Trade Union Forum


General overview

South Africa is the most economically developed country in Africa. In terms of GDP, it ranks 36th in the world. The nominal GDP is 351,000,000,000 USD. According to the International Monetary Fund, in 2020 South Africa’s GDP per capita was 6000 USD. The currency of the country is the South African rand or just rand (R, ZAR). According to the State Bureau of Statistics (Stats SA), the inflation rate in 2020 was 3.3%, which is a record low for the last 16 years.

The Government created Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to successfully achieve different goals in the country's economic development. In addition, for the successful operation of the SEZ, the government of South Africa introduced special tariffs: reduced corporate tax (15% instead of 28%), refund of the import duty paid, zero VAT for imported raw materials. The government also creates necessary infrastructure for SEZ. According to the data of the Trade Mission of the Russian Federation in South Africa, now (2021) there are 9 SEZs in the country:

  • Atlantis, Cape Town, promotes green technology for industries.
  • Nkomazi, 65 km away from Mbombela (Nelspruit), was established for trade with Mozambique and Eswatini;
  • Coega industrial development zone, Port Elizabeth City, is the first and the largest SEZ in the country. The modern port of South Africa is located here. SEZ is oriented to mechanical engineering, metal processing, processing of agricultural products, aquaculture, development of renewable energy sources, and formation of a large warehouse complex;
  • Richards Bay industrial development zone, Richards Bay City, is a large port processing and exporting mountain products;
  • East London industrial development zone, East London City, has developed automotive industry (cars and components) and enterprises, food production facilities, warehouses;
  • Saldanha Bay industrial development zone, Saldanha Bay City, accepts and transports oil, petroleum, and liquefied gas, maintains marine vessels;
  • Maluti-A-Phofung SEZ, Harrismith. Acceptance and transportation of agricultural production;
  • OR Tambo SEZ, Johannesburg, exports precious metals and goods thereof, aimed at development of high-tech industries;
  • Musina/ Makhado SEZ, Limpopo. Light industry, processing of agricultural products and minerals.
  • Dube TradePort, Durban. According to the South African SEZ Act No. 16 of 2014, Dube TradePort is also considered a SEZ. One of the largest logistics hubs in the country. It is actively used for the export of fruit and vegetable products from South Africa. Production of vehicles, electronics, and food.

Economic branches

The dominating sector in the South African economy is services. It accounts for nearly 65% of GDP. Tourism and telecommunications are very well developed. In addition, various financial and accounting services, as well as business services, are widely distributed in the country.

Industry accounts for about 26% of the country's GDP. Mining is the main industry in South Africa. In general, more than 40 types of minerals are mined in South Africa, with copper, gold, coal, manganese, and iron ores being the most popular ones. Such industries as metalwork, mechanical engineering, chemical, light, and food industries, as well as ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgy and woodworking, are also well developed. The automotive industry is very popular. According to a report from the State Bureau of Statistics, South Africa ranks 22nd in the world and first in Africa in terms of car production.

Agriculture accounts for only about 9% of GDP. This is because half of the entire county's territory is not suitable for farming. Another reason was apartheid. During this period, the white population of South Africa privately used 75% of fertile land. At the same time, South Africa is almost completely self-sufficient in terms of agricultural products. Farming and animal breeding mainly represent agriculture. The most prominent examples of South Africa’s crops are sugar cane, cereals (corn, wheat, barley, and oats), legumes, tobacco, and fruit.

Export and import

The main exported goods are natural and cultured pearl, precious and semi-precious gemstones, metals, jewelry, ores, ash, mineral fuels, oil and petroleum products, some types of vehicles, ferrous metals, nuclear reactors and piles, fruit, nuts, aluminum, and production thereof.

Major export partners are China 11.4% (9,790,000,000 USD), the United States 8.36% (7,130,000,000 USD), Germany 7.5% (6,390,000,000 USD), the United Kingdom 4.97% (4,340,000,000 USD), Japan 4.45% (3,790,000,000 USD), the Netherlands 3.88% (3,300,000,000 USD) and Botswana 3.84% (3,270,000,000 USD).

Total country's export in 2020 amounted to 85,000,000,000 USD.

The main imported goods are medicine and pharmaceuticals, computers and their components, parts, and accessories of motor vehicles, cars, digital recording cameras, sound recording equipment, crude oil, and petroleum products.

Major import partners are China 20% (14,300,000,000 USD), Germany 9.12% (6,290,000,000 USD), US 6.43% (4,430,000,000 USD), India 5.19% (3,580,000,000 USD), Saudi Arabia 3.89% (2,680,000,000 USD), Nigeria 3.13% (2,160,000,000 USD) and Thailand 3.1% (2,140,000,000 USD).

Total country's import in 2020 amounted to 68,000,000,000 USD.

Labor force

According to the UN data (11 May 2021), the active population of South Africa consists of 39,000,000 people or 65.8% of the total population. Out of the active population, 57% has an official paid job. In February 2021, the unemployment rate in South Africa was 32.5%. Due to the legacy of apartheid, the black population represents the majority of the unemployed.

As of 2020, the average salary per month was 21,996 ZAR (1,240 USD) pretax. In November 2018, the President of South Africa signed a law that fixes the minimum wage, i.e. twenty rands (1.46 USD) per hour and 3,500 rands (256.86 USD) per month. At the same time, the rate for agricultural workers is eighteen rands (1.32 USD) per hour.