South Africa flag South Africa: Economic outline

Economic Outline

Economic Indicators

South Africa has a highly developed economy and advanced economic infrastructure, making the country the leading African economy (with Nigeria) and home to around three-quarters of the largest African companies. The national government has been investing in significant policy improvements to restore macroeconomic stability in the country. Even though the government stated that boosting economic growth, cutting unemployment and avoiding downgrades by credit-rating agencies constituted the economic key priorities, South Africa still faces rising public debt, inefficient state-owned enterprises, and spending pressures, which have reduced the country’s global competitiveness. After growing by 1.9% in 2022, GDP expanded by 0.4% and 0.6% in the initial two quarters of 2023, fueled by investments in infrastructure, machinery, and equipment. However, household consumption experienced its first contraction since 2021 in the second quarter of 2023. For the year as a whole, the IMF estimated growth at 0.9%, also due to persistent energy crisis stemming from mismanagement at the state-owned power utility Eskom, which had a severe impact on electricity-intensive sectors such as mining, paper, metals, and retail. Despite efforts to tackle the crisis, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a "state of national disaster" in February 2023. The IMF expects GDP to grow by 1.8% this year and 1.6% in 2025, with investment as the main driver, while private consumption should remain subdued.


South Africa was recently replaced by Nigeria as Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy, but the country continues to be a regional leader. Concerning public finances, during the first half of 2023, tax revenue collection experienced a notable decline, and the public sector wage settlement exceeded budgeted amounts. Consequently, the fiscal deficit deteriorated significantly to -6.2% of GDP, marking a reversal after two years of fiscal consolidation. Projections indicate that the fiscal balance will stabilize in 2024 and 2025 as the fiscal stance reverts to contractionary measures. The debt-to-GDP ratio continued to increase in 2023 (to 73.7% from 71.1% one year earlier), together with debt servicing costs, and should reach 78.8% by 2025 (IMF). Moreover, the combined gross consolidated public debt, including both non-financial and financial corporations, stands at nearly 120% of GDP (Coface), and providing direct support to struggling state-owned enterprises could potentially exacerbate the existing debt burden. The yearly average inflation rate settled at 6% in 2023, remaining relatively high during January–May, consistently surpassing 6% in the headline rate; before moderating below this threshold for the subsequent seven months of the year (official governmental data). The IMF sees inflation declining to around 4.5% over the forecast horizon.

South Africa’s unemployment rate is still high, but continued on its downward path in 2023: as of the third quarter, the country’s official unemployment rate dipped below 32% for the first time since the third quarter of 2020 (Statistics SA). Furthermore, unemployment rates are much higher among the young population and the black majority of South Africans, further increasing inequality in a country considered one of the most unequal in the world: according to the latest data available from the World Bank, around 55.5% of the population lives below the national upper poverty line. The IMF estimated the average GDP per capita (PPP) at USD 16,211 in 2023.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 405.11380.91401.47417.95432.50
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 1.90.91.81.61.4
GDP per Capita (USD) 6,6846,1916,4276,5906,717
General Government Balance (in % of GDP) -5.7-6.2-6.3-6.3-6.4
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 71.173.775.878.881.6
Inflation Rate (%) n/a5.84.84.54.5
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force) 33.532.832.832.933.2
Current Account (billions USD) -1.83-9.53-11.14-9.93-9.80
Current Account (in % of GDP) -0.5-2.5-2.8-2.4-2.3

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database, 2016

Note: (e) Estimated Data

 
Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
American Dollar (USD) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 ZAR 0.070.080.080.070.06

Source: World Bank, 2015

 

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Latest Update: April 2024