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South Africa Country Facts

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

Geography + Population


  • Tshwane (Executive)
    • Population: 1.76 million
  • Cape Town (Legislative)
    • Population: 3.65 million
  • Bloemfontein (Judicial)
    • Population: 610.000

Area: 1.228.376 km2 (Denmark 43.000 km2).

Population: 57.725.600 (StatsSA, 2018). 

Population growth per year: 1.2% (World Bank, 2017).

Neighbouring countries:

  • Angola, Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mocambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe.

Ethnic composition: Black - 80.9%; Coloured - 8.8%; White 7.8%; Indian/Asian - 2.5% (StatsSA, 2018).

Official languages:

There are 11 official languages, being English, Afrikaans, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Tshwana, Tsonga, Siswati (Swazi), Venda and Southern Ndebele.

Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and traditional African religions.

The South African economy at short

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

Total: US $ 349.4 billion (World Bank, 2017).

Per Capita:
US $ 5.430 (World Bank, 2017).

Growth in GDP per Capita: - 1.3% (World Bank, 2016).

National Debt:  53.10% of GDP (Trading Economics, 2017).

Foreign development aid pr. Capita: US $ 21.21 (World Bank, 2017).


A short general overview:
Over the past two decades, South Africa has experienced significant economic development. Since 1996, the country has more than doubled its GDP – from US $ 144 to US $ 349 billion in 2017 (World Bank, 2017).

From a largely agricultural and resource base the South African economy has rapidly become the industrial powerhouse of Africa. Today, South Africa is the world's 33rd largest economy and makes up the second largest economy within Africa, accounting for 10% of Africa’s overall GDP. Moreover, South Africa accounts for most of the economic and industrial infrastructure on the continent with a highly developed road, rail and port network.

However, the South African economy never fully recovered from the global financial crisis (2007-2008) and has since been driven by a combination of international and domestic factors. These include low and weak economic growth, continuing high and rising unemployment levels, lower prices for commodities, higher consumer prices, notably for energy and food, lower investment levels, greater household dependency on credit, and policy uncertainty including lack of good governance. Related to the latter, numerous and extensive corruption cases exist in the wake of Zuma’s presidential term, which keeps affecting the economy negatively. Concomitantly, this period has seen the financial health of South African households decline under the weight of these economic pressures and, in turn, has pulled more households and individuals down into poverty (StatsSA, 2017).

With a GDP per Capita on US $ 5430, South Africa is classified as an upper-middle-income country, as according to the World Bank’s 2017 classification. However, South Africa is also the most unequal country in the world in terms of income distribution, with a Gini coefficient of 63.4 (World Bank, 2016).

South Africa 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 2018, South Africa ranked 67th in the World Economic Forum Global Competitive Index, which also entails that South Africa has the most competitive economy on the African continent.

South African Trade with Denmark


South Africa was Denmark’s 40th largest export market for goods in 2017 (Statistics Denmark, 2018).
In 2017, South Africa imported Danish goods for US $ 365 million, which equals 0.36% of the total export from Denmark.
Export of goods to South Africa increased with 7.8% in 2017 compared to 2016.




Danish import of goods from South Africa in 2017 came to be US $ 147.8 million, an increase of 36.9% compared to 2016. 

Despite South Africa’s economic slowdown, Danish export to the country 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.


Head of State: President Cyril Ramaphosa (African National Congress, (ANC)).
Deputy President: Mr. David Mabuza (ANC).
Minister for International Relations and Cooperation: Ms. Lindiwe Sisulu (ANC).
Minister of Finance: Mr. Tito Mbeweni (ANC).

South Africa. A general political overview 

South Africa is a parliamentary democratic republic (unitary state). The current frame for South Africa’s democracy was established with the enactment of the South African constitution in May 1996, after the half-of-a-century long apartheid regime fell. The constitution is considered to be among the world’s most progressive. In addition to guarding civilian and political rights with a firm focus on equality before the law, allowing affirmative action to redress past unjust discrimination, 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 7, 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 next National General Elections will take place in 2019, with elections beings held latest on August 5.

Since 1994, South Africa has made large progress in reducing poverty in all of its forms. Moreover, despite the general decline in poverty between 2006 and 2011, the trajectory of poverty reduction was reversed in 2011, and inequality and poverty has since been on the rise (StatsSA, World Bank Group, 2018).

High levels of inequality and low intergenerational mobility act as a brake on poverty reduction and as a result, poverty is disproportionately high for an upper-middle-income country. Additional, poverty has strong spatial dimensions in South Africa, a demonstration of the persistent legacy of apartheid. Poverty remains concentrated in previously (and continuously) disadvantaged areas, such as the former homelands/townships – areas where black South Africans along ethnic lines were confined to during apartheid (World Bank Group, 2018).

More than half of South Africans were poor in 2015, with the poverty headcount increasing to 55.5% from a series low of 53.2% in 2011. This translates into over 30.4 million South Africans living in poverty (StatsSA, 2017).

Moreover, included in these numbers are the fact that 25.2% of South Africans live in extreme poverty, that is, living for less than US $ 1.90 a day, meaning they are not able to afford to eat enough food to meet their basic physical need (StatsSA, 2017).

In general, children (aged 17 years and younger), black South Africans, females, people from rural areas, those living in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, and those with little or no education are the main victims in the ongoing struggle against poverty (StatsSA, 2017).

Contrary, close to 13% of the population live in the so-called “first economy”, and around 10% of the total population account for 55% of the total income (Stellenbosch University, 2016).

In comparison, the country has an economy about the size of Denmark’s, yet with a population almost ten-times the size.

Unemployment rates remain high in the country, and is currently rising, coming to 27.2% in the second quarter of 2018. These statistics include the worrying fact that 39% of the unemployed South Africans have never been in work. Moreover, unemployment rates are significant higher for the younger population (StatsSA, 2018).

South Africa continues to have the highest number of people infected with HIV in the world, despite recent significant decline in the number of people contracting the virus. In 2017, 7.2 million people were estimated to be living with HIV in South Africa, and the  prevalence of HIV is estimated at 19.2% for the general adult population (UNAIDS, 2018). In 2012, the government approved of the third National Strategic Plan (NSP) in response to and to further prevent HIV/AIDS and since 2010, new HIV infections have decreased by 49% and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 29% (UNAIDS).

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.

However, South Africa faces harsh challenges on the ground in securing human rights. High crime levels persist, gender based violence is an increasing issue and access to constitutionally founded rights, such as abortion, is hampered by a lack of public health facilitations, where less than half of the abortion services supposed to be offered by government are operational, as well as negative stigmatizing attitudes (WISH Associates).

Moreover, numerous and extensive corruption cases, including extensive state capture, have characterized South Africa’s political climate the last decade, under the presidency of Zuma. But, good governance seems to be returning with the Election of Cyril Ramaphosa, where a fundamental focus is clearing up corruption and ensuring that the state returns to its constitutional values, rather than benefitting the interests of a small, well-connected political-commercial group.

Following this, according to Transparency Internationals 2017 index on corruption, South Africa ranked as the 71st least corrupt country globally and 8th on the African continent.

With the change of power, South Africa has the opportunity to regenerate its political and economic spheres. The country has a lot to build on, even after it has gone the wrong way for a long time. The free media, solid democracy, active civil society, high human rights standards, still largely solid institutions and good infrastructure, as well as a diversified private sector; are all positive attributes of the country.

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.

The country 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.

South Africa has been one of the main architects of Africa’s renaissance vision and is one of the principal organizers 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.

Additionally, since democratization, South Africa have had a firm priority of multilateral cooperation. Thus, in 1999, they entered the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) with the EU, which constitutes the basic framework for the partnership between EU and South Africa, regarding trade, development and cooperation. Similarly, in 2000, South Africa signed the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), which main objectives are to ensure sustainable development, eradicate poverty and encourage greater integration of ACP countries into the world economy.

Moreover, during these negotiations, South Africa 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, and in 2016, the Economic Partnership Agreement between SADC EPA countries and the EU was renewed.

For the third time, South Africa will serve as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, for the period 2019 to 2020.