1. Sole proprietorship
  2. Partnership
  3. Corporation
  4. Limited Liability Company (LLC)

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