Key Facts: South Africa

by World Grain Staff
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Capital: Pretoria (administrative capital)

Population: 49,052,489 (July 2009 est.)

Religions: Zion Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal/Charismatic 8.2%, Catholic 7.1%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%, Muslim 1.5%, other Christian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1% (2001 census).

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

Government: Republic. Chief of state and head of government: President Jacob Zuma (since May 9, 2009).

Economy: South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources. It has well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, a stock exchange that is 17th largest in the world, and modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. Growth was robust from 2004 to 2008 as South Africa reaped the benefits of macroeconomic stability and a global commodities boom. But the South African economy began to slow in the second half of 2008 due to the global financial crisis’ impact on commodity prices and demand. Unemployment remains high, and outdated infrastructure has constrained growth. At the end of 2007, South Africa began to experience an electricity crisis because state power supplier Eskom suffered supply problems with aged plants, necessitating "load-shedding" cuts to residents and businesses in the major cities. Daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era - especially poverty, lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups, and a shortage of public transportation. South African economic policy is fiscally conservative but pragmatic, focusing on controlling inflation, maintaining a budget surplus and using state-owned enterprises to deliver basic services to low-income areas as a means to increase job growth and household income.

GDP per capita: $10,000 (2008 est.); Inflation: 11.3% (2008 est.); unemployment 21.7% (2008 est.)

Currency: Rand (ZAR). 8.43 rands equal 1 U.S. dollar (May 19, 2009),

Exports: $81.47 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.): gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment.

Imports: $87.3 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.): machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments, foodstuffs.

Major crops/agricultural products: Corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool, dairy products.

Agriculture: 3.4% of GDP and 9% of the labor force

Internet: Code. .za; 1.297 million (2008) hosts and 5.1 million (2005) users