Trade and investment in the Netherlands for business people from South Africa

Do you want to invest in the Netherlands? Dutch businesses can work with you in the fields of water, food, energy and more.

Trade and investment in the Netherlands

Investing in the Netherlands

There are plenty of reasons to invest in the Netherlands, for example:

  • Its geographical location, on the coast of Western Europe, means the Netherlands has 500 million potential customers close by.
  • Infrastructure is highly developed and includes Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, the Port of Rotterdam, roads, railway lines and broadband access.
  • Dutch people have a high level of education thanks to the excellent education system. Around 90% of Dutch people speak English and many also speak other foreign languages.

Trade and investment

Dutch companies can work with you on global challenges in the fields of water, food, energy, health and security.

At you can find examples of Dutch solutions in these fields.

Information for businesses from this country or region

Gateway to Europe

The Netherlands is the 17th largest economy in the world. It combines high income per capita with fairly even income distribution and is one of the most open and outward-looking countries in the world. The Netherlands owes its strong economic performance in large part to its advanced transport infrastructure and its highly developed telecoms infrastructure.

Rotterdam is Europe’s largest seaport and the fourth largest in the world in terms of container activity, while the Port of Amsterdam is the fourth largest in Europe. Schiphol is Western Europe’s fourth largest airport. Together, they have helped build the reputation of the Netherlands’ as ‘the gateway to Europe’. More than half of the country’s GDP comes from international trade. Although modest in terms of its geographical size and with a population of just 16 million, the Netherlands represents a magnitude of possibilities, whether for trade and investment or utilising the country’s ideal location and investment climate to penetrate markets throughout Europe.

The Netherlands has a stable and flexible labour market, is centrally located, and has a well-educated and multilingual work force. The most important trade commodities for the Netherlands are machinery and transport equipment, followed by chemical and mineral products. One of the most famous Dutch exports, however, is flowers. The Netherlands exports four billion flower bulbs a year, mostly tulips. Other areas of expertise include Agri-Food, Horticulture, High-Tech Materials and Systems, Energy, Logistics, Port development and Marine services, Creative industries, Health and Life Sciences, Chemicals, and Water Management in the widest possible sense. For more information see or

A Strong Economy

The Dutch economy grew at a healthy rate in 2006 and 2007, achieving growth of 3 percent and 3.5 percent in those years respectively. In 2008, the GDP of the Netherlands slowed somewhat, with growth of 2 percent, while in 2009 it declined by 4 percent - a historically unprecedented figure due to the worldwide economic crisis. This was however no worse than the average for the eurozone  and a remarkable figure given the Dutch economy’s dependence on international trade. Thanks to innovative sector and labour policies the Netherlands also managed to keep unemployment at a minimum during the global economic crisis.

Following the contraction in real GDP in 2012 and 2013, the Dutch economy returned to positive economic growth in 2014. Economic growth was expected to accelerate to 1.4 percent in 2015 and 1.7 percent in 2016.

Attractive Business Climate

For companies from South Africa the Netherlands has a wealth of attractive features that can support succesful expansion into Europe:

Stable democracy 
The Netherlands is a stable and vibrant parliamentary democracy, recognized worldwide for its transparency, fairness and effectiveness.  

Transparent legal systems 
The legal system is fair and transparent and well equipped to deal with business, trade, taxation and patent issues. There are specialized courts to deal with criminal and administrative issues, as well as with tax, planning, environmental and trade & commerce law.

Favourable tax climate 
The Netherlands is known for its favourable tax climate. The tax authorities are open to discussing an appropriate tax regime with individual companies, which can result in a binding agreement that gives businesses clarity and certainty. Corporate tax in the Netherlands is 25.5 percent. In addition, dividends received by resident corporations that qualify for the ‘participation exemption’ or ’affiliation privileges’ are exempt from corporate income tax. This exemption is one of the most important provisions of Dutch tax legislation.

The Netherlands’ position is that the level of taxation on dividends, interest, and royalties should be as low as possible. As a result, taxes are not withheld on ordinary interest and royalties. Furthermore, most tax treaties lower the tax withheld on outgoing dividends. The Netherlands’ Innovation Box allows an effective tax rate of five percent for income in relation to a patent obtained in respect of self-developed intangible assets.

International financial system 
The Netherlands has a well-developed financial system that is largely focused on global financial markets and trends. Many banks are globally active and thereby able to provide global services.

Flexible labour market 
The Netherlands has a rich and dynamic labour market. It is rich in the sense that a high percentage of the population has attained tertiary education. Holland’s labour market is dynamic and its employment legislation is flexible. The economy is focusing on innovative, technology-driven products and services, which require specialized knowledge and outstanding expertise and talent. While the Netherlands prides itself on its excellent education system, it is also eager to welcome the world’s talent and provides opportunities for scholarship  to students from many countries, including South Africa.

World-class R&D 
To remain globally competitive, the Netherlands invests heavily in innovation programmes and R&D facilities. In doing this, it follows a two-pronged strategy through the promotion of excellence and collaboration:

  • Excellence: various industries have identified their most promising or competitive areas of activity and set up dedicated research institutes to build on that expertise.
  • Collaboration: innovation and R&D initiatives are always carried out with the broad participation of government, private sector and academic partners, who work together to create a common vision, develop a joint plan and pool resources to achieve common goals. Through their open and cooperative attitude Dutch companies and knowledge institutes offer innovative, customized local solutions to local problems across the world.

The Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency (NFIA) offers specialized advice and support to companies interested to explore the modalities of investing in the Netherlands. Click here for the NFIA report on the Netherlands Investment Climate or contact for more information or an appointment.

General economic data for the Netherlands is available on the following websites:

For assistance and information on how to start a business in the Netherlands oraccess to the competition legislation, please refer to the respective organisations below: 
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce
Netherlands Competition Authority
South African Embassy – Netherlands