South Africa

South Africa

Sumit Gurav
Sumit Gurav

Country Expert

South Africa Statistics

South Africa is one of the most diverse and interesting countries in the world. Tourists flock to South Africa for its natural beauty, wildlife and sunshine. South Africa’s immensely varied terrain supports a rich diversity of animals, birds, and plant-life and offers an incomparable range of experiences.
South Africa With over 58 million people, it is the world’s 24th-most populous nation and covers an area of 1,221,037 square kilometres (471,445 sq mi). South Africa has three capital cities: executive Pretoria, judicial Bloemfontein and legislative Cape Town.
South Africa was the number 32 economy in the world in terms of GDP (current US$), the number 36 in total exports, the number 37 in total imports, and the number 59 most complex economy according to the Economic Complexity Index (ECI). In 2018, South Africa exported $115B and imported $95.5B, resulting in a positive trade balance of $19.6B. In 2018, South Africa’s exports per capita were $1.99k and its imports per capita were $1.65k.South Africa borders Mozambique and Zimbabwe by land.
$ 1
GDP in USD brillion
Population (2019)
Area ( km. sq. )
Import Of South Africa

In 2018 South Africa imported $95.5B, making it the number 37 trade destination in the world.
Main Import Countries

Export Of South Africa

In 2018 South Africa exported a total of $115B, making it the number 36 exporter in the world.
Main Export Countries

Major Sectors

Mining Sector Manufacturing Industry & Retail Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing Resources and Power Export Economy

The mining sector in South Africa produces a number of raw natural resources, the vast majority of which are exported. Some of the primary products extracted and exploited by the mining sector include: gold, platinum, diamonds, uranium, chromium, zirconium, and vermiculite. Mining companies here employ the greatest number of workers of any other sector in this country. Additionally, the mining sector is reported to be the 5th largest contributor to the national GDP, despite being hit hard by the global economic recession.

The Manufacturing Sector accounts for 14% of the national GDP, making it the 4th largest contributor in the economy. The primary goods produced by the manufacturing sector of South Africa include: food processing, textiles, electronics, chemicals, technology, and automobiles. Of these specialized goods, the most important to the economy is the automobile industry. This section of the economy makes up 12% of all the manufactured goods exported and contributes 6.7% of the national GDP. Additionally, 29% of all manufacturing companies in South Africa are dedicated to the automobile industry. This industry is primarily focused on the manufacturing of foreign vehicles, although some national makes and models are produced here as well. This sector of the industry was first established during the 1920’s, but significant growth did not begin until in the late 1990’s. Since then, it has become a mainstay in the economy of this country. This sector of the manufacturing industry of South Africa produces both automobile parts and finished vehicles, with finished vehicles making up the largest part of production efforts. Many car and truck companies have decided to make South Africa their primary manufacturing hub. As a result, this sector provides over 300,000 jobs and exports finished vehicles to more than 50 different countries around the world. Additionally, this country is responsible for manufacturing 84% of all motor vehicles produced throughout the African continent.

One of the top manufacturing powerhouses on the continent, South Africa has a strong industrial tradition dating back 150 years. The past few decades, however, have posed challenges to the industry, with external and domestic factors weighing on sector growth. To help revitalise the industry, the government and industry leaders have been working to stoke growth and develop value-added industries. By autumn of 2015, some industry pressures were showing signs of easing, with industrial action coming to an end, and new power and water infrastructure coming on-stream. While some structural issues remain, particularly in the realm of labour legislation and education, the government’s industrial strategy has allowed the sector to maintain momentum, with investment incentives and close cooperation with investors helping to offset downside risks to a degree. Over the longer term, manufacturing will be buoyed by growth across Africa, which should support higher sales. South Africa also has a well-developed retail sector ¬– one of Africa’s largest and most affluent markets – with a sizeable portfolio of major domestic players. While recent macroeconomic difficulties have affected certain segments of the market, the retail sector has continued to grow, drawing in a number of new international brands looking for an entry point to the rest of the continent. Their arrival underscores the sector’s sound fundamentals, and the market looks set to remain highly competitive and active in the coming years.

Agriculture is of major importance to South Africa. It produces a significant portion of exports and contributes greatly to the domestic economy, especially as an employer, though land and water resources are generally poor. Arable land constitutes only slightly more than one-tenth of the country’s surface area, with well-watered, fertile soils existing primarily in the Western Cape river valleys and on the KwaZulu-Natal coast. The Highveld of Mpumalanga and Free State historically has offered adequate conditions for extensive cereal cultivation based on substantial government extension services and subsidies to white farm owners. Some dry areas, such as in the Fish River valley of Eastern Cape province, have become productive through the use of irrigation. Further irrigation has been provided by the ongoing Orange River Project, which upon completion should add about another three-tenths to the total amount of land in production.
Among the major crops are corn (maize), wheat, sugarcane, sorghum, peanuts (groundnuts), citrus and other fruits, and tobacco. Sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs are raised for food and other products; wool and meat (beef, lamb and mutton, and goat) are important. Dairy (including butter and cheese) and egg production are also significant, particularly around the major urban centres.
Timber resources are minimal, but the small amount of forested land has been supplemented by substantial areas under plantation in the wetter parts of the east and southeast. The forest industry supplies mining timber, pulpwood for paper and board mills, and building timbers mostly sufficient for a construction industry that primarily uses brick, concrete, and steel. Fishing areas lie mainly off the western and southern coasts. The principal shoal-fishing catches are pilchard and maasbanker, while offshore trawling brings in kingklip, Agulhas sole, Cape hake, and kabeljou, among others.

South Africa is rich in a variety of minerals. In addition to diamonds and gold, the country also contains reserves of iron ore, platinum, manganese, chromium, copper, uranium, silver, beryllium, and titanium. No commercially exploitable deposits of petroleum have been found, but there are moderate quantities of natural gas located off the southern coast, and synthetic fuel is made from coal at two large plants in the provinces of Free State and Mpumalanga.

As previously mentioned, the mining and manufacturing sectors are the biggest export contributors in the country. South Africa has the 33rd largest export economy in the world. The top destinations for exports from this country include: China ($6.81 billion worth of goods imported), the US ($5.47 billion), Germany ($5.26 billion), Botswana ($3.71 billion), and Namibia ($3.53 billion).
The most widely exported good from South Africa is platinum at 8.7% of all exported products and a value of $6.03 billion. This particular product, however, is classified under the precious metals category of exports. Despite containing the most widely exported good, this category is classified as only the 4th largest export category in terms of percentage and total value ($8.55 billion).
The largest export category in South Africa is its mineral products category, which is responsible for $14.6 billion worth of exports. Approximately 36 specific products are classified under this category. The most widely exported mineral products include: coal briquettes (5.5% of all exports, $3.81 billion), iron ore (5.2% of all exports, $3.58 billion), refined petroleum (2.4% of all exports, $1.65 billion), and manganese ore (2% of all exports, $1.4 billion). The second largest combined category of exports is transportation at a total value of $9.99 billion. The second most widely exported product from this country belongs to this category: cars. Exported cars make up 7.6% of all exports at a value of $5.23 billion. The third largest category of exports is the metals category, which exports $8.88billion worth of products every year. The most widely exported product within this category is ferroalloys, which make up 4.9% of all exports leaving South Africa.

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