Nelson Mandela leaves behind a country in better economic shape than it was under white minority rule, but there are storm clouds on the horizon.
The five years between 1994-99 that Mandela, known as Madiba, led South Africa were characterized by strong growth from a very low base. The South African economy under apartheid had struggled under international trade sanctions.
(Read more: Nelson Mandela: A man and a country)
"Coming into 1994, there was a huge fear about how we were going to transition an economy that had disregarded 84 percent of its population. Madiba was very good at strengthening trade post-sanctions," Gina Schoeman, an economist for Citi based in Johannesburg, told CNBC.
"This allowed us to repair trade relations, particularly with the US and Europe. The softer quality that he brought through his ability to reconcile and communicate really helped."
One of the key reasons South Africa joined the BRICS group of the world's most important emerging market economies was the institutions put in place post-apartheid by Mandela's government, and its resistance to nationalization policies like those of neighboring Zimbabwe.
(Read more: World mourns Nelson Mandela)