South Africa Country Guide

by Jose Marc Castro on August 4, 2009

FLAGsouthafrica200While South Africa has historically been a troubled land, it is starting emerge form the dark years and while this will take some time, progress is most definitely being made.  One problem that the country has, with regards to ethnic integration, is that fact that there are so many different ethnic groups and so many different languages.  However this vast range of ethnic backgrounds does add something of a fairly unique element to country.

The country is located on the south tip of the African continent, and borders countries such as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho.   The positioning of the country has made it a very important trade route and attracted a vast array of travelers from the likes of Europe over the years.

South Africa is most known for its diversity in cultures, languages and faiths. On record there are eleven official languages, with English as the most commonly used during official or commercial activities. It citizenry is similarly diverse with over three fourths of the population are black and the last quarter is a mixture of Caucasian, Indian and Mixed communities.

Over the last 50 years there have been problems with the volatile political system in the country, and while again there is still much work to be done, progress has been made.  Having suffered from trade sanctions in the 1980s, major changes were made which resulted in the worldwide trade ban being lifted.

For many years the natural beauty of South Africa was over shadowed by the problems with both the integration of ethnic groups, and the unstable political system.  As the troubles of the past are being left behind, the country is becoming better known for its vast array of tourist attraction, and the ability to study at close quarters the lives of natural wildlife.

The system for temporary visas is fairly straightforward in South Africa, with many nationalities not even requiring such paperwork.  However, the immigration procedure is a little more complicated and considered on a case-to-case basis. Expats relocating to South Africa should be medically fit, of good character, and be able to offer services that are in short supply in the country.  Advice should be taken before applying for a move to South Africa.

Content: Economy in South AfricaProspects in South AfricaSouth Africa Key Facts

Economy in South Africa

While officially classified as a developed economy, South Africa does have vast areas of the countryside where economic development is still fairly basic.  The main developed business areas are centered on Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban and Johannesburg – the main relocation areas for the vast number of expats who are now attracted to the country.

As well as developed financial and legal systems, South Africa has a massive supply of natural resources (minerals, etc), a modern communications system, as well as a high grade transport network.  The Stock Exchange of South Africa is one of the top twenty in the world, reflecting the channelling of much African trade through the country. In stark contrast though, the vast majority of South Africans are poor, with some eking out a living at less then $1.25 a day.

It is the mineral, financial and legal industries that have attracted the vast majority of expats to consider relocating to the country.  The only problem over the last few years has been the currency of South Africa, the Rand, which has been very volatile.  It was however the best performing currency against the US dollar between 2002 and 2005, and because of the lifting of historic money transfer restrictions, the currency is a littler more predictable.

Away from the developed cities mentioned above, the main industry is agriculture and South Africa is renowned for being a net exporter of farming products.  Sugar, grapes, citrus, nectarines and wines are among the more popular exports to trading partners, with South African wine in particular making a great name for itself worldwide.

The unemployment rate in South Africa varies massively from area to area, with many regions reporting figures between 20% and 40%.  While the figures have historically been much higher, there is still much work to be done to allow the whole of the country to enjoy the growth in the economy.  Economic growth is expected to continue at around 5% per annum for the foreseeable future.

Prospects in South Africa

The South African economy is very much a work in progress affair, with high employment in the main cities and townships, but high unemployment in some of the more rural areas of the country.  This is slowly changing, and while the economy is growing as there needs to be a push to reduce rural unemployment rates.  Another problem besieging the economy is the steady decline in residential property prices that have fallen to its lowest in 23 years. Once that unemployment has been curbed and consumer spending stimulated, this aspect of the economy will surely rebound.

While the economy is doing well in some of the more traditional areas of business (finance, legal, etc), South Africa also has a vastly expanding tourist industry.  As volatility amongst the ethnic groupings of the country has quieted, this has opened up more areas for tourists to visit.  There are few places in the world where you can experience such beautiful landscapes, and be so close to some of the most rare animals in the world.

South Africa continues to grow in popularity and this is attracting more and more expats to the country.  For those willing to become part of an ever-changing social and economic landscape, in a beautiful country, South Africa may be the place for you.

An expat shared their thoughts on the cost of living in South Africa, in a post at the South Africa Expat Forum last July 9, 2009:

You did not say short term or long term ? Long term can end up a bit less.
For short term you can look at this below per month living in Johannesburg, in USA Dollars:

A minimum of $2,500- 3,500 per month after taxes and deductions.
That is when they provide accommodation and medical insurance.
You will need a car. Cannot get anywhere without a car.

Car rental per month. $1,300-1,500
Buy – monthly installment incl insurance $ 380
Fuel in Johannesburg minimum of $ 500 -800
Food, clothes,and other essentials . $1,800

In Johannesburg area you cannot go for less than that .

As a matter of fact, I will insist on $2,600 minimum $87 per day and let them provide the car .
If not at Least $3,900 or $130 per day.

Most foreign companies pays a minimum of
US$ 3,000-5, 000 or more, providing accommodation/ transportation.

Remember from now on everything will start becoming more expensive in South Africa due to the tourist Season starting soon but more important the 2010 World Cup.
Prices will jump substantially more than they already did.

South Africa Key Facts:

Bordered by as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho

Food: Heavily meat based

Temperature: 11C to 24C

Industries: Natural minerals, agriculture and fine wines

Education: 9 years of compulsory education

Health: Life expectancy 49 years

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