Stats SA published last month updated estimates of GDP in South Africa. File picture: Pexels
Stats SA published last month updated estimates of GDP in South Africa. File picture: Pexels

The richest countries in the world – SA stands at number 36

By Yasmine Jacobs Time of article published Sep 6, 2021

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South Africa has moved up one notch on the global scale to become the 36th largest economy in the world.

That’s according to Statistics South Africa’s (Stats SA) updated estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) released last month, which shows where the South African economy fits on the global scale.

The rebased GDP figure in USD (using like for like conversion) is $335.2 billion, making South Africa the 36th largest economy in the world, up from 37th ($301 billion).

The rebased report is in line with international best practices to periodically review and update the estimates of the size, structure and performance of the economy.

The new base year for the national accounts is 2015. In layman’s terms, real gross domestic product (GDP) is now measured at constant 2015 prices instead of 2010 prices.

Therefore, the revised estimate of GDP in 2020 now stands at R5,521 billion. This is an increase of 11% compared with the previous estimate of R4,973 billion – an addition of R548 billion in estimated output.

The United States’ economy is currently the largest in the world as measured by nominal GDP.

China has the world’s second-largest nominal GDP in current dollars and the largest in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP).

Japan is the third-largest economy in the world with its GDP crossed the $5 trillion mark in 2019.

Coming in fourth place among world economies, Germany had a 2019 GDP of $3.86 trillion, making it Europe’s largest economy.

The United Kingdom has the fifth-largest economy in the world. It had a GDP of $2.83 trillion in 2019, up 1.4% from the prior year.1 The UK economy is driven by its large service sector, finance, insurance, and business services.

Breaking down SA’s economy

The largest changes occurred in finance, real estate and business services (up 26%); general government services (down 45% lower); and personal services (206% higher).

The revised GDP at current prices shows that the economy is 11,0% larger in 2020 than previously estimated. In the 10 years between 2011 and 2020, the percentage difference between the previous and revised levels averaged 9,6%, and ranged between 8,6% in 2014 and 11,0% in 2020.

Note that a raw conversion of South African rands to dollars doesn’t tell the full story of economic value. There are a number of factors that affect the economic value. Some countries carry a much lower cost of living or certain currencies have more buying power compared to major currencies like the dollar or euro.


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