South Africa has developed from an agrarian into a modern industrial state since World War II.
Today, the economy is well-diversified and the country is capable of producing a wide range of consumer and investment goods. South Africa produces one fifth of the entire production of the African continent.
The mining industry still plays a prominent part. However, over the last few years, the country's economic dependency on the export of raw materials, especially on gold, has lessened.
The economy is based on foreign trade. More than half of the gross national product (GNP) is achieved through exports and imports. By investing in modern production technologies after the apartheid era, South African products became more and more competitive on the world market. In 1996, an export surplus of about 8,7 billion Rand was achieved. Exports consist mainly of mineral raw materials, agricultural produce, chemical products, machinery, electric appliances and vehicles. Import goods are machines, plastic products, chemicals and also vehicles.
The main customer countries are: Japan (7.2 %), Italy (6.2 %), USA (6.2 %), Germany (5.1 %), Great Britain (4.8 %) and Zimbabwe (4.1 %). Imports mainly come from: Germany (13 %), USA (11 %), Great Britain (10.5 %), Japan (7.4 %), Italy (4.4 %) and France (3.2 %).