What Are The Major Natural Resources Of South Africa?

Vineyard in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa.
Vineyard in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa.

The economy of South Africa is one of the best-developed economies on the African continent. In 2018, the International monetary fund estimated that the South African GDP was the 35th highest in the world at approximately $371 billion while its per capita GDP was the 88th highest in the world at $6,459. The growth of the South African economy can be attributed to the adequate utilization of the country's natural resources such as minerals, arable land, and the country's beautiful scenery.

Natural Resources

Beautiful Scenery

South Africa is often considered one of Africa's most beautiful nations, and the country's great beauty attracts large numbers of tourists each year. Some of South Africa's most beautiful regions include the country's beaches and the nature trails. The tourism sector is one of South Africa's significant employers and in 2012, it was estimated that more than 10% of the country's labor force was employed in the sector. In 2015, most of the tourists who visited South Africa were from other nations such as Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Mozambique. South Africa also attracted tourists from countries outside Africa such as the United Kingdom, the United States, and France. The South African government has implemented several policies to grow the country's tourism industry such as improving the country's security and transport infrastructure.


According to research by the South African government, only 0.47% of the country's land was covered in forests. Despite the low size of land covered in forests, they are some of South Africa's most critical natural resources. The government estimated that the forestry sector provided employment to nearly 160,000 people and contributed roughly 11% of the nation's agricultural income. Some of South Africa's most famous forests include the Dlinza Forest in KwaZulu-Natal and the Newlands Forest in the Western Cape.

Arable Land

One of South Africa's most critical natural resources is arable land which covered approximately 10.3% of the country's territory in 2014 according to the World Bank. Some of the most fertile areas in South Africa include KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. On average, the agricultural sector contributed 3% of the South African GDP and accounted for approximately 10% of the country's formal employment. South African farmers grow a wide variety of crops such as maize, grapefruits, and wheat. Farmers in South Africa face several challenges such as droughts and pests. In 2015, the country faced one of the worst droughts in 3 decades, and it resulted in massive losses for farmers. The South African government has attempted to improve the country's agricultural sector through implementing several reforms some of which, such as the land redistribution program, have been heavily criticized by the South African people.


South African farmers grow a wide array of fruits such as grapes, pineapples, apples, and peaches. Some of the most critical fruit-growing areas include KwaZulu-Natal and the cape regions. Most of the fruits are exported, mainly to European countries, with the government estimating that in some years, fruits contributed more than 40% of the country's agricultural exports. Grapes are some of the most important fruits because they are mainly used in the country's winemaking industry that dates back to the 17th century. In 2003, it was estimated that South Africa was home to approximately 1.5% of the grape vineyards in the world. A large portion of South Africa's grape vineyards is located in the country's cape regions mainly throughout the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape. Several grape varieties are grown in South Africa such as Chenin Blanc, which is the most popular, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc. The country's oldest wine estate is Groot Constantia which was constructed during the 17th century. In the modern era, the estate is famous for its high-quality red wines.


South Africa has vast quantities of fish and they are some of its most important natural resources. Most of the country's fish are caught in the two oceans that border the country, the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Some of the fish caught in South Africa include anchovies, tuna, and mackerel. The fishing sector is a relatively small industry because in 2002 it provided employment to roughly 45,000 people and contributed $ 404 million to the country's GDP. South African fishers have also invested in developing the country's aquaculture sector to increase the quantity of fish caught in the country. In 2004, the FAO identified the lack of sufficient freshwater sources as the major challenge facing the country's freshwater aquaculture industry. In marine aquaculture projects, fishers keep several fish species such as mussels and abalone. In 2003, it was estimated that marine aquaculture produced more than 2,600 tons of fish. Apart from commercial fishing, South Africa is a popular destination for sports fishers which have led to establishing several resorts to cater to the sports fishermen.


South Africa has been blessed with a wide variety of minerals such as coal, diamonds, and gold which contribute significantly to the country's economy. South Africa is one of the largest coal producers in the world and nearly 40% of the coal produced is used to generate energy. The rest of the coal is exported to other nations with South Africa being one of the leading coal exporters globally. The US government estimated that in 2002, South Africa was home to roughly 38% of the world's total gold reserves. In 2005, South Africa accounted for roughly 12% of the world's total production of gold. In recent years, the amount of gold produced in South Africa has decreased due to the exhaustion of some of the country's gold reserves. South Africa is also one of the world's major producers of diamonds as the country produced more than 15,800,000 carats in 2005. South Africa also has vast uranium reserves which are considered to be the second largest in the world.

Challenges Facing the South African Economy

The South African economy faces several challenges such as the fluctuations in the prices of crops in the international market and the depletion of some of its important minerals. Another major challenge facing the South African economy is a large number of people living below the poverty line. Corruption is also a major challenge to the South African economy as it discourages foreign investors from investing in the country.


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