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South Africa

Dutch traders landed at the southern tip of modern day South Africa in 1652 and established a stopover point on the spice route between the Netherlands and the Far East, founding the city of Cape Town.

After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (Afrikaners, called “Boers” (farmers) by the British) trekked north to found their own republics in lands taken from the indigenous black inhabitants. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants.

The Afrikaners resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Second South African War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, ruled together beginning in 1910 under the Union of South Africa, which became a republic in 1961 after a whites-only referendum. In 1948, the Afrikaner-dominated National Party was voted into power and instituted a policy of apartheid – the separate development of the races – which favored the white minority at the expense of the black majority.

The African National Congress (ANC) led the opposition to apartheid and many top ANC leaders, such as Nelson MANDELA, spent decades in South Africa’s prisons. Internal protests and insurgency, as well as boycotts by some Western nations and institutions, led to the regime’s eventual willingness to negotiate a peaceful transition to majority rule. The first multi-racial elections in 1994 following the end of apartheid ushered in majority rule under an ANC-led government. South Africa since then has struggled to address apartheid-era imbalances in decent housing, education, and health care.

ANC infighting came to a head in 2008 when President Thabo MBEKI was recalled by Parliament, and Deputy President Kgalema MOTLANTHE, succeeded him as interim president. Jacob ZUMA became president after the ANC won general elections in 2009; he was reelected in 2014.

South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, and a stock exchange that is Africa’s largest and among the top 20 in the world. Even though the country’s modern infrastructure supports a relatively efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region, unstable electricity supplies retard growth.

The global financial crisis reduced commodity prices and world demand, and GDP fell nearly 2% in 2009 but has recovered since then, albeit slowly, with 2014 growth less than 2%. Unemployment, poverty, and inequality – among the highest in the world – remain a challenge. Official unemployment is roughly 25% of the work force, and runs significantly higher among black youth. Eskom, the state-run power company, has built two new power stations and installed new power demand management programs to improve power grid reliability. Load shedding and resulting rolling blackouts gripped many parts of South Africa in late 2014 because of electricity supply constraints that resulted from technical problems at some generation units, unavoidable planned maintenance, and an accident at a power station in Mpumalanga province. The rolling black outs were the worst the country faced since 2008. Construction delays at two additional plants, however, mean South Africa will continue to operate on a razor thin margin; economists judge that growth cannot exceed 3% until those plants come on line.

South Africa’s economic policy has focused on controlling inflation, however, the country faces structural constraints that also limit economic growth, such as skills shortages, declining global competitiveness and frequent work stoppages. The current government faces growing pressure from special interest groups to use state-owned enterprises to deliver basic services to low-income areas and to increase job growth.

South Africa GDP (purchasing power parity):
$683.1 billion (2014 est.)
$673.7 billion (2013 est.)
$661.2 billion (2012 est.)
note: data are in 2014 US dollars
country comparison to the world: 31

South Africa GDP (official exchange rate):
$341.2 billion (2014 est.)

South Africa GDP – real growth rate:
1.4% (2014 est.)
1.9% (2013 est.)
2.5% (2012 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 167

South Africa GDP – per capita (PPP):
$12,700 (2014 est.)
$12,700 (2013 est.)
$12,600 (2012 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars
country comparison to the world: 115

South Africa Gross national saving:
13.6% of GDP (2014 est.)
13.5% of GDP (2013 est.)
14.2% of GDP (2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 124

South Africa GDP – composition, by end use:
household consumption: 61.9%
government consumption: 22.8%
investment in fixed capital: 21.7%
investment in inventories: -0.3%
exports of goods and services: 34%
imports of goods and services: -40.1%
(2014 est.)

South Africa GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 2.4%
industry: 28.5%
services: 69.1%
(2014 est.)

South Africa Agriculture – products:
corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool, dairy products

South Africa Industries:
mining (world’s largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair

South Africa Industrial production growth rate:
2% (2014 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 128

South Africa Labor force:
20.23 million (2014 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 31

South Africa Labor force – by occupation:
agriculture: 9%
industry: 26%
services: 65% (2007 est.)

South Africa Unemployment rate:
25% (2014 est.)
24.7% (2013 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 173

South Africa Population below poverty line:
31.3% (2009 est.)

South Africa Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1.2%
highest 10%: 51.7% (2009 est.)

South Africa Distribution of family income – Gini index:
63.1 (2005)
59.3 (1994)
country comparison to the world: 2

South Africa Budget:
revenues: $87.1 billion
expenditures: $102.2 billion (2014 est.)

South Africa Taxes and other revenues:
25.5% of GDP (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 115

South Africa Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
-4.4% of GDP (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 151

South Africa Public debt:
47.3% of GDP (2014 est.)
46.1% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 76

South Africa Fiscal year:
1 April – 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
6% (2014 est.)
5.8% (2013 est.)

Central bank discount rate:
5% (31 December 2012)
7% (31 December 2009)
* country comparison to the world: 74

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
9.1% (31 December 2014 est.)
8.5% (31 December 2013 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 95

Stock of narrow money:
$112.2 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$108 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 39

Stock of broad money:
$204.1 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$195.6 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 40

Stock of domestic credit:
$256.1 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$246.9 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 39

Market value of publicly traded shares:
$1.038 trillion (31 December 2012)
$855.7 billion (31 December 2011)
$1.013 trillion (31 December 2010)
* country comparison to the world: 15

Current account balance:
-$17.56 billion (2014 est.)
-$20.45 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 182

Exports:
$97.9 billion (2014 est.)
$95.15 billion (2013 est.)
* country comparison to the world: 40

Exports – partners:
China 32%, US 6.5%, Japan 5%, India 4.7% (2013)

Exports – commodities:
gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment

Imports:
$102.2 billion (2014 est.)
$102.8 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 34

Imports – commodities:
machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments, foodstuffs

Imports – partners:
China 16.2%, Germany 9.4%, Saudi Arabia 8%, US 7%, India 4.8% (2013)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$50.55 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$49.69 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 39

Debt – external:
$143 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$142.2 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 41

Stock of direct foreign investment – at home:
$177.5 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$171.6 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31

Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad:
$122.9 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$117.3 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 29

Exchange rates:
rand (ZAR) per US dollar –
10.79 (2014 est.)
9.6442 (2013 est.)
8.2 (2012 est.)
7.2597 (2011 est.)
7.3212 (2010 est.)

Location:
Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa

Geographic coordinates:
29 00 S, 24 00 E

Map references:
Africa

Area:
total: 1,219,090 sq km
land: 1,214,470 sq km
water: 4,620 sq km
note: includes Prince Edward Islands (Marion Island and Prince Edward Island)
* country comparison to the world: 25

Area – comparative:
slightly less than twice the size of Texas

Land boundaries:
total: 5,244 km
border countries (6): Botswana 1,969 km, Lesotho 1,106 km, Mozambique 496 km, Namibia 1,005 km, Swaziland 438 km, Zimbabwe 230 km

Coastline:
2,798 km

Maritime claims:
territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to edge of the continental margin

Climate:
mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights

Terrain:
vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Njesuthi 3,408 m

Natural resources:
gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, rare earth elements, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas

Land use:
arable land: 9.89%
permanent crops: 0.34%
other: 89.77% (2012 est.)

Irrigated land:
16,700 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources:
51.4 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 12.5 cu km/yr (36%/7%/57%)
per capita: 271.7 cu m/yr (2005)

Natural hazards:
prolonged droughts
volcanism: the volcano forming Marion Island in the Prince Edward Islands, which last erupted in 2004, is South Africa’s only active volcano

Environment – current issues:
lack of important arterial rivers or lakes requires extensive water conservation and control measures; growth in water usage outpacing supply; pollution of rivers from agricultural runoff and urban discharge; air pollution resulting in acid rain; soil erosion; desertification

Environment – international agreements:
party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography – note:
South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland

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Ms. Noluzuko GwayiSenior Policy Advisorngwayi@environment.gov.za+27 12 310 3393
Ms Nolwazi CobbinahChief Directorncobbinah@environment.gov.za+27 12 310 3388
Dr. Alufelwi TshavhungweDeputy DirectorAlufelwi.Tshavhungwe@dst.gov.za+12 843 6433
Ms Elise HaberDepartment : (IRC)habere@foreign.gov.za+27 12 351 1000
Mr Cornelius ScholtzAssistant Directorscholtz@foreign.gov.za+27 12 351 100
Ms Elsabe SteynTechnic al Infrastructureestyn@thedti.gov.za+27 12 394 1362
Ms August HoonAssistant Directorahoon@pgwc.gov.za+27 21 483 2712
Mr. Donovan MitchellDepartment of Trade and Industrydmitchell@itac.org.za+27 12 394 3663
Mr Ramsook LoykisoonDeputy DirectorLoykiR@health.gov.za+27 12 312 3256
Ms Chantal WilliamsDepartment of Environmental Affairs ewilliams@pgwc.gov.za+27 21 483 2973
Mr. Nkoane MadumiseEnvironmental Officer Controlnmadumise@environment.gov.za +27 12 399 9801