South Africa’s financial market has gained significant recognition globally, especially in the thriving world of day trading. But what exactly is day trading, and how can one get started in South Africa? Let’s dive in.

Understanding Day Trading

Day trading refers to the practice of buying and selling financial instruments within the same trading day. In essence, positions are closed before the market closes for that trading day. This practice extends across several markets, including forex, stocks, and futures. 

Why Day Trade in South Africa?

Day trading in South Africa offers an array of advantages. The country’s financial market is sound and stable, making it a profitable hub for day traders. Moreover, South Africa’s strategic time zone allows traders to operate in markets across the globe, including the U.S, Asia, and Europe. 

Which is the main stock market in South Africa?

Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) is South Africa’s largest stock exchange and also the only full-service securities exchange in the country. Founded back in 1887, the JSE is today one of the world´s 20 largest equities exchanges in terms of market capitalization, and the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report has recognized JSE as one of the world’s best regulated financial markets.

In addition to equity and equity derivatives, the JSE is also a hub for commodity derivatives, currency derivatives, and interest rate instrument trading in South Africa.

Of course, being a day trader in South Africa does not in any way mean you need to limit yourself to trading only South African assets. Still, it is not unusual for South African daytraders chose to focus on South African stock companies, stock companies listed in South Africa, currency pairs that involve the South African rand (ZAR), or derivatives where the underlying asset has an association with South Africa, since their understanding and know-how of South Africa gives them an edge in these fields.

Which are the largest stock companies in South Africa?

At the time of writing, the largest stock companies in South Africa by market capitalization are Naspers, FirstRand, Standard Bank Group, Gold Fields, and Capitec Bank.

Naspers – the largest stock company in South Africa by market cap

Company type: Public

Traded as JSE:NPN and LSE:NPSN

Naspers Limited is a multinational and multi-industry holding company headquartered in Cape Town. It started out as a publishing company in 1914 and is today active in fields such as technology, internet, multimedia, online retail, publishing, and venture capital investments. Among other things, Naspers owns Media24, the largest publishing company in Africa. Naspers´ principal shareholder is its own Dutch listed investment subsidiary Prosus. Prosus owns circa 49% of Nasper, and Nasper owns circa 57% of Prosus, creating a cross-ownership structure.

Forex daytrading – Understanding the South African rand

The South African rand (ZAR) is not just the official currency of South Africa; it is also legal tender within the whole Southern African Common Monetary Area, i.e. South Africa, Eswatini (alongside the Swazi lilangeni), Namibia (alongside the Namibian dollar), and Lesotho (alongside the Lesotho loti). It is used inofficially on a fairly large scale in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and Angola.

After the Brexit referendum, the ZAR dropped in value with over 8% on June 24, 2016, which was the currency’s biggest single-day drop since the 2008 global recession. The drop was caused by a combination of global investors seeking out safe havens and more specific worries about how Brexit would impact the South African economy and trade relations.

The rand continued to struggle, and in 2017, Moody´s rated South African two notches above junk status. When President Jacob Zuma won a motion of no confidence, the rand continued to slide downwards. In September, Goldman Sachs stated that the debt and corruption of Eskom Holdings formed the largest risk to the economy of South Africa and the exchange rate of the ZAR. In October, Reuters pointed out how South Africa was highly susceptible to global investor sentiment as the country relied on foreign money to cover its large budget and current account deficits.

The ZAR is marked by volatility, and while this is causing problems for the South African economy, it is also making the ZAR attractive to many forex daytraders, including daytraders in South Africa, who employ trading strategies suitable for volatile conditions.

After the extra volatile years of the Covid19 pandemic, and an erratic 2022, the ZAR was off to a good start in 2023, but then began falling again against the USD. The weakness of the ZAR, which has continued into 2024, is tied to the struggles of the South African economy, which did not grow much at all from 2013 to 2023, and is facing issues linked to political instability, corruption, decaying infrastructure, skilled worker shortages, and South Africa being “greylisted” in the financial sector.

Starting as a Day Trader in South Africa

Becoming a day trader in South Africa involves a few steps: 

1. **Education and Research:** Before plunging in, it’s crucial to understand how the markets work, what drives price changes, and how to develop trading strategies. Traders should also be aware of market trends and global economic factors that may affect their trading.

2. **Choosing a Trading Platform:** A good trading platform provides a broad range of markets and financial instruments, real-time data, advanced charting tools, and customer support. Some of the popular choices in South Africa include IG, Plus500, and eToro.

3. **Risk Management:** While day trading is profitable, it also carries considerable risk. It’s essential to develop a strong risk management strategy to safeguard your investment.

Legalities and Regulation of Day Trading in South Africa

Day trading is regulated by the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) in South Africa. It’s crucial to ensure that the chosen broker is fully licensed and regulated by the FSCA to ensure the safety of your funds and guarantee fair trading practices.

The South African Tax Implications for Day Trading

In South Africa, the profits from day trading are considered income and thus subject to income tax. However, losses can be used to offset gains, reducing the overall tax liability. Consulting with a tax professional can provide further clarity.

The Future of Day Trading in South Africa

The future of day trading in South Africa looks promising. The increasing adoption of technology, coupled with robust regulatory frameworks, makes the sector more reliable and efficient. Additionally, high internet penetration, the rise of mobile trading, and the availability of educational resources contribute to a conducive environment for new and seasoned traders alike.


Day trading in South Africa offers a dynamic and profitable venture for those willing to learn and adapt. It’s of paramount importance to thoroughly understand the market and trends, choose a reliable trading platform, and implement a strong risk management strategy. With these in place, one can reap the abundant opportunities that day trading in South Africa provides.

This article was last updated on: June 6, 2024