International Investing: South Africa

Economic Overview: South Africa is a middle-income emerging market. Natural resources are abundant; the financial, legal, communications, energy and transportation sectors are well developed; and infrastructure is modern and efficient. The stock exchange is among the ten largest in the world.

Growth, however, has not been strong enough to lower a high unemployment rate or solve the other significant economic problems that remain from the time of racial separation. Economic policy is focused on controlling inflation and liberalizing trade.

South Africa is attempting to play a moderating role between the European Union and Zimbabwe. UK prime minister Gordon Brown and other leaders intend to boycott a December economic summit in Lisbon that Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe plans to attend. It would be the first gathering of European and African leaders in seven years.

What to Watch: Over the past 15 years, more and more businesses have been moving out of Johannesburg's Central Business District to safer suburbs north of the city. But government is now making a concerted effort to reverse this.

The signs of economic transformation in Africa's most economically active city are everywhere. Inner city regeneration is well on its way with a number of projects on the go to change the face of the CBD.

In the heart of Johannesburg lies the 173-meter-tall Ponte Tower, the tallest residential building in the southern hemisphere. The tower became a haven for drug dealers and prostitutes over the years, but new developers promise they will have the legendary building back to its original glory by 2010.

"We looked through the dirt and we will bring it back to what it used to be," said Nour Addine Ayyoub, managing director of Investagain. "In the '70s it was the place to be. This was the home of many VIPs."

The South African government plans to spend $100 million in upgrading the Johannesburg CBD. And if these investors succeed in changing the Ponte Tower, with all its complexities and social ills, then the whole city stands a chance in becoming what it aspires -- a world class African city.

South Africa

Population 44.0 million 47.4 million
GNI Atlas method (current US$) 134.4 billion 255.3 billion
GNI per capita Atlas method (current US$) 3 050.0 5 390.0
GDP (current US$) 132.9 billion 255.0 billion
GDP growth (annual %) 4.2 5.0
Inflation GDP deflator (annual%) 8.8 6.8
Agriculture value added (% of GDP) 3.3 2.5
Industry value added (% of GDP) 31.8 30.5
Services etc. value added (% of GDP) 64.9 67.0
Exports of goods and services (% of GDP) 27.9 29.1
Imports of goods and services (% of GDP) 24.9 33.0
Gross capital formation (% of GDP) 15.9 20.1
Revenue excluding grants (% of GDP) 26.3 N/A
Cash surplus/deficit (% of GDP) -2.0 N/A
States and Markets
Time required to start a business (days) N/A 35.0
Market capitalization of listed companies (% of GDP) 154.2 280.4
Military expenditure (% of GDP) 1.4 N/A
Fixed line and mobile phone subscribers (per 1 000 people) 302.3 N/A
Internet users (per 1 000 people) 54.5 N/A
Roads paved (% of total roads) 20.3 N/A
High-technology exports (% of manufactured exports) 7.0 N/A
Global Links
Merchandise trade (% of GDP) 44.9 53.2
Net barter terms of trade (2000 = 100) 100.0 N/A
Foreign direct investment net inflows (BoP current US$) 968.8 million N/A
Long-term debt (DOD current US$) 15.3 billion N/A
Total debt service (% of exports of goods services and income) 9.8 N/A
Official development assistance and offical aid (current US$) 487.3 million N/A
Workers' remittances and compensation of employees received (US$) 344.0 million 735.0 million
Source: World Development Indicators database, April 2007