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South Africa is one of the world’s few countries to split the role of capital between 3 cities. The official capital, Pretoria, enjoys a population of 1 million. Cape Town serves as the legislative capital with a population of 2.9 million whilst the judiciary is based in the smaller Bloemfontain with only 370,000 residents. The largest city, though, by far is Jonnasburg with 3.2 million people. The country’s total population is 49 million. It is a parliamentary democracy with powers split between President and Parliament. The present President is Jacob Zuma.
South Africa had a GDP of USD 578.6 billion as of 2012 and a growth rate of 2.6% – a figure lower that during 1993-2007 when the economy grew for 62 consecutive quarters at a level of around 5% on average. It was hit badly by the crisis of 2008-2009, with growth slowing to around 3%. However, it is still regarded as one of the world’s most important emerging economies, and in 2011, it joined Russia, Brazil, China, and India to become known as the BRIC economies of emerging nations. It has an inflation rate of around 5%, but its unemployment rate is extremely high – around 25%. The government has poured a lot of money in infrastructure, and this combined with the sound legal framework makes it a trusted country for investment. Its top export partners are China, the USA, Japan, Germany and the UK, whilst it imports from the USA, China, Germany, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia, and the UK.
The country has a widely spread industrial base with income generated as follows: agriculture – 2.2%, mining – 10%, manufacturing – around 12.5 %, electricity and water – nearly 2.5%, construction – just under 4%, wholesale retail and motor trade – just over 16%, transport storage and communications – 9%, finance real estate and business services – over 21%, government services – 6.7%, and personal services – close to 6%.
South Africa is deemed to have the world’s 5th largest mining reserves valued at some USD 2.5 trillion. It has a long history of mineral and metal extraction. Deposits include: platinum, manganese, chromite ore, gold, diamonds, and vanadium.
Gold accounts for one third of the country's exports. The country is also the fourth largest diamond producer in the world. The mining sector generates half of the nation’s foreign exchange. Companies like Exxaro, De Beers, and Anglo American Corporation are recognised as having world class technical expertise. 42% of companies quoted on the Johannesburg stock exchange are mining related. The government is trying to develop downstream industries which add value to the raw material rather than just exporting the raw product. The industry has been suffering recently from a range of industrial relations problems with strikes hitting the gold fields.
Multinationals from all over the world use South Africa to create components and assemble vehicles because of its low production costs and access to new markets. Companies with manufacturing bases in the Republic comprise BMW, GM, Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes Benz, Renault, and Volkswagen.
The sector contributes 6% of GDP and 12% of manufacturing exports. 28,000 people are employed directly in the industry, with 61,000 being engaged in component construction. It is based in the Eastern Cape and Gauteng. The Government implemented a plan – "Automotive Development and Production Plan" – aimed to expand production to 1.2 million vehicles by 2020.
Tourism is recognised by the government as a key industrial sector. The wonderful natural resources of the country have been enhanced by strategic think as to how they can be used to build the economy. In 2009, it contributed 7.9% to GDP, and it currently supports one in twelve jobs in the economy. The sector was given a tremendous boost in 2010 when the country staged the football World Cup and attracted 8.1 million visitors. This grew to 8.3 million in 2011. No fragment of the tourism market has been neglected. Business tourism has been an expanding area with the country having over 1000 conference and exhibition centers. However, the country also promotes eco tourism, paleo tourism and sports and adventure tourism.
Electronics together with transport and storage account for 10% of GDP. It is one of the swiftest growing areas of the economy mainly based around mobile telephony. Its telephone network is 99.9% digital which is the most developed in Africa. It is a world leader in prepayment and fraud prevention systems. Multinational companies with subsidiaries in South Africa include: IBM, Unisys, Microsoft, Intel, Dell, and Compaq.
In conclusion, most research reports see South Africa as an expanding economy with growth in a variety of sectors. It is moving away from reliance on mineral wealth by using the income produced from these industries to diversify its economic base. Multinational companies have not been slow to recognise it as a sound centre from which to develop the expanding African market for a range of products.