Over the course of the 20th century South Africa changed economically from a producer of raw materials to an industrial nation that produces both raw materials and commercial products. The nation’s manufacturing, commerce, and services have been built extensively on the foundations of mining and farming. The economy remained primarily agricultural for much of the 19th century until the discovery of diamonds at Kimberley in 1867 and gold on the Witwatersrand in the 1880s. South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) was $283 billion in 2007. The GDP per capita in South Africa is $5,914.40 per year, which makes South Africa a middle-income country.
The modern industrial and commercial economy gives a minority of the population, including most whites, a standard of living equivalent to that in Western Europe; but for many who are wholly or partially excluded from the economy, incomes and lifestyles are characteristic of developing countries.
There are marked variations in economic production among different geographic areas in South Africa. A significant portion of the country’s GDP is produced in Gauteng Province alone, while minimal commercial activity and poor infrastructure characterize the former bantustans.
During the apartheid period the South African government championed the capitalist system, although its own economic policies were in many respects interventionist, and its racial policies compromised fundamental elements of capitalism such as the free movement of labor.
International sanctions imposed because of the government’s apartheid policies were increasingly damaging in the late 1980s but ended in the early 1990s as the apartheid era came to a close. The majority party in government, the African National Congress (ANC), came to power in alliance with trade unions and the Communist Party, leading to fears that it would pursue socialist policies. In practice its economic policies have been geared to maximizing economic growth, attracting foreign investment, and privatizing some state assets. "South Africa" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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