Run on Numbers: South Africa is the only country on the African continent with its name linked to its continent name

Published Mar 25, 2024


Our context to the whole, people migration movement, trade, and relationships. How relevant is South Africa to the continent?

Much has been written about the formation of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and what can be expected regarding the de-dollarisation and the formation of a BRICS currency. In a fast-changing world, a country must position itself and align with countries that will serve its interests first. Just as former US president Donald Trump’s policy revolves around the principle of “America First”, South Africa should do likewise in its foreign policies. On February 20, in a Government Opinion Piece, the government stated that South Africa became the first among the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries to start trading as part of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). As chairperson of the AU, President Cyril Ramaphosa oversaw the launch of the AfCFTA, which is currently the largest free trade area in the world. It aims to fast-track intra-African trade and has the potential to grow our economies as well as improve the lives of people across the continent. It is expected to lead to diversification of exports, acceleration of growth, and an increase in investment and employment opportunities for South Africans and the rest of the continent.

1. In 2012, these SADC countries adopted the Regional Infrastructure Development Master Plan that prioritises the development of roads, rail, and ports. The plan identifies 72 road projects comprising new builds, upgrades, or maintenance projects and includes the Dar es Salaam-Chalinze toll road, the Kazungula Bridge, and the Beitbridge-Chirundu road upgrade.

David Luke, professor in practice and strategic director of the Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa at LSE investigates African trade in his new book, “How Africa Trades”. “It’s important to link jobs to trade, especially in the African case,” he adds, “because the demographics suggest that, currently, Africa has around 252 million youth (aged 15–24 years) that need to be absorbed in productive activities. The demographic issue is particularly important to relate, both to development and in terms of how trade impacts the economy, creates jobs, incomes, and so on.” The professor makes the point that trade with the rest of the world in goods is mainly commodities, and in services, mainly, tourism, while intra-African trade – the trade between African countries – is more diversified in value-added goods such as manufactured and processed food and services such as transport services, financial services, business services, etc. But intra-African trade is small, accounting for only 18% of Africa’s total trade.

2. The African continent in context with the world.

Sadly, the first thing that comes to mind is how many states are poor. We often refer to Africa, south of the Sahara, and there is a good reason for this as the Sahara constitutes 31% of the total area of Africa.

Sahara – Size of the Largest Hot Desert in the World

  • The length of the Sahara is 4 800km (3 000 mi).
  • The width of the Sahara is 1 800km (1 100 mi).
  • The Sahara covers about 8% of the Earth’s total land area.
  • The Sahara constitutes 31% of the total area of Africa.
  • The area of the Sahara is 9.2 million square kilometres.

The countries within the Sahara are Morocco, Mali, Mauritania, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Chad, Niger Republic, some parts of Sudan, a small portion of Nigeria, and a small part of Burkina Faso. The yearly precipitation averaged over the whole Earth is about 100cm (39 inches), but this is distributed very unevenly.

According to Statista, South Africa’s GDP per capita is estimated to amount to $6 427 (R122 000).

3. In February 2013, the Department of Home Affairs told the Parliament oversight committee that South Africa had 72 designated ports of entry, six of which were shared with other countries. The country grappled with managing the movement of people at many of the ports of entry and did not understand their role. These were not only important for the country but for the region. The department stated that this was a complex issue and it had been neglected for a while. Of the 72 total ports, there are 53 land ports.

The committee heard that legislation facilitated the movement of people but could be improved. Such a comment is lame at its best and is nothing more than an embarrassment to our leaders. They state that the issue was a lack of capacity to implement the Immigration Act; the department operated far below what was acceptable to run an efficient service. This included both horizontal and vertical co-ordination with other departments. Challenges posing the risk to national security included people travelling with documents illegally acquired. There were operational challenges in information technology (IT) that relied on two systems – the Movement Control System (MCS) and the Advance Profiling Passenger (APP). The APP was only operated on airlines and was more of an alert system for foreign countries to those who were prohibited or wanted in South Africa. Eleven years later, nothing has improved, and all indications are that matters have become worse. The greylisting of South Africa can also be related to this inefficient functioning of a key cornerstone of state security. Lately, we have come to know of an increasing list of corruption related to the Department of Home Affairs.

4. As reported by, Arfan Ahmed, a Pakistani national, was arrested in a sting operation that included the Counter Corruption branch of Home Affairs, the Hawks, and the Police Crime Intelligence on March 24, 2022. In another important development, the Durban Magistrate’s Court sentenced Anda Ngozi and Nomathandazo Mboyane to 26 and 24 years, respectively. The two were officials of the Department of Home Affairs employed at the office in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape. The two fraudulently processed 52 passports for foreign nationals, mostly from the DRC, who are not legally entitled to them. Another recent case was reported by Minister Aaron Motsoaledi stating: “Kudakwashe Mpofu, the suspended CFO of North West Development Corporation, had been informed his permit was illegal.” He said Mpofu was informed as “far back as June 23, 2023, that his purported permanent residence permit is fraudulent”.

5. We recently sent questions to the owner of Khato Civils and South Zambezi, Simbi Phiri, regarding his South African status. The two companies have received numerous large contracts, and the company claims 100% black-owned business status. According to the B-BBEE Act of 2003 and subsequent amendments, a “black person” is defined as someone who is African, coloured, or Indian, and who is a citizen of South Africa by birth or descent or who became a citizen by naturalisation before April 27, 1994. Phiri was born in Malawi, as was the self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri. There are media reports that the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is investigating Phiri and his companies in matters relating to the corrupt Giyani water project. The SIU has issued a summons to the three companies involved in an illegal emergency project to provide water to Giyani and 55 surrounding villages. In court papers, the SIU wants the companies – LTE Consulting, Khato Civils, and South Zambezi – to repay the state the R2.2 billion they were paid by the water and sanitation department.

Former chief director Ronney Marhule was fired in 2022, following a year-long investigation. This was after he was found guilty of gross dishonesty, gross negligence, and non-compliance with the Immigration Act when the official recommended issuing the permits to Bushiri’s family, although they did not qualify after applying in 2016. This conduct at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation seems to be endemic, and what we see is the tip of the iceberg.

In a follow-up article, we will take a closer look at the potential abuse of foreigners of the B-BEEE legislation privileges devised to empower South Africans previously disadvantaged.

* Kruger is an independent analyst.