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South Africa - Country Facts

To learn more about South Africa and Danish-South African relations, please view the sections below.

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Capital Pretoria (population 1,76 mil. 2011)

Pretoria is the administrative capital, while Bloemfontein is the judicial capital and Cape Town the legislative capital.

Area 1.228.376 km2 (Denmark 43.000 km2)
Population 54.956.900 (2015)
Population growth per year 1.33% (2015)
Ethnic groups 82,2 % black; 8,4 % white, 8,8 % coloured and 2.5 % Indian/Asian (2014)
There are 11 officiel languages. English and Afrikaans is spoken by the majority, but Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana and Venda are also official languages
Religion Christians, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and traditional African religions.


GDP pr. capita USD 5,859 (2015)
Growth in GDP pr. capita 1.3% (2015)
Debt situation 45.4 % of GDP (2015)
Foreign development aid pr. capita 21,25 USD (2010)
Danish Aid Danish Aid to South Africa is currently being phased out.
Currency rate ZAR 100 (rand) DKK 48.07
Date for currency rate 21-9-2016
Danish inter-state trade Danish export in 2010 DKK 1.40 billion and import same year: DKK 905 million.

Over the past decade, South Africa has experienced significant economic development. Since 1996, the country has nearly tripled its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – from $144 to $402 billion USD in 2011 (Goldman Sachs, 2013). Today, South Africa makes up the second largest economy within Africa, accounting for 24% of Africa’s overall GDP.

The country is abundant in natural resources and has well-established fiscal and monetary policies, as well as regulatory systems. In 2014, the World Economic Forum ranked South Africa second in the world for accountability of private institutions and third for its financial market development. In 2016, South Africa ranked 47th in the World Economic Forum Global Competitive Index. South Africa has the most competitive economy on the African continent.

Between 1993 and 2007, South Africa experienced an average growth rate of 5.1%. However, this rate is currently experiencing a slowdown with the real GDP rate estimated at 2.0% for 2015 and for 2016. The growth rate for 2017 is expected to increase to around 2.4%.

Unemployment rates remain high in the country. According to official statistics, the unemployment rate is currently at 26.6%, while being significantly higher for the younger population.

South Africa is one of the countries with the highest economic inequality. Close to 13% of the population live in the so-called “first economy”, which reflects a European standard of living, while approximately 45.5% live in moderate poverty equivalent to that of other developing African countries. Moreover, almost 10% of the total population account for 55% of the total income, while 20.2% live in extreme poverty. In comparison, the country has an economy about the size of Denmark’s, yet with a population almost ten-times the size of Denmark’s.

The country continues to have the highest number of people infected with HIV. In 2015, approximately 7 million people were estimated to be living with HIV in South Africa. The prevalence of HIV is estimated at 19.2% for the general adult population (UNAIDS). In 2012, the government approved of the third National Strategic Plan (NSP) in response to and to further prevent HIV/AIDS for the next five years. Between 2001 and 2011, South Africa reduced new HIV infections by 41%.


Head of State President Jacob Zuma (African National Congress (ANC))
Deputy President Mr Cyril Ramaphosa (ANC)
Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane (ANC)
Minister of Finance Mr Pravin Gordhan (ANC)
Minister of Trade and Industry Mr Rob Davies (ANC) 
Chairperson of the National Planning Commission Mr Cyril Ramaphosa (ANC)
Minister for Energy Ms Tina Joemat-Petterson (ANC)
Minister for Economic Development Mr Ebrahim Patel (ANC)

Political Situation

South Africa is a parliamentary democratic republic. The current frame for South Africa’s democracy was established with the enactment of the South African constitution in May 1996. The constitution is considered to be among the world’s most progressive. In addition to guarding civilian and political rights, the constitution also ensures central socio-economic rights such as the right to education and health.

The South African Parliament consists of the National Assembly with 490 members and the National Council of Provinces with members from the nine provincial legislatures.

South Africa has made significant political and economic progresses since the first democratic election in 1994. On May 7th 2014, South Africa held its fifth democratic National Election. According to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), the election reflected a smooth democratic process. The African National Congress (ANC) received 62.1% of the votes. The largest party in opposition – the Democratic Alliance (DA) – received 22.2% and the newly established Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) received 6.4%.

During the Local Government Elections, held on 3 August 2016, the ANC gained the majority of the support with 53.9%. The DA received 26.9% of the votes and gained control over Tshwane, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and City of Cape Town. The EFF received 8.2% of the votes.

The National General Elections will be held in 2019.

Human rights and corruption

The South African Constitution sets a high standard for protecting the civil, political and socio-economic rights of all South Africans. Human rights, such as equality, dignity and freedoms are placed at the epicenter of the Constitution.

Yet, corruption and crime rates remain high in South Africa – especially with regard to violent crimes – compared to other countries. Recent statistics from the South African Police Service (SAPS) however, reveal a slight decline of 1.4% in violent crimes committed in South Africa.

According to Transparency International South Africa was no. 61 on the list of least corrupt countries in 2015.

Foreign relations

South Africa has applied an active diplomacy to attract trade and investments and meet its foreign policy targets.

South Africa’s foreign policy priorities are promoting the African agenda, strengthening South-South cooperation, promoting social justice and equality globally, while also focusing on multilateralism and strengthening cooperation with the North.

South Africa is member of G20 and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and has in recent years significantly strengthened its ties with other emerging economies including, Brazil, India and China.

In 2008, South Africa and the Nordic countries signed a declaration to further augment the possibilities of trilateral cooperation in other African countries.

Together with Brazil, India and China, South Africa forms the BASIC-countries, which plays an important role in the negotiations regarding climate agreements. COP 17 was hosted by South Africa in Durban in November-December 2011. On November 2nd 2016, South Africa ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

South Africa has been one of the main architects of Africa’s renaissance vision and is one of the principal organisers behind the establishment of the African Union (AU), the Pan-African parliament (Head Office in South Africa) and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Furthermore, South Africa is one of the driving forces behind the Southern African Development Community (SADC). South Africa has mediated peace in conflicts around the continent in Burundi, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Libya, Lesotho and Madagascar. In April 2012, South Africa established its own donor organization, South African Development Partnership Agency (SADPA).

In 1999, South Africa entered the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) with the EU. The agreement constitutes the basic framework for the partnership between EU and South Africa, regarding trade, development and cooperation.

In 2000, South Africa signed the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). The agreements main objectives are to ensure sustainable development, eradicate poverty and encourage greater integration of ACP countries into the world economy.

During these negotiations, South Africa also joined the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with the EU, acting as a part of the SADC group. The EPA is a development-oriented free trade agreement, using trade as a tool to boost economic growth and sustainable development.

On June 10th 2016, the EU renewed the Economic Partnership Agreement with the SADC EPA countries.

South African trade with Denmark

In 2012, the Danish Government launched a growth market strategy for South Africa, aiming at increasing exports with 50% over a five year period. Initiatives in the strategy have been implemented in close cooperation between the Danish Government, the Embassy in Pretoria and Danish public and private companies and organisations.

Despite South Africa’s economic slowdown, Danish export to the country has increased by 46% between 2012 and 2015. There is furthermore a scope for increased growth and therefore a continuously growing partnership between South Africa and Denmark.

Denmarks development cooperation with South Africa

Denmark has a long history of supporting South Africa. During the struggle against apartheid from 1963 to 1994, the Danish Government supported the victims of apartheid with 975 million Danish Kroner (DKK). Additionally, Denmark has provided Official Development Aid (ODA) to South Africa since 1995. The total contribution amounts to approximately 2.5 billion DKK.

Over the last decade, Denmark, in collaboration with South Africa, has implemented more than 1,000 projects in cooperation with NGOs, municipalities and government organisations.

Since the out-phasing of bilateral aid from 2008-2013, the Danish government is still working towards increasing investments in South Africa. The Danish Action Plan for 2015, issued by the Danish Government, proposes to increase investments by providing an economic platform and services for Danish companies to optimize the opportunities in the South African market within the sectors of; design, agriculture, water, energy and health.

In 2015, Danish investors had investments equivalent to 3 billion DKK in South Africa.

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