South Africa Factsheet


1 221 000 km2



 50.6 Million



With a sub-tropical location, South Africa’s generally warm climate is moderated by oceanic influences along its extensive coastline and by the altitude of the interior plateau. On the interior plateau, the high altitude prevents average summer temperatures from exceeding 30°C, and in winter, night-time temperatures in the interior can drop below freezing. Average annual temperatures differ strongly between west and east coasts, due mainly to the influences of the northward flowing, cold Benguela Current on the west coast and the tropical, warm, southward flowing Agulhas Current on the east and south coast. South Africa has a generally dry climate (especially towards the north-west), with an average annual rainfall of about 450mm. While the Western Cape gets most of its rainfall in winter, the rest of the country generally has summer rainfall, with a small southern region of all-year rainfall.

Natural Resources:

Primary sector contributes upto about 12.7% to the country’s GDP and this is majorly derived from mining and quarrying at 10.1% and agriculture, forestry, and fishing constituting 2.6%. Secondary sector comprising of manufacturing, construction, electricity, gas and water contributes 20.5% to the GDP with tertiary sector contributing the bulk of GDP at 67 %.


Agriculture, forestry, and fishing together employ 618 000 people in the formal and informal sectors. The agriculture sector is described as dualistic, dominated in economic output terms by sophisticated, large-scale commercial farming, but with an important small-scale and subsistence sector. Commercial agricultural activities in South Africa range from the intensive production of vegetables, ornamentals, and other niche products, to large scale production of annual cereals (e.g. wheat and maize), oil seeds, perennial herbaceous crops (e.g. sugarcane), and tropical, subtropical, and temperate fruit crops. Cattle meat produce is also a significant agricultural commodity, followed by chicken meat, grapes, and dairy.

Climate Vulnerabilities:

Rainfall change since 1950 has included both drying trends (in parts of the summer rainfall region) and wetting trends (in parts of the winter rainfall region). Sea-level is rising around the coast, but with regional differences. On the west coast, the sea level is rising by 1.87 mm per year; on the south coast by 1.47 mm per year; and on the east coast by 2.74mm per year. Increases in the distribution and intensity of drought, reduced agricultural crop yields impacting on food security, potential species extinction, increased growth rates of invasive species, potentially catastrophic coral bleaching, and an increase in the areas affected by vector-borne diseases.