The Richest And Poorest Provinces Of South Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa's biggest city, is located within the Gauteng province.
Johannesburg, South Africa's biggest city, is located within the Gauteng province.

South Africa has nine provinces, each with its own provincial government. The economy of the provinces varies widely with Gauteng being the richest in terms of the GDP per capita and the Eastern Cape province ranking the lowest in the list. The provinces of South Africa by GDP per capita are as below:

1. Gauteng

The smallest province of South Africa by area is the most populous one in the country and also the richest in the country. Gauteng occupies an area of 18,176 square km and has a population of 12,272,263 people. The province has a GDP per capita of $9,681USD. Gauteng is highly urbanized and has the country’s biggest city, Johannesburg. Several large industrial areas like Vanderbijlpark and Midrand are also present here. Pretoria, the nation’s administrative capital is also in Gauteng. The economy of Gauteng is the most prosperous one in the entire nation. A large number of overseas companies have their offices in this province. Africa’s largest stock exchange, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, is also present here. The world’s largest Porsche Centre is also located here. The province is the hub of the financial, transport, manufacturing, and other industries of the nation. Thus, it is no wonder that despite being the smallest province in South Africa, Gauteng accounts for one-third of the GDP of the country and about 7% of the GDP of the continent.

2. Western Cape

With an area of 129,449 square km and a population of 5,822,734 people, the Western Cape province is located in South Africa’s south-western coast. Cape Town, the provincial capital, houses nearly two-thirds of the provincial population. The Western Cape has one of the fastest growing provincial economies in the country. It has the highest HDI in the nation at 0.7708. The real estate, financial and business services are the most profitable sectors of the economy of Western Cape. Rapidly growing industries include fashion design, TV production, advertising, etc. The per capita GDP of this province is $8,694 USD.

3. Northern Cape

The Northern Cape is the largest South African province by area and the smallest by population. It has an area of 372,889 square km and a population of 1,145,861 people. Kimberley is the provincial capital of Northern Cape. Large parts of this province have a semi-arid to arid climate and are occupied by the Karoo Basin and the Kalahari Desert. Mining and agriculture are the two major economic sectors of the Northern Cape. These two sectors account for the employment of 57% of all the employees in the province. The unemployment rate here is high, reported being about 24.9% in Q4 of 2013. Mining for diamonds around Kimberley is a highly profitable business. Agriculture is based on the Orange River with vineyards occupying large parts of the agricultural lands. Sheep raising is also a major activity in the Karoo region of the province. $6,688USD is the GDP per capita of the Northern Cape.

4. North West

The North West province encompasses an area of 104,882 square km and houses a population of 3,509,953. The largest city and economic hub of this province is Klerksdorp and the provincial capital is Mahikeng. Mining is the biggest economic activity of this province and generates over 50% of the GDP of the province. Gold, platinum, uranium, diamonds are some of the chief minerals mined here. Cattle ranches and sheep farms occupy large parts to the north and west of the province. Crops grown in the North West include cotton, citrus fruits, tobacco, sunflowers, etc. The North West province has the fourth highest per capita GDP in the country at $6,677USD.

5. Mpumalanga

The province of Mpumalanga is located in eastern Africa. The province has an area of 76,495 square km and its population is 4,039,939. Nelspruit is the capital of this province. The contrasting climates of the province between the Highveld and the Lowveld regions allow the cultivation of a wide variety of crops like soybeans, sugarcane, sunflower seed, coffee, tea, citrus fruits, cotton, etc. Forestry is practiced in some parts of the province. 14% of the land area is used for livestock grazing and mutton, poultry, beef, wool, etc., are some of the products produced here. Mining for gold, silica, magnetite, platinum, cobalt, etc., is also a profitable economic activity in Mpumalanga. 83% of the coal production in South Africa takes place in this province. Tourism is also a popular economic activity here with the Kruger National Park drawing thousands of tourists to the province each year. The GDP per capita here is $6,251USD.

6. Free State

The granary of South Africa, the Free State province is located in the heart of the country. The province has an area of 129,825 square km. The population was 2,745,590 in 2011. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of this province. Mining is also a major economic activity in the region. The Free State is South Africa’s pioneering region in biofuel production. It also accounts for the bulk of the maize production in the country that ranks the country as one of the top 10 maize producers in the world. Soya, sunflowers, cherries, potato, etc., are the major crops grown here. 20% of the world’s gold production happens in the Free State. Bituminous coal and diamond are also mined here. The Golden Gate Highlands National Park located in the Free State is a prime tourist destination in the country. The per capita GDP value here is $6,213 USD.

7. KwaZulu-Natal

The KwaZulu-Natal is located in the southeastern part of South Africa where it has a long coast along the Indian Ocean. The province has an area of 94,361 square km. The province is the second most populous one in the country with a population of 10,267,300 people. Durban is the biggest city here but the capital is Pietermaritzburg. Durban is a major urban center in the province and has a well-developed sugar refining industry. Crops like corn, cotton, bananas, sorghum, etc., are grown in the province. A wine industry is growing in KwaZulu-Natal. Other industries like paper, rubber, oil refineries, tanneries, etc., are also active here. Newcastle in the north of the province is a thriving industrial center. Offshore mining and ecology tourism are also important to the economy of the province. The province has the seventh highest per capita GDP in the country at $4,767 USD.

8. Limpopo

South Africa’s northernmost province is Limpopo. The capital of this province is Polokwane. The province has a very high rate of poverty with 78.9% of the population living below the poverty line of the country. The distribution of wealth here is highly unequal. The economy is based on the export of primary products and the import of manufactured goods. Mining, agriculture, and tourism are the three pillars of the economy of Limpopo. The province has a well-developed beef cattle industry. The game hunting industry is highly active here and accounts for 80% of the game hunting in the country. Crops like cotton, peanuts, maize, litchis, mangoes, nuts, tea, coffee, etc., are grown in Limpopo. Mining of platinum, iron, coking cold, diamonds, emeralds, etc., are carried out here. The per capita GDP here is $4,259 USD.

9. Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape can be regarded as the poorest province in terms of GDP per capita which is $3,651 USD. The province has an area of 168,966 square km and the population here is 6,562,053. Bhisho is the capital of Eastern Cape. Agriculture dominates the economy of the province and primitive agricultural practices and subsistence agriculture gives low yields and thus low profits. Sheep farming is an important activity in the Karoo region of the province. Fruits, coffee, tea, olives, etc., are cultivated here. Game farming is becoming increasingly popular. Fishing for squids is also an important economic activity here. Despite being poor, the Eastern Cape province has great scope for development since it has large harbors, three airports, and a well-developed road and rail transport system. Industries are currently growing at a fast rate in the province. Eco-tourism is being promoted by the government of the province.

The Richest And Poorest Provinces Of South Africa

RankProvinceGDP per capita (USD)
2Western Cape8,694
3Northern Cape6,688
4North West6,677
6Free State6,213
9Eastern Cape3,651

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