Comprehensive mineral resources form the
basis of South Africa's economy. Platinum, gold, coal
and diamonds have long supported exports. The income
from the mining industry has enabled a large and growing
industrial sector, which in turn has given rise to an
extensive service industry.
Since the first free elections in 1994, GDP per
person has more than doubled. The share of the
population living below the poverty line has decreased,
but the distribution of wealth is still the biggest
problem in South Africa's economy (see Social
Major imports by South Africa, covering a full list of top products imported by the country and trade value for each product category.
During the apartheid era, South Africa was exposed to
an international trade boycott, which hampered economic
development. When the racial segregation laws were
repealed in the early 1990s, the boycott ceased and
growth accelerated. However, it slowed down in 1997, and
the following year the economy stagnated. The low gold
price led to stock market price and currency
depreciation, rand. The mining industry laid off a large
number of workers. From 1999 the economy grew again, but
the figures were lower than expected by the government
to finance the ambitious social and economic goals.
Growth policy initially led to falling inflation and
financial stability, but could not create the amount of
new jobs promised.
The attempts to privatize telecommunications,
electricity and water supply, railways, aviation and
other governmental activities were problematic and met
with protests. The government was forced to proceed
cautiously and carry out sales gradually. The trade
union organization Cosatu led protest strikes against
privatization and cuts in the public sector.
The high unemployment forced many into the informal
sector, which grew sharply following the economic
liberalization. The government had to strike a difficult
balance between the demands of the trade union and the
Abbreviationfinder.org: Check this abbreviation website to find three letter ISO codes for all countries in the world, including ZA which represents the country of South Africa.
The economic downturn in the world economy caused
South Africa to recession at the end of 2008. The
downturn lasted until the third quarter of 2009, when
the economy turned up again.
During the 2010s, the economy was characterized by the
country's structural problems. Corruption is widening at
the same time as industrial productivity remains low.
Uncertainties surrounding the political development in
the country, where political voices were raised for
nationalization of the mining industry, have delayed
2012 saw extensive strikes in the mining industry and
they spread to other parts of society. Several credit
rating agencies lowered the country's credit rating,
citing politicians' inability to address the social
problems in society. The rand fell in value against
other currencies and foreign direct investment declined.
Inflation soared in 2014 to over six percent, but was
subdued in 2015 to 4.5 percent. The economic growth rate
has fallen sharply and was down 1.5 percent in 2014.
While agriculture, mines and industry have stagnated,
tourism is showing increasing numbers. Ten percent of
all jobs are now in tourism, which accounts for about 9
percent of GDP.
The great challenge of the ANC government is to fight
mass poverty and unemployment while at the same time
making business more efficient in order to attract new
investors. A new trend, however, is that foreign
companies are increasingly choosing South Africa as a
springboard to the rest of Africa. Instead, it is
becoming more common for them to establish themselves
directly in other African countries where growth is
higher. Factors that speak to South Africa's
disadvantage are political instability, anti-alien riots
and aggravated bureaucracy in connection with racial
quotas and legislated positive special treatment of
blacks (see Labor Market).
FACTS - FINANCE
GDP per person
US $ 6,374 (2018)
US $ 368 288 M (2018)
0.8 percent (2018)
Agriculture's share of GDP
2.2 percent (2018)
Manufacturing industry's share of GDP
11.8 percent (2018)
The service sector's share of GDP
61.0 percent (2018)
4.4 percent (2019)
Government debt's share of GDP
56.7 percent (2018)
US $ 176,335 million (2017)
US $ 94,048 million (2018)
US $ 92 360 million (2018)
- US $ 13,381 million (2018)
Commodity trade's share of GDP
56 percent (2018)
Main export goods
minerals, metals, vehicles, machinery, food (2009)
Largest trading partner
China, USA, Germany and Japan (2009)