The Republic of South Africa: Economic Contexts

[Note: This information derives primarily from the 1995 edition of the CIA World Factbook.]

Overview: Many of the white one-seventh of the South African population enjoy incomes, material comforts, and health and educational standards equal to those of Western Europe. In contrast, most of the remaining population suffers from the poverty patterns of the Third World, including unemployment and lack of job skills. The main strength of the economy lies in its rich mineral resources, which provide two-thirds of exports. Economic developments for the remainder of the 1990s will be driven largely by the new government's attempts to improve black living conditions, to set the country on an aggressive export-led growth path, and to cut back the enormous numbers of unemployed. The economy in recent years has absorbed less than 5% of the more than 300,000 workers entering the labor force annually. Local economists estimate that the economy must grow between 5% and 6% in real terms annually to absorb all of the new entrants, much less reduce the accumulated total.

National product: GDP - purchasing power parity - $194.3 billion (1994 est.)

National product real growth rate: 2% (1994 est.)

National product per capita: $4,420 (1994 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 9% (1994 est.)

Unemployment rate: 32.6% (1994 est.); an additional 11% underemployment

revenues: $26.3 billion
expenditures: $34 billion, including capital expenditures of $2.5 billion (FY93/94 est.)

Exports: $25.3 billion (f.o.b., 1994)
commodities: gold 27%, other minerals and metals 20%-25%, food 5%, chemicals 3%
partners: Italy, Japan, US, Germany, UK, other EU countries, Hong Kong

Imports: $21.4 billion (f.o.b., 1994)
commodities: machinery 32%, transport equipment 15%, chemicals 11%, oil, textiles, scientific instruments
partners: Germany, US, Japan, UK, Italy

External debt: $18 billion (1994 est.)

Industrial production: growth rate NA%; accounts for about 40% of GDP

capacity: 39,750,000 kW
production: 163 billion kWh
consumption per capita: 3,482 kWh (1993)

Industries: mining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textile, iron and steel, chemical, fertilizer, foodstuffs

Agriculture: accounts for about 5% of GDP and 30% of labor force; diversified agriculture, with emphasis on livestock; products - cattle, poultry, sheep, wool, milk, beef, corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; self-sufficient in food

Illicit drugs: transshipment center for heroin and cocaine; cocaine consumption on the rise; world's largest market for illicit methaqualone, usually imported illegally from India through various east African countries

Economic aid: many aid packages for the new government are still being prepared; current aid pledges include US $600 million over 3 years; UK $150 million over 3 years; Australia $21 million over 3 years; Japan $1.3 billion over 2 years

Currency: 1 rand (R) = 100 cents

Exchange rates: rand (R) per US$1 - 3.5389 (January 1995), 3.5490 (1994), 3.2636 (1993), 2.8497 (1992), 2.7563 (1991), 2.5863 (1990)

Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March


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