If South Africa’s provinces were independent states

Perspective matters. Recent provincial economic data published by Stats SA take on a fresh light when they’re ranked against other countries.

Gauteng is South Africa’s economic powerhouse. The province contributed just over a third to South Africa’s economic output in 2016, according to provincial gross domestic product (GDP).

In runner-up positions were KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape, the second and third largest economies. Northern Cape, the least populous province, contributed just 2% to national GDP, making it the smallest provincial economy.

How do the provinces square up against other countries?

In 2016, Gauteng’s economy was roughly the same size as that of North Africa’s Morocco, if we use nominal GDP figures as a comparison.

KwaZulu-Natal produced a level of economic output that was similar to that of Tanzania.

Northern Cape has an economy that was roughly on par with that of Bermuda.

How do the provinces measure up on the African continent?

If Gauteng suddenly decided to split off and become its own nation, it would find itself in the top 10. In 2016, its economy was the seventh largest in Africa, surpassing heavyweights such as Kenya and Tanzania.

KwaZulu-Natal was ranked in twelfth place, larger than the economies of Ghana and Tunisia.

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Western Cape was in sixteenth spot, generating about the same level of economic activity as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

An important point to keep in mind is that although the economies of Western Cape and the DRC were about the same size, the DRC had a population of 79 million in 2016, according to the United Nations, whereas Western Cape’s population totalled just over 6 million individuals.

This is reflected in per capita GDP figures: Western Cape’s per capita GDP is roughly US$6 300, while the DRC lags far behind at US$512.

How does South Africa’s GDP measure up to the economies of wealthier nations?

Compared with the largest economy in world, the United States, the South African economy produced about the same level of economic activity as the state of Missouri, the 22nd richest state in the USA.

The nominal GDP figures from the United Nations ranked South Africa as the 38th largest economy in 2016, smaller than Mexico, Poland and the Philippines; and larger than Egypt, Chile and New Zealand.

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