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South Africa

Basic Information

Area: 1 221 037 km²

Calling code: +27

Population: 47 900 000

Official Language: 11

Time zone: SAST (UTC+2), Local time: 15:26


The Republic of South Africa is a located on the southern tip of the African continent. The country borders Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe to the north, Mozambique and Swaziland to the east and completely surrounds Lesotho.

According to the CIA Factbook, South Africa covers a total area of 1,219,090 square kilometres and is the 25th largest country in the world. Estimates in 2010 put the population at 49,052,489 with a density of 77/km2 ranking it 115th versus other countries across the globe.

South Africans speak a diverse number of official languages that include Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.

After a tumultuous political history, South Africa today enjoys a constitutional democracy in the form of a parliamentary republic. The system of government consists of a National Parliament made up of two chambers, the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces. South Africa is divided into nine distinct provinces and has three capital cities, one for each branch of the government; Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (administrative) and Bloemfontein (judicial).

The African National Congress (ANC) first came to rule in 1994 and has remained in power ever since, led currently by President Jacob Zuma.

The currency of South Africa is the South African Rand (ZAR).

South Africa participates in a number of international organisations including The United Nations, WTO, IMF and G20.


The CIA estimated South Africa’s GDP in 2009 at $287.2 billion and a GDP (PPP) $505.3 billion, ranking it 26th in comparison to the rest of the world. 65% of national GDP comes from the services sector, 26% industry and the remaining 9% from agriculture.

South Africa is classified as a middle income emerging market that enjoys an abundance of natural resources. As Africa’s largest stable economy it also boasts well developed financial, legal, communications and energy sectors. Much of South Africa’s wealth has come from the country’s mining industry, tapping into a treasure trove of resource that includes 90% of the world’s platinum, 41% of the world’s gold and vast numbers of diamonds. Large quantities of coal and a variety of base metals such as Manganese, titanium and chrome and also produced.

The country’s other main industries include automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs and commercial ship repair.

South Africa’s thriving agricultural sector produces an array of goods including corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables, beef, poultry, mutton, wool and dairy products.

Main commodities include gold, diamonds, platinum, minerals, machinery and equipment and are exported primarily to China 10%, USA 9%, Japan 8% and Germany 7%.

South Africa also imports a number of products, primarily machine equipment, chemicals and petroleum products with 17% coming from China, 11% Germany, USA 7%, Saudi Arabia 5% and Japan 5%.


South Africa enjoys a highly developed infrastructure that features a modern transportation system, advanced communications and wide spread electricity.

In terms of transport, the country is connected by a network of well maintained roads and highways that stretch over 362,099 kilometres. 73,506 kilometres of the roads are paved and include 239 kilometres of expressways.

South Africa’s railways run for an incredible 20,872 kilometres and rank as the 10th longest in the world. Regarded as the most sophisticated in Africa, the extensive networks link up with those in the sub Saharan region. South Africa’s state owned Transnet Freight Rail is the largest freight company, transporting a massive 180 million tonnes of cargo each year.

South Africa is also in the process of completing its Gautrain rapid rail link that will connect Johannesburg International Airport with Johannesburg and Pretoria. Once completed, the link will transport an estimated 130,000 passengers per day.

South Africa has a total of 147 airports with paved runways and of these the most important are the three main international airports in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport is the country’s largest and one of the busiest in Africa, operating flights to and from major cities all over the world. The airport moves an estimated 17 million passengers and 300,000 tonnes of cargo each year.


The CIA Factbook in 2009 estimated South Africa’s labour force at 17.38 million. 65% of the labour force work in services sector, 31% work in the industrial sector which is dominated by the mining industry, but also includes iron, steel, chemicals and machinery. The remaining 9% work in agriculture producing vegetables, grain, fruit, dairy products and meats.

The labour force is predominantly Black African with smaller proportions of White, Coloured, Indian and Asian people. Around 24% speak Zulu as their main language, 17% Xhosa, 13% Afrikaans, 9% Sepedi, 8% English and the remainder a mixture of Sesotho and Xitsonga.

Education is compulsory for all South African Children aged 7–15 years, and the country has over 26,000 primary and secondary schools. All students have to pass a matriculation test in grade 12 to be able to successfully graduate from high school and enter further studies. Government focus on education has led to a steady improvement of pass rates over the past decade. Most recent estimates put the adult literacy rate at 88%. South Africa has eleven universities, the highest ranking of which is the University of Cape Town.

The CIA Factbook estimated unemployment levels in 2009 to be at 24%.

Business Costs

South Africa’s personal income tax rates are based on a progressive income scale currently set between 18%-42%.

Corporate profits are subject to a set basic rate of 28% with an additional 10% secondary tax (STC) payable on net dividends. To encourage small businesses and start ups, the government introduced 0% corporate tax on income up to R 54,200, 10% on the amount up to R 300,000.

The standard rate of VAT is set at 14%, although sectors such as exports, certain foodstuffs and other supplies are exempt.

South Africa has no country wide minimum wage, but there are guidelines in place to protect workers in a variety of sectors including cleaning, farming, hospitality, retail, engineering and forestry.

According to Cushman & Wakefield research, South Africa’s office rental rates are highly competitive versus other world locations, with Sandton CBD offering an average cost of $23.32 per square ft per year.
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