Since the mineral discoveries of the late 19th century, the South African economy has gradually changed from an agricultural to an industrialized economy. Industry contributed 31 percent of GDP in 2007.
Manufacturing overtook mining as the largest South African industrial sector during World War II (1939-1945). Metalworking represents the largest manufacturing sector, including metals, metal products, machinery, and automobiles and other transport equipment. Other important manufactured products include food, beverages, and tobacco; clothing and textiles; and chemicals. Much of South Africa’s manufacturing is concentrated on the Witwatersrand, although Durban, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Town are also major industrial cities.
Export-driven manufacturing is considered the key to sustainable growth in South Africa. Until the 1990s, much South African manufacturing had been sheltered behind protective tariffs and was not internationally competitive. The end of international sanctions and the decline of the rand after 1994 helped exporters, and levels of protection have since been reduced substantially.
The South African mining industry is one of the most technologically advanced in the world. South Africans are the world’s foremost deep-level miners, exporting their expertise to many countries. Historically, the mining industry was built on the foundations of cheap black labor, but wages have improved substantially since the early 1970s.
The contribution of mining to GDP declined over the course of the 20th century, but the mining industry still employs hundreds of thousands of people and continues to dominate exports. South Africa remains the world’s largest producer of gold, but the industry faces long-term decline because of its high production costs and falling gold prices. These costs are primarily the result of the great depth of the South African mines. The country is rich in many other minerals, and non-gold mining expanded significantly in the second half of the 20th century. Other important mineral products include diamonds, coal, uranium, platinum, nickel, chromite, vanadium, manganese, and fluorite. Encarta "South Africa" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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