SA Fast Facts

PMI Improves

The S&P Global South Africa Purchasing Managers’ IndexTM (PMI®) rose to a 14-month high of 52.7 in July, up slightly from 52.5 in June, to signal a solid improvement in the health of the private sector economy. Business conditions have now strengthened for seven consecutive months.

S.A. FAST FACTS – 2022 Update

by Steuart Pennington

Every year we update S.A Fast Facts in the following categories:
Steuart Pennington - SA Fast Facts - sa-good-news


Our major source of information is the Annual Global Competitiveness Report, the Economist Pocket Book and

In the most recent 2019 GCR Report South Africa ranks as the 60th MOST COMPETITIVE out of 140 countries, an improvement of 7 places over 2018 where we were placed 67th out of 144 countries. Source: WEF Global Competitiveness Report.

NOTE: There are 205 countries globally, but only 140 have sufficient information for data to be collected and compiled.

The Global Competitiveness report compares 12 ‘pillars’ of competitiveness using 120 measures (see Section 14)

We try an update these figures every year, unfortunately the Global Competitiveness Report and the Economist Pocket World in Figures have not been published over the past two years (COVID), is posted daily.

Many of our other sources are irregular, some only every five years.

We invite you our readers to contribute, either to correct the figures we have, or to add others that we don’t have!

1. Political

South Africa is the 24th largest country geographically, has the 25th largest population, the 33rd largest economy by GDP, the 30th largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) and ranks 19th in terms of foreign debt (Economist Pocket World 2020 – comparing 190 countries).

Military: Nuclear arsenals: There are 9 countries which are widely understood to have a stockpile of deployable nuclear weapons, they are: the USA, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The USA and Russia have comparable stockpiles, owning between them over 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons.

Election Watch: The ANC has 980 000 members in good standing. These are divided into 3 800 branches (branches with 100-249 members get one delegate to the National Elective Conference) However, in each branch, for every additional 250 members another delegate may be appointed. It is estimated that there will be 4731 delegates attending the NEC. The winning candidate needs to secure 2 800 delegate votes. (Source: Sunday Times Oct 29)

According to the Open Budget Index 2019, South Africa has the most transparent budget in the world (1st) behind New Zealand and Sweden.
South Africa is the only African country that is a member of the G20.

Economic Freedom

Economic Freedom - SA Fast Facts - sa-good-news

The 2021 Economic Freedom of the World report ranks SA at 112th. There are 87 “free” countries, 59 ‘partially free’ and 49 ‘not free’

2. Economic

Some ‘good news’ facts in amongst the bad


  1. The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases fell to zero on 17 July from 10 017 on 11 May and the peak of 37 875 on 12 December 2020.
  2. Mineral sales rose by 17,6% y/y in May to a record R89,1bn.
  3. Real retail trade sales rose by only 0,1% y/y in May after a revised 4,3% (3,4%) y/y gain in April.
  4. Nominal motor trade sales jumped by 16,0% y/y in May after a 11,4% y/y gain in April and a 20,6% increase in 2021.
  5. The number of full containers exported surged by 34,1% m/m in June.
  6. Bulk exports soared by 62,4% m/m in June after falling by 17,5% m/m in May.
  7. Tractor sales rose by 26,4% y/y in June after surging by 35,7% y/y in May
  8. International air arrivals rose by 209,4% y/y in June to 254 175.


The Role of SME’s, bigger than you think!
SMEs are the lifeblood of any economy. In SA they contribute more than 40% of total GDP and account for nearly 90% of all employment.

No Power to the People: In 2020, rolling outages in South Africa contributed to 2.3% of the decline in GDP; a loss of R75bn, and 450,000 jobs. In 2021 infrastructural uncertainty meant that the country could only produce 65% of its maximum energy generation capability; causing severe disruptions to the national power supply. This resulted in 560 hours of “load-shedding” in the first half of 2021.

Agricultural exports set to reach record levels
High global demand and elevated prices bode well for SA exports
05 September 2021 – The stage is set for another record export year for agricultural products. International demand remains high and prices for our major export products continue to be at elevated levels. The year started off on a high note when South Africa recorded an agricultural trade surplus of $1.5 billion and the second largest export earnings on record of $10.2bn in the first quarter.
Big Ticket Programmes: The total consolidated spending on South Africa’s 2021/22 budget amounts to R2 trillion each year over the medium term. The bulk of the spending is allocated to learning and culture (R402.9 billion), social development (R335.2 billion) and health (R248.8 billion) in 2021/22
Biggest Provincial Loser? South Africa has lost a total of 1.4m jobs since 2019Q4, an 8.5% decrease YoY. About 65% of those jobs losses occurred in Gauteng (528k), KwaZulu-Natal (210k), and the Western Cape (180k). Gauteng and the Eastern Cape had the worst YoY change in employment with each province losing roughly 10.5% since 2019Q4.
Occupations in Trouble; According to the 2020:Q4 Quarterly Labour Force Survey, the absolute number of people employed increased by 333k compared to Q3 (+2.3% QoQ) with “Professional” being the only occupation to shrink, -66k (-6.5% QoQ). However, year-on-year, there has been a decline in employment of -1.4m (-8.5%) with Elementary (-369k), Sales and Services (-262k), and Craft and Related Trade (-247k) as the three occupations that have had the most severe job losses.
2021 Concerns: The South African economy is expected to contract by almost 8% YoY. Real GDP growth forecasts for 2021 range from 2.3% to 3.8%. Blocks to 2021 growth include energy supply challenges, the delayed Covid-19 vaccine roll-out, and unresolved fiscal issues.
The global inflation rate is currently around 3.6%, according to the International Monetary Fund, which incidentally is exactly the same as for SA, announced recently by StatsSA

The Vacation Scale: In Brazil and France employees are entitled to 30 days of annual leave, compared to 5 in China. In the private sector in the USA employees get on average 16 days paid leave, despite not being required by law. Economist John Schmitt found that “paid vacation and holidays don’t appear to have any meaningful impact on [a country’s] macroeconomic outcomes.”
South African National Parks was formed in 1926 and currently manages 19 parks with more than 3.7m hectares, roughly 3% of the nation’s land area. The Kruger National Park takes up half (52%) of this park area. In 2016 SANParks employed about 4,000 permanent and 1,400 temporary workers, and has an annual expenditure of R1.8bn.
Debt by sector: People working in the South African agricultural sector use a higher percentage of their income to pay off debts than people working in other formal sectors. Over the last 3 years the average percentage of income they have been using to pay off debts has averaged between 60% and 70% of income.
Source: Eighty-20 Fact a Day
Government Debt as a % of GDP; SA’s debt to GDP is projected at 70% for 2021, which ranks SA at 20th globally. Japan at 226% is ranked 1st, UK at 115% is 7th, USA at 106% is 9th, Australia at 42% is 29th. SA’s debt to GDP in 2005 was 42%.
The Economist records the JSE the 19th largest Bourse globally at US$865b. NYSE # 1 at $20 679b; Japan 3rd at $5 297b; London SE 7th at $3 638b; Australia 16th at $1 236b
SA’s Services Output ranks 33rd at US$215 billion; USA 1st at $14,400b; China 2nd at $6,300b; Japan 3rd at $3,400b, UK 5th at $1,860b.
SA Agricultural output ranked at 33rd at US$21 billion, China 1st at $969b; India 2nd at $414b; ; USA 3rd at $189b.

SA Gold production ranked 7th largest at 137 tonnes; China 1st at 420; Australia 2nd at 292; Russia 3rd at 270; USA 4th at 236.
SA Platinum production ranked 1st at 143 tonnes; Russia 2nd at 21; Zimbabwe 3rd at 14.Source:Economist
Domestic inflation: In South Africa, the highest inflation rate to date was recorded in January 1986, at 20.7%. That year the average inflation rate was 18.7%. South Africa’s average inflation during the global credit crunch in 2008, was 11.5%. In June 2022, the latest official monthly inflation rate was 6%.
On the move: According to Statistics South Africa’s latest mid-year population estimates report, South Africa is estimated to receive a net immigration of 1.02 million people between 2016 and 2021. The majority of international migrants are estimated to settle in Gauteng (48%), followed by the Western Cape (12%) and Limpopo (11%), while the least will settle in the Northern Cape (1%).
Growth spurts: Harvard’s Center for International Development (CID) predicts that the three fastest growing economies until 2026 will be India, Uganda, and Egypt, growing at 7.89%, 7.46%, and 6.63% respectively. In contrast, South Africa is projected to grow at 4.9% annually until 2026, despite current projections of less than 1% growth in 2018.
Back to school: Dress code: A survey of three school uniform suppliers found that the cost of a generic school uniform (not school specific items) would cost between R300 and R863. For schools that require school specific items (branded items sold only at specific suppliers), a full uniform would cost approximately R1,600. If sportswear is required this will cost an additional R1,300 (excluding sports shoes)
Trade and Industry: Wine time: South Africa is the seventh largest wine producer in the world, producing 3.9% of the world’s wine. In 2016, South Africa produced 898.4 million litres of wine, of which two thirds was white wine and one third was red wine.
The Economist Pocket World in Figures (2020) ranks South Africa 22nd out of 190 countries in terms of Cinema Attendance with 20.9 million ‘visits’ per annum. India is # 1 with 1,950 million visits per annum followed by China with 1,700 and the USA with 1,300 million visits per annum. Iceland has the most ‘visits’ per person @ 4.3.
Elite: The Africa Wealth Report includes data on high net worth individuals (HNWIs), defined as individuals with net assets of US$1 million or more. In 2019, South Africa was home to the most HNWIs on the continent, at an estimated 40,400 individuals. This is followed by Egypt (around 18,100 HNWIs) and Nigeria (around 12,300 HNWIs).
Givers: According to the OECD, in 2015 the US contributed more than $30 billion in foreign aid, this was followed by Germany which contributed more than $20 billion and the UK which contributed just under $20 billion. However as a percentage of gross national income (GNI), Sweden was the largest foreign aid contributor (1.4% of GNI) followed by the UAE (1.1%) and Norway (1.05%).
In the Economist BIG MAC Index of 2022, a measure of the extent to which currencies are under-valued, SA ranks 3rd (most undervalued) with a 55.5% under evaluation against the US$
Ease of doing business: SA is currently ranked 82nd out of 190 countries. SA was ranked 72 among 189 countries in the 2016 World Bank’s Doing Business Report and 74 out of 190 countries in the 2017 report. 21% of employed people in South Africa are members of a trade union. For the mining and quarrying industries, the percentage is 80%, the highest of all industries.
South African Tax Revenue has increased from R100 billion in 1994 to R1,9 trillion in 2022. South Africa is ranked 19th in respect of foreign debt at 176 US $ Billion, China 1st at !710 US$ Billion
South Africa not ranked in the top 30 countries in terms of household debt as a percentage of disposable income. Denmark 1st at 281%, Australia 4th at 216%UK 11th at 148%.(Economist 2020)
South Africa’s debt to GDP ratio 2020 is 70% (USA 100%, Japan 200%, UK 90%). The World Bank recommends a ratio of 60%.
The South African stock market is ranked 3rd in terms of regulation in the 2019 Global Competitiveness Report.
SA ranks 32nd out of 165 countries in terms of the size of its US$ reserves, ahead of Australia, Sweden and Chile. The Euro Area ranks 1st, USA ranks 2nd, the UK 17th, (Economist 2020)
In a survey of 192 countries, South Africa’s unemployment as a percentage of economically active population ranked 27th.
SA ranks 27th in terms of number of cars produced and 36th in terms of number of cars sold. (Economist 2020).
SA ranks 36th in terms of industrial output and 33rd in terms of services output (Economist 2020).
South Africa ranks 37th out of 192 countries in the Economist’s “Biggest Exporters” Index.(2020).
South Africa ranks 60th in a comparison of tax as a % of GDP of 150 countries worldwide.
South Africa ranks in the top 20 countries for agricultural output.
The sum of investments in SA over the past 20 years has increased by an impressive 86%, but has tailed off dramatically over past three years. This figure allows for the eroding impact of inflation.

3. Business

Hard Times and Soft Skills
Global talent shortage is at a 15-year high, according to the Employment Outlook Survey carried out by ManpowerGroup in Q3 of 2021. In South Africa 46% of employers are having difficulty filling jobs. This is a massive increase from just 34% in 2019 and the Covid-19 pandemic is largely to blame. While Operations / Logistics skills are now most in demand, the pandemic has also sharpened focus on soft skills such as resilience and collaboration.
Cellphones: By the numbers:
Roughly 39m adult South Africans own or use at least one cellphone, and for 27m of them, their most used cellphone is a smartphone. Of these, Vodacom, MTN and CellC, each account for 43%, 34% and 16% respectively. (PAMS 2019)
MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet raised R7 – R8m per month to assist schools, charities, environmental and animal organisations. Hope you have a card!
Game changers: Tax-e: According to the SA National Taxi Council, there are more than 200,000 minibus taxis in South Africa≠ generating over R90 billion each year. The taxi industry in SA has started to adopt an e-ticket fare collection system that will enable commuters to load their FairPay cards via point of sale devices and kiosks at taxi ranks. Apart from being able to process card payments, the equipment installed in taxis also contains a GPS device, and can act as a WiFi hotspot, providing commuters with internet connectivity while they travel.
Out of office: Time out: Sri Lanka is recognised as having the most public holidays of any country in the world, with 25, followed by India with 21. In comparison, South Africa has 12 public holidays, and Mexico has the least with 7.

4. Tourism

Tourist Arrivals - SA Fast Facts - sa-good-news

2 South African hotels ranked one of the Most Romantic Hotels in the World 2022

La Residence in Franschhoek and Lion Sands Ivory Lodge in Mpumalanga, South Africa were both ranked one of The Most Romantic Hotels in the World for 2022
Big 7 Travel has officially released The 50 Most Romantic Hotels for 2022.

Longitude 131º in Australia topped the list last year while Adare Manor in Ireland came in at No.1 in 2020 and Taj Lake Palace in India came in at No.1 in 2019.

Passport Power - SA Fast Facts - sa-good-news

Kruger National Park in South Africa was revealed as the 10th ‘Most Popular Selfie Spot in the World’.International car comparison site EnjoyTravel has officially released The 25 Most Popular Selfie Spots in the World.
Selfies are now embedded into our culture and with an average of 93 million selfies taken a day, you can say we take a lot of them. As the Instagram-famous saying goes: ‘Pics or it didn’t happen! For the full list of the Most Popular Selfie Spots in the Worldplease see here
Home is where the Heritage is: South Africa is lucky enough to claim 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites within her borders, the highest number in any African country. Natural Sites include the Vredefort Dome, Cape Floral Region, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Cultural landmarks include Robben lsland, The Cradle of Humankind and the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape; historical city ruins famous for being the home of an 800-year-old golden rhino statuette.
Most Tourist Arrivals 2017: France # 1 @ 86 million; Spain #2 @ 82m; USA # 3 @ 77m; Saudi Arabia # 21 @ 16m; SA # 36 @ 10m; Australia # 40 @ 8m
Biggest Tourist Spenders China # 1 @ US$ 260 billion; USA # 2 @ US$ 173 b; Germany # 3 @ US$ 97b; UK # 4 @ US$ 71b.
Spring time; Flower kingdom: The Cape floristic region, one of six floral kingdoms in the world, was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004. The biodiversity hotspot has one of the highest concentrations of plant species in the world and is the only floral kingdom to be contained within a single country. It contains around 9,600 species, of which 70% do not grow anywhere else in the world.
South Africa is ranked among the top 3 countries in the world (countries with more than 9 million tourists) in respect of tourism growth (growing at 3 times the global average) -World Tourism Council

  • Pre COVID SA ranked 24th in terms of visitors at 16.5 million, 10.5 million of which are tourists (France 83 million, UK 29 million, Switzerland 8.5 million, India 7.6 million, Australia 8 million). (Economist 2020)
  • Table Mountain was inaugurated as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2012.
  • Cape Town International is the best airport in Africa, according to the World Airport Awards 2012. O R Tambo International was 2nd and King Shaka International came 3rd. They were ranked 26th, 28th and 30th respectively in the world (2019)
  • TripAdvisor has named Boulders Beach as one of its top 10 truly unique beaches in the world.

5. Sport

And the winner is…Olympics 2020. All 5,000 of the medals being dished out in Tokyo were made from old electronic equipment. “6,2m old mobile phones were donated by Japanese electronics shops, schools and the general public, who put their goods in yellow donation boxes at post offices and on street corners.”
Location, location, location: Since 1930, the FIFA World Cup has been hosted in the European Zone 11 times, including the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The zone that has hosted the tournament second most often is the South American Zone, hosting the tournament 5 times. The African Zone has only hosted the tournament once, in South Africa. The 2022 FIFA World Cup is expected to be hosted in the Asian Zone which has only hosted the tournament once before, when Korea and Japan dual hosted in 2002.
Rugby: Fans: 7.7 million South African adults are interested in rugby (20% of adults). 1.4 million say they have attended a rugby game in the past 12 months, and 720,000 people participated in the sport in the past 12 months.
South Africa won the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, for the third time (tied with NZ) since the introduction of the RWC in 1987.
South Africa was the first African country to host the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2010. It is only the second country in the world to have hosted the Cricket, Rugby Union and Soccer World Cups, after England.
South Africa is home to the world’s largest individually timed cycle race (the Cape Argus Cycle Race), the world’s largest open water swim (the Midmar Mile) and the world’s largest ultra-marathon (the Comrades Marathon)
5 South Africans hold the world extreme swimming world record for swimming 2.5kms around Cape Horn.
Since the 1940’s, South African golfers have won more golf majors than any other nation, apart from the United States.
Cricket is the third most popular sport in South Africa, with over 7 million adults expressing an interest in it. Soccer is the clear winner with 19.5 million adults (over half the population) expressing an interest in it.
Since being readmitted to international cricket in 1991, South Africa have appeared in all 7 editions of the Cricket World Cup. South Africa have reached the semi-finals of the competition on 3 of those occasions, but have never made an appearance in the finals.

6. Education

South Africa’s Bill of Rights states that everyone has the right to a basic education and further education. However, according to MAPS data, ~53% of South African adults have not received their Matric certificate, and only 10% have a diploma or degree. While this number is concerning, the 2021 National Senior Certificate results are promising, showing a 24% increase in exam attendance, a 21% increase in bachelor passes, and a 19% increase in distinctions achieved compared to 2020.

The Sad Education Funnel: In 2003 there were 1.277m pupils starting school, but by 2015, there were only 687 230 pupils in Matric. This means only roughly half of those grade one students got into Matric without being held back. In 2016 there were 158 891 First time students entering public universities which was largely made up of the 2015 Matric class.
Learning, at a cost: In 2019, the average cost for the first year of university was R64,200 and was expected to rise to R107,600 by 2025 and R165,600 by 2030. This increasing barrier to education was the primary driver behind the #FeesMustFall student protests which argued for free higher education.
More For Education: In 2020 the South African government allocated R387.2bn to Learning and Culture, roughly 19% of the total R2.05tr budget for 2020/21. Now in 2021, government has increased the allocation to R402.9bn, a 4.1% increase in a smaller budget of R2.02tr for 2021/22.
Education spending as a % of GDP, SA 25th at 6%
Iceland 1st at 7.7%; Zimbabwe 5th at 7.5%; Finland 9th at 7.1%;
New Zealand 18th at 6.3%. UK spends 4.4%, USA 4.2%; Japan 2.8%

ECD Centres in SA: There are approximately 28 500 registered Early Childhood Development Centres in South Africa caring for +/- 1 900 000 children, according to figures Released Pretoria. South Africa currently has 30 000 schools of which 23 000 are primary schools and 7000 secondary schools, including 1098 registered independent or privately owned schools. These schools have over 12 million learners, and some 386 600 teachers, approx. 580 000 learners write matric, 50% of the intake in Grade 1.
Literate: The General Household Survey tests the ability to read by asking respondents to indicate whether they have any difficulty reading a newspaper, book or magazine. 1.44 million South African adults (4%) say they are unable to read and a further 490,000 (1% of adults) say they ‘have a lot of difficulty’. For woman aged 60 or more, 20% say they are unable to read and a further 5% have a lot of difficulty reading
Attendance in SA’s 26 Universities is estimated at 1 million enrolled students (622 000 at 25 Universities and 400 000 at UNISA)
The Cost of Education in SA: Education inflation is higher than South Africa’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) and this gap has widened from around 2% in the early 2000s to a probable 4% in 2017. This means that a parent whose child starts grade R in 2017 can expect to pay between *R1 332 112 and R3 011 415 – for public or private education respectively. This rand amount includes primary school, high school and a three year University qualification in 2032”.*
The Rhodes Scholarship, established in 1902 and named after Cecil John Rhodes, is an international postgraduate award. It is widely regarded as ‘the most prestigious scholarship in the world’ with more than 7,000 Rhodes Scholars.
Nine of South Africa’s 23 universities rank in the top 4% of the 20 000 registered universities worldwide, and 11 in the top 8%. None of our Universities rank below 10 000th (QS Survey which involves 60 000 academics and 30 000 business executives worldwide) There are four serious ranking agencies globally, and the rankings differ. Most of the ranking criteria have to do with academic measurements, research published etc. Others are more arbitrary like numerical size, number of faculties offered.

University 2019 QS Global Ranking
UCT 198
WITS 400
UJ 501
KZN 788
UWC 800

With the recent AACSB accreditation, the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business is now one of just 59 out of 13,670 business schools worldwide to be triple-crowned – schools that are accredited by the three largest and most influential business school accreditation associations namely AMBA (the Association of MBAs), European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) and Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

The University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) 45th and UCT 51st are ranked in the Top 80 business Schools in the world (Financial Times Executive Education rankings 2019)
Some 12 million learners receive free cooked meals as part of the National School Nutrition Programme Annual Report 2018/19/20.
he first MBA programme outside of the United States was started by the University of Pretoria in 1949.
Stellenbosch University was the first African university in the world to design and launch a microsatellite.

Forever Young
According to the Eighty20 National Segmentation, the Students and Scholars segment make up 11% (4.8m people) of the consumer population in South Africa and have an average age of 17.5. They are highly digitally engaged with 71% of the population owning a smartphone, and spending an average of 2.2 hrs on the internet per day.
Source: Eighty20 –


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7. Environmental

Civil Society in SA strong

Environmental activists moved might and main to protect the Wild Coast from the seismic explosions of one of the world’s greatest polluters, Shell. On 28 December they won a historic legal victory with a judgment that ordered a halt to the survey and sent the misnamed Amazon Warrior (no relation to the once famous Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior) sulking out of South African waters. That a small village on the Wild Coast, Xolobeni and the Amadiba Crisis Committee, could successfully take on one of the world’s most powerful and corrupt companies is testimony once more to the fact that activists, armed with constitutional law, evidence and  social mobilisation can still win.

Waste Crisis According to the State of Waste Report produced in 2018, South Africa produces 54m tonnes of general waste per year, 61% of which is landfilled. This means that nationwide, landfills are becoming overfilled and closing down. In the Western Cape alone, the report stated that 73 of the 152 Waste Disposal Facilities had been earmarked to close, which is causing what many have coined the “Waste Crisis”.
Sources: one
Where did Frosty go? The air temperature of the Antarctic Peninsula has increased by 3°C since the 1950s, 5 times that of the mean rate of global warming. The impact of rising air temperature has resulted in the loss of ~25 000 km² of ice shelf, an area larger than Gauteng, directly impacting both local land and marine wildlife whilst also resulting in the rise in sea levels across the globe.

Decades of Decline: The WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020 reports on the Living Planet Index (LPI) over the period from 1970 to 2016. The LPI tracks 4,392 vertebrate species, and showed an average decline in population size over the period of 68%.

Don’t forget climate change: Global lockdowns in 2020 reduced pollutants such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides by between 10 and 30 percent. However, this temporary behaviour change is unlikely to result in long term impact. Under pessimistic assumptions that travel restrictions continue until the end of 2021, this temporary behaviour change would only prevent 0.01° C of warming by 2030.
A park the size of Iceland: The Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park will join the Kruger National Park to parks in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It will be a conservation area of almost 100 000 km², supporting 5 different types of vegetation, 147 mammals, 116 reptiles, 49 fish species, 34 frog species, and over 500 species of bird. This area will be larger than nearly 90 countries on the globe.

Our Solutions are in Nature: Although South Africa only accounts for 2% of the world’s land surface it is home to 10% of the world’s plant species and 7% of its reptile, bird and mammal species. Biodiversity contributes approximately R31bn per year to the South African economy through tourism demand and additionally contributes R18bn to the African Traditional Medicine sector.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions (2015)

In terms of millions of tonnes per annum SA ranked 13th @ 502 m tons, China 1 @ 10 603, USA 2 @ 5 414, India 3 @ 2 151.In terms of tonnes per person SA 30th @ 9.2, Qatar 1 @ 53, Singapore 2 @ 43, Trinidad and Tobago 3 @ 39. China, India not in top 30 countries, USA 14th.
Farming and land Redistribution: Textiles, poultry and sugar farming are labour intensive industries with big scope for emerging farmers. Government has released 167 000 units of land belonging to SOEs (totalling 14 100 ha) for redistribution to citizens. Thirty-year leases on 1 400 farms have also been signed with beneficiary farmers.
At the end of 2018, South Africa entered the world top 10 of countries harnessing renewable energy from the sun, with 15 solar plants contributing 503 MW to the country’s grid.
In 1991, South Africa became the first country in the world to provide full protection status for the Great White shark within its jurisdictional waters. Countries including USA, Australia, Malta and Namibia followed suit later.
Cape Town has the fifth-best blue sky in the world according to the UK’s National Physical Laboratory.
Johannesburg ranks 2nd among countries from Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa in dealing with urbanisation and environmental challenges, (MasterCard Insights Report)
South Africa is the only country to house an entire floral kingdom (Fynbos), one of only 6 on the planet.
The Vredefort Dome (or Vredefort crater) in the Free State, is the largest verified impact crater on Earth at between 250 and 300km in diameter and is estimated to be over 2 billion years old.
South Africa has the highest level of international certification of its tree plantations in the world. Over 80% of South African plantations are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa
All paper in South Africa is produced from plantation grown trees, recycled paper or bagasse (sugar cane fibre). Fibre is not sourced from the wood of rainforests, indigenous or boreal trees. This is a myth, often wrongfully perpetuated by e-mail footnotes. Paper Manufacturers Association of South Africa
SA’s renewable energy programme is the fastest growing in the world. Private sector investment in renewable energy generation will reach R193bn following the announcement of another 13 preferred bidders for wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) projects.
South African high net worth individuals are found to be the second most financially generous nation behind the United States, and fourth most generous in giving their time after Ireland, India and the USA.
320 major dams in South Africa supply 32,400,000,000 cubic litres of water per annum.

8. Social

The Most Thoughtful Societies Index 2022
Study uses data to reveal the most caring and empathetic societies in the world by considering a range of factors including philanthropy, social equality and support for families.

  • South Africa ranks as one of the most thoughtful societies worldwide (#34).
  • The most thoughtful society in the world is the Netherlands, followed by Canada and Finland.
  • People in Indonesia make the most private donations to charity in the world. Australia and the UK rank second and third.
  • People in the USA do the most volunteering in the world, followed by New Zealand and Indonesia.
  • Saudi Arabian families provide the most support for their elderly members. The United Arab Emirates and Thailand rank second and third.

“Despite the great challenge in the country, there has never been a better time to make a positive impact in honour of Madiba. But there is one pressing issue still remains unresolved – 10 million tonnes of food is wasted each year while 18 million people go hungry every day. Fruits, vegetables, and cereals account for 70% of this wastage. (See “Good deed”s section)
Who owns our homes? In Gauteng only 73% of households own their homes, with the other 27% renting. Across South Africa, this number improves to 81% owned and 19% rented, with 95% of all homes electrified. In the Western Cape, 98% of homes have electricity, but this declines to 90% in both the Northern Cape and the North West.
Untold Crime: According to MAPS 2020 roughly 2.2m (5%) South African adults reported having been a victim of violent crime in the last year. Of these, just over half reported this crime to the police.
Analyse the MAPS data yourself with a free Data Portal trial.
The Quality of the Rainbow Nation: 75% of South African adults believe that their quality of life is better than their parents/guardians when they were the same age.
Analyse the MAPS data yourself with a free Data Portal trial.
Kwanzaa: Kwanzaa is an African-American tradition celebrating African heritage. The holiday was created in 1966 as a means of promoting a sense of African-American community and combines traditions from all over Africa. The celebrations start on 26 December and continue for six days. Each day a candle is lit, symbolizing a different value such as unity and self-determination. The holiday culminates in gift giving on January first.
Who knows the truth? In a 40 country survey of 80,000 people’s media usage, 56% expressed concern about their ability to separate what is real from what is fake on the internet . In South Africa this number is significantly higher, at 72%, due to higher social media use.
Diversity in our Language: Zulu (24%), Xhosa (14%), Afrikaans (14%), English (12%) and Sepedi (10%) make up the top five of the more than 20 languages spoken most often at home in South Africa. (PAMS 2019)
Research for us all?
Women account for only 29.3% of the world’s researchers (professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge), according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). In South Africa it was estimated that women accounted for 45.1%.
Language non-binary:
Being merely bilingual is not enough in a country with 11 official languages; the average South African uses 2.84 languages. isiZulu is the first language for the most people (11.6 million people), as well as the most common second language (15.7 million people). The least commonly spoken of the national languages are Tshivenda and isiNdebele (1.2 million and 1.7 million respectively). This year, President Ramaphosa added a twelfth official language: Sign Language (used by 0.5% of South Africans).

The First South Africans:
The San People, a diverse group of skilled hunter-gatherers who number about 100,000 and share historical and linguistic connections, are the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa where they have lived for at least the past 20 000 years. Interestingly, the San have no formal leader, chief or figure of authority, but govern themselves by group consensus.
( #AfricaMonth
Crime: SA ranks 7th in homicides per 100 000 population; El Salvador # 1, Venezuela # 3. (In SA 75% of victims know their attackers by name)SA ranks 6th in robberies per 100 000 population; Belgium # 11, UK # 18; USA # 20; NZ # 24.SA ranks 24th prisoners per 100 000 population; USA # 1; Russia # 10; Brazil # 14; China # 20.Source: Economist
Cost of Living: The Economist Cost of Living Index measuring 185 countries ranks SA # 168 ‘lowest’. ‘Highest’ is France at # 1; Switzerland # 4; Australia # 10; UK # 15; New Zealand # 22. Lowest is Venezuela at # 185.
Divorce rates: According to the Economist, Russia has the highest divorce rate at 4.7 divorces per 1000 population; Denmark 11th at 2.6; USA 14th at 2.5. According to StatsSA the divorce rate in SA per 1000 pop is 0,4 (amongst the world’s lowest) with 25 390 finalised divorce forms processed during 2018.
Housing: Just over 80% of South African households lived in formal dwellings in 2019, followed by 14% in informal dwellings, and 6% in traditional dwellings. The highest percentage of households that lived in informal dwellings were observed in North West (20%) and Gauteng (20%). Traditional dwellings were most common in Eastern Cape (22%) and KwaZulu-Natal (14%).
Unquenchable Thirst: According to a statistical update from the World Health Organization, pure alcohol consumption in South Africa was at 11.5 litres per capita per year in 2017. This pushes South Africa up to the third biggest drinking nation in Africa and the 19th biggest drinking nation in the world. Among the drinking population (excluding abstainers), South Africans consume in the region of 27 litres of pure alcohol per capita per year. 60% of adults don’t consume alcohol.
Fast Fact: 6 Positive ways in which SA has developed over the last 15 years
Every year Stats SA releases its General Household Survey (GHS). The survey is conducted in the preceding year from January through to December.
1) Education
The percentage of people with no formal schooling has dropped by 6.7 percentage points nationally between 2002 and 2017.
2) Literacy
Nationally, the literacy rates of people over the age of 20 have consistently remained over 90% between 2002 and 2017 and even increased from 91.9% in 2002 to 94.3% in 2017.
The highest literacy percentages were observed in the Western Cape (98.1%), Gauteng (97.8%) and the Free State (94.2%). The metropolitan areas of the City of Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay and the City of Johannesburg all saw a literacy rate of 99%.
3) Health

The overwhelming majority of South Africans reported their health as being good or better. Of those surveyed, 39.9% reported their health as being good, 21.5% reported their health as being very good and 30.9% reported their health as being excellent.
4) Electricity

The percentage of households connected to electricity mains has increased from 76.7% in 2002 to 84.4% in 2017. The Eastern Cape made the biggest jump of all provinces by increasing from only 55.3% in 2002 to 85.4% of households in 2017.

5) Sanitation
The number of households with access to improved sanitation saw a massive growth of 20.5 percentage points between 2002 and 2017. The percentage of households with no toilet also decreased from 12.6% in 2002 to 3.1% in 2017.
6). Access to food
The percentage of households who were vulnerable to hunger has decreased from 24.2% to 10.4% over the 15-year period.
Source LEAD SA.
9 million South Africans live with disabilities, yet only one percent have jobs (Source StatsSA)
Population Growth: If a population is to remain stable 2.2 births are required per fertile woman. Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world at 7.6 births per woman which is more than three times greater than South Africa’s fertility rate of 2.3 and more than six times greater than Hong Kong’s fertility rate of 1.2. Europe averages 1.6. Just under 2 million women in South Africa have a child under the age of two. More than two thirds (68%) of them are single (never married and not living together).
South Africa ranks top 10 globally in number of registered NGO’s, with over 100,000 and over 220 000 NPO’s. The corporate sector donates R9 billion to CSI initiatives and ordinary citizens R15 billion.
The current police to population ratio is approximately 1:308. This ranks South Africa as the 9th best globally
Social Wage; In 2021, 19 million South Africans benefited from access to social grants, 14 million of which were children, 3.5 million pensioners and 1.5 million with disabilities at a cost of R140 billion. In 1994, only 2.5 million people had access to social grants, the majority of which were pensioners.
Since 1994, 435 houses have been built each day for the poor.
South Africa is ranked number 21 in terms of language diversity out of 224 countries. Papua New Guinea is ranked as the most linguistically diverse country and the Vatican the least. (Greenbergs diversity
The Global Peace Index (GPI) uses qualitative and quantitative metrics to measure the safety of 163 countries, as well as assess the economic value of peace. According to the GPI, Iceland is the most peaceful country on Earth. South Africa places 127th, USA 128th, Russia 154th, Afghanistan 163rd
South African media ranks 31st out of 180 countries in the Worldwide Press Freedom Index, up 6 places from last year. Norway 1st, UK 33rd, USA 48th North Korea 180th.
SA has the 19th largest prisoner to population ratio (USA is number 1).
South Africa has been ranked 118 out of 163 countries in the 2022 Global Peace Index (GPI), its best rating in 14 years, despite last year’s violent and prolonged July riots, which led to the deaths of more than 300 people.

The GPI data was recorded between 1 April 2021 and 1 March 2022.

In 2020 and 2021, South Africa ranked 123 on the overall index. The country is viewed by the researchers as progressively peaceful, despite being punctured by violence.

Source: Mail and Guardian

9. Infrastructure

Railway Networks, passengers and freight:SA has the 11th longest rail network as measured in 1000kms @ 21 000 kms. USA # 1 @ 151 000kms; Canada # 5 @ 48 000kms; Australia # 7 @ 32 000kms; UK # 16 @ 16 000kms.. Most rail passengers Switzerland # 1; Japan # 2; UK # 10; SA #19. Most Rail Freight Russia # 1; US # 2; SA # 10.
Road Networks: The Economist records that SA has the 9th longest road network @ 891 132 kms. USA # 1 @ 6 853 024 kms, Russia # 5 @ 1 453 200 kms, Australia # 10 @ 872 848 kms, UK # 17 @ 422 310 kms. SA not in top 50 most crowded networks. SA ranks 33rd in terms of fatalities per 100,000 population @ 25.9. Liberia # 1 @ 35,9; Saudi Arabia # 20 @ 28,8.
Three South African cities were voted amongst the world’s top 100 Most Liveable Cities in the 2019 study conducted by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. In Africa, Port Louis (83) was the city with the best quality of living and also its safest (59). It was closely followed for overall quality of living by the South African cities of Durban (88), Cape Town (95) and Johannesburg (96).
Johannesburg is ranked as the 34th largest city in the world with a population of 9.4 million. Tokyo is the largest with a population of 38 million (Economist 2018).
Out of 100 countries surveyed by World Data SA has the 58th highest cost of living; Switzerland # 1, India # 100
South Africa is the 20th largest producer of energy (Economist 2020)

10. Health

Improving Literacy
In March 2021 the Department of Higher Education & Training released a fact sheet on adult illiteracy in South Africa. According to the report the adult illiteracy rate in SA was 12.1% in 2019, a significant improvement compared to the 19.2% in 2009. Although this is a sign that literacy is improving it does point out that there are 4.4 million adults in SA who are still illiterate.
Pineapples and Hospital Beds; As a result of the 2020 alcohol bans, the South African alcohol industry lost R36.3bn in sales revenue, the government lost R29.3bn in tax revenue and the number of pineapples sold tripled. It is also estimated that the number of alcohol-related trauma cases dropped by 60% and freed up thousands of hospital beds for Covid-19 patients.

Effective Vaccines: As of 15 January 2021, the CDC authorises and recommends two COVID vaccines: The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and Moderna’s vaccine. During clinical trials, these two vaccines were 95% and 94.1% effective at preventing COVID-19 illness in patients who had no evidence of having been infected.
A wors by any other name: The label ‘boerewors’ can only be used on sausages that contain 90% meat (beef, pork or goat are allowed) of which no more than 30% may be fat. It should not contain any offal or mechanically removed meat. (Google ‘mechanically removed meat’ at your own peril).
Viral Infection: Dengue is ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most important and fastest growing mosquito-borne viral disease in the world today, causing nearly 500 million infections every year. In the last five decades, dengue has spread from being present in a handful of countries to being endemic in 128 countries, where about 4 billion people live.
Life expectancy: In South Africa, the average life expectancy for women is highest in the Western Cape at 72 and lowest in the Free State at 62. Similarly, for men, it is also at its highest at 66 in the Western Cape and at its lowest in the Free State at 55. The life expectancy is calculated with the absence of HIV/Aids-related deaths.
According to researchers from Imperial College in London, South Africa has the 76th shortest average height for women in the world at 158 cm, while South African men are ranked 47th overall for the average height of 167 cm. Dutch men and Latvian women are now the tallest people in the world at 183 cm and 170 cm
South Africa has 1 doctor per 1000 population and 3 beds per 1000 population (Spain 3 doctors per 1000 population and 3.4 beds, UK 2 doctors per 1000 population and 4 beds, South Korea 1.4 doctors per 1000 population and 7.1 beds, USA 2.7 doctors per 1000 population and 3 beds). (Economist)
South Africa ranked 4th in terms of HIV/Aids prevalence amongst population behind Swaziland, Botswana and Lesotho. (Economist 2016)
SA ranks 16th in terms of deaths per 1000 of population (15) alongside Russia, Ukraine at # 1 (17), UK ranks 58th (10).
One in five South African adults attend a gym/health club or participate in other exercise (not at a gym/health club), at least monthly.

11. Miscellaneous

Chocolate for your love? A RetailMeNot survey shows that 44% of people would most like to receive chocolate for Valentine’s Day in 2021, compared to the 32% who felt that way in 2020. This year they are planning to spend $46 (R664) on average, which is $20 (R289) more than 2020.
Stealing a Christmas Kiss: The common tradition of stealing a Christmas kiss under the mistletoe can be dated back to Norse mythology where the goddess of love, Frigg, promised a kiss to anyone that passed beneath the plant. The modern tradition started in England and by the 18th century it had been widely accepted as a Christmas celebration.
Satellites in Space by Country of Ownership: 
SA ranks 26th alongside Denmark, Finland, & Malaysia. USA @ 1, China @ 2, Russia @ 3, UK @ 5, Oz @ 15, Switzerland @ 34. Source: Economist.
Oxford Dictionary additions – South African words “Kiff” added To the Oxford dictionary plus 23 other South African words
Mother Tongues: With 11 official languages, South Africa ranks second in the world of countries with the most official languages. While India has 16 official languages, in contrast, Mexico and the Unites States have no official languages.
The only street in the world to house 2 Nobel Peace Prize winners is in Soweto. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both have houses in Vilakazi Street, Orlando West. SA ranks 7th in terms of number of Nobel Peace prizes. (Economist 2020).
Two of the world’s most profoundly compassionate philosophies originated in South Africa – Ubuntu (the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity) and Gandhi’s notion of “Passive resistance” (Satyagraha), which he developed while living in South Africa.
The Western Deep Level mines are the world’s deepest mines at approaching 4km.
South Africa houses one of the three largest telescopes in the world at Sutherland in the Karoo.
South Africa is the first, and to date the only, country to build nuclear weapons and then voluntarily dismantle its entire nuclear weapons programme.
South Africa ranks 15th in terms of Arms exporters (Economist 2020)
Africa ranks 26 in terms of satellites in space (Economist 2020)
South Africa ranks 19th in terms of emitters of carbon dioxide and per person is 30th (Economist 2020)
Pretoria is ranked the 25th most polluted city (Economist 2020)
SA ranks outside the top 22 countries in terms of beer consumption (Czech 1; Germany 2; Austria 3; Estonia 4).(Economist 2020)
SA has 56 million active cell phones (population 55 million) – ranking in the top 15 globally in terms of cell phone coverage (Economist 2020)
SA has 82 colour TV’s per 100 households, 9 telephone lines per 100 population and 90 mobile telephone subscribers per 100 population. (Economist 23020).
SA ranks 28th in terms of cinema visits per 1000 population. (Economist 2020).
South Africa is ranked 94th out 178 countries in respect of “brain drain”. Somalia 1st, Sweden 178th

12. Tax

South Africa is ranked 19 out of 189 economies in the 2018 Paying Taxes study conducted by the World Bank and PwC in terms of how easy it is for a medium-sized case study company to pay its taxes.
According to the study, the total tax rate globally is almost 41%. It takes the average medium-sized company 264 hours to comply with its taxes compared to 200 hours it takes a similar company in SA.
The study showed that a South African company only has seven tax payments, compared to the average of almost 26 payments.
SA has the 40th-lowest total tax rate out of the 189 economies included in the study. (Business Day 2018)

13. Corruption

Global Corruption Perception Index 2021 - SA Fast Facts - sa-good-news

SA ranks 69 out of 18countries in the Global Corruption Perception Index 2021 (Where 1 is least corrupt and 180 most corrupt). In 2008 SA ranked 50/168. In 2013 SA ranked 72/168. In 2019 China 90, Brazil 110, Russia 146, Zimbabwe 163, USA 25, UK 15.
In the sub-Saharan Africa region, the index ranks South Africa at position four.
Botswana 35/168 remains the top scorer in Africa at 60/100

14. Global Competitiveness

The Good Country Index ranks 149 countries (SA Scores in brackets) on: science and technology (26), culture (58), international peace and security (14), world order (20), planet in climate care (114), prosperity and equality (96), health and well-being (35). SA ranks 41/149.
Mohair: South Africa is the biggest mohair producer in the world. 47% of the world’s mohair comes from our country and about 16% more from Lesotho – which is no small feat considering we’re competing with the US (Texas) and Australia.

South Africa’s Performance in the 2019 WEF Global Competitiveness Index
9 October 2019

1. Highlights
Competitiveness has a direct impact on the reputation of countries for a variety of reasons. It particularly plays a role in framing an understanding of the broader enabling environment(s) that impact on societal productivity, efficiency.

Competitiveness is a major factor that impacts on FDI decisions.

In the 2019 edition of the WEF Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) South Africa shows strong improvements, being:

  • In terms of over-all ranking South Africa improves with seven positions from 67/140 in 2018, to 60/140 nations in 2019;
  • The Institutions pillar improves from 69/140 to 55/141 – this is important due to reputation damage in the area of governance in recent years;
  • Health, also historically a weaker area of SA’s performance, improves from 125 to 118 in 2019;
  • Product Market improves from 74 to 69 in 2019

It is positive for South Africa to improve in its over-all competitiveness profile, and ranking. However, while there are notable improvements in the 2019 GCI, it is also important to note that there are several indicators which show negative movement.

The most salient improvements and declines are explored in the section below. A few high-level achievements to note:

  • According to GCI data South Africa now ranks as number one (1/141) nation for budget transparency. This is a major ranking which clearly illustrates the robustly transparent political governance system of the country, anchored in the constitution of the Republic.
  • This data is also supported by the Open Budget Index wherein South Africa ranks 2/103 nations – clearly underlining the fact that South Africa has extremely high levels of transparency in its political governance system.
  • South Africa’s ranking on judicial independence also improves markedly with fifteen positions on 2018 – currently at 33/141 nations.
  • Interestingly enough, following on 2018, a year wherein local and global media carried extensive (and mostly negative) commentary on South Africa’s proposed Land Expropriation without Compensation policy, South Africa’s rankings in the following areas improved, being: Property rights, as well as Quality of Land Administration!

2. South Africa’s performance per pillar

The WEF GCI is composed of twelve pillars, each covering a unique area of performance that ultimately influences the over-all competitiveness profile of the market. WEF Global Competitiveness Index


South Africa

Pillar 2018 Rank (/140) 2019 (/141)
Over-all rank 67 60
Institutions 69 55
Infrastructure 64 69
ICT Adoption 85 89
Macro-economic stability 57 59
Health 125 118
Skills 84 90
Product market 74 69
Labour market 55 63
Finance system 18 19
Market size 35 35
Business dynamism 56 60
Innovation capability 46 46

SA is the 29th biggest economy globally (PPP), and roughly the same population-wise and geographically. Our rankings should match this. Since 2002 our global political rankings have yo-yo’d considerably. Good to see a significant improvement 2019/2020.


Although we are still considered a premier league country, with overall rankings in the top 60
countries (there are 205 countries in the world, only 80 with populations in excess of 10 million
people) the above rankings:

  • some good
  • some average
  • some bad

Sum up the challenges we have as a country.