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Main Industries in South Africa

Manufacturing industry -

The South African manufacturing sector contributed 15.2% to South Africa’s GDP in 2013, making it the third-largest contributor to the nation’s economy.

Manufacturing is dominated by industries such as agro-processing, automotive, chemicals, information and communication technology, electronics, metals, textiles, clothing and footwear. Below is a very brief snapshot of these industries.


This industry spans the processing of freshwater aquaculture and mariculture, exotic and indigenous meats, nuts, herbs and fruit. It also involves the production and export of deciduous fruit; production of wines for the local and export market; confectionary manufacturing and export; and the processing of natural fibres from cotton, hemp, sisal, kenaf and pineapple.

World-class infrastructure, counter-seasonality to Europe, vast biodiversity and marine resources, and competitive input costs make the country a major player on the world’s markets.


The automotive industry is one of South Africa’s most important sectors, with many of the major multinationals using South Africa to source components and assemble vehicles for both the local and international markets. The sector accounts for about 12% of South Africa’s manufacturing exports.

In 2013, the DTI introduced the Automotive Production Development Programme (APDP) aimed at increasing the volume of cars manufactured in South Africa to 1.2-million annually by 2020 as well as to diversify the automotive components chain. The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers (NAAM) said production will rise from 2014 onward because of the APDP.

According to NAAM, average industry employment figures rose by 441 jobs in the third quarter of 2013, therefore bringing the total to 30 344 positions within the industry.


South African chemical companies have only recently begun to focus on the need to be internationally competitive. The industry is the largest of its kind in Africa. It is highly complex and widely diversified, with end products often being composed of a number of chemicals that have been combined in some way.

In 2013, the sector was South Africa’s fourth-largest employer with 200 000 jobs and contributed about 5% to the country’s GDP.

Information and communications technology

The South African information and communication technologies (ICT) sector is the largest and most advanced in Africa, and is characterised by technology leadership, particularly in the field of mobile software and electronic banking services.

With a network that is 99.9% digital and includes the latest in wireless and satellite communication, the country has the most developed telecoms network in Africa. Export growth and internationalisation of South African companies is supported by the Department of Trade and Industry via the South African Electrotechnical Export Council (SAEEC).

According to the SAECC, the South African ICT market is estimated at US$ 42.6-billion (R468.4-billion) in 2013 with IT accounting for US$ 15.08-billion (R164-billion) and communications US$ 27.18-billion (R297.4-billion). The sector contributes approximately 8.2% to South Africa’s GDP.

Several international corporates, recognised as leaders in the IT sector, operate subsidiaries from South Africa, including IBM, Unisys, Microsoft, Intel, Systems Application Protocol (SAP), Dell, Novell and Compaq.

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