collective farm in South Africa

Collective farm in South Africa. Photo: World bank

South Africa has risen to the ranks of upper-middle income countries and the country’s economy is the largest in Africa. It is rich in mineral resources; mining has been the driving force behind South Africa’s economic growth and it is the world’s largest producer of gold, platinum, and chromium.  Agriculture contributes just 2.4 percent of GDP, and employs approximately 10 percent of the South African workforce.

Despite the country’s strong economic performance, poverty remains a serious challenge.  As of May 2013, the official unemployment rate stands at 25 percent, although some estimates put the figure closer to 40 percent.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world, with black Africans disproportionately living in poverty.  The latest census, released in 2012, found that the annual incomes of black South Africans were less than one-sixth the annual incomes of whites.  

South Africa

Country Update

Opinion: Assessing South Africa`s New Land Redistribution Policies

By Ben Cousins, PLAAS, University of the Western Cape

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Land ownership is also problematic.  Although the land tenure system is based on private ownership of land, up to 85 percent of agricultural land is owned by whites, despite the fact that black South Africans make up 80 percent of the population.  Inequality is considered one of South Africa’s most pressing economic challenges.
South Africa’s post-apartheid governments have attempted to counteract the effects of earlier discriminatory laws and practices, including the Natives Land Act of 1913, under which black South Africans were limited to ownership of land within designated ‘Native Reserves’ that comprised just 13 percent of total land in South Africa.
The Restitution of Land Rights Act of 1994 aimed to provide a remedy for uncompensated dispossessions of land under the Natives Land Act and other discriminatory laws.  Victims of dispossession were entitled to have their land restored to them or to be provided alternative land or cash compensation.  However, less than 10 percent of apartheid evictees filed restitution claims by the deadline of December 1998, and the vast majority of those received cash compensation.  A variety of factors likely affected the claim rate, including lack of awareness or mistrust of the process, the onerous investigations and evidence required to successfully submit a claim, and the complication of filing and processing group or communal claims, which account for most claims in rural areas.
In light of this small number of claimants, the President of South Africa has proposed the re-opening of the claim window in order to allow more claimants to receive restitution or compensation for their losses.  As of May 2013, the President’s proposal had been approved by the cabinet and made available for public comment.

South Africa infographic

Total population 50,586,757
Rural population / rural poverty rate 19,229,645/N/A
Share of women in agriculture 3.50%
Urban population / urban poverty rate 31,357,112/79.45%
Internally displaced People N/A
Total land area / Agricultural land as % of total 1,213,090/79.45%
Protected areas (as % of total land) 6.90%
Forested land (as % of total) 7.62%
Annual deforestation rate 0.00%
Land rights and access rating N/A
Time required to register property (days) 23
Women's ownership rights 0.9
Large-scale land holdings 170,400
GDP per capita (current USD) 8,070
Agriculture as % of GDP 2.40%
Natural resource income as % of GDP 10.64%
Major natural resources gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore
Tourism as share of GDP 0.91%