Market monitor: South Africa

Leading economic opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa

Economic overview

With its abundant natural resources and well-developed business and legal infrastructure, South Africa has one of the largest and most stable economies in Africa. The country saw its gross domestic product shrink amid the global financial crisis, but the economy has begun to recover. GDP grew an estimated 3 percent in 2011. Daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era, and economic empowerment is one of the key policies of the government. Despite its challenges, South Africa plays a leading role in regional trade and politics and has key relationships with developed nations. It currently holds a nonpermanent seat on the United Nations Security Council; the two-year term ends in December.

Business travel industry insight

Business travel demand reflects the composition of South Africa’s economy, in which services account for nearly two-thirds of GDP. Industry makes up most of the remaining third of the country’s economic output. Credit card use is higher here than anywhere else in Africa, and online booking is growing.


  • The country is the most developed of the African sub-Saharan markets.
  • Financial, legal, communications, energy and transport sectors are well established.
  • Modern infrastructure supports relatively efficient transport of travelers and distribution of goods to major urban centers.
  • Credit card use is strong compared to other African countries.


  • Entrenched economic problems hamper growth; the unemployment rate is nearly 25 percent.
  • Online booking is still a work in progress.
  • In recent years, aging electricity infrastructure has contributed to disruptions in power.
  • Crime is prevalent.

icon-electricWhen your business expands into new markets, BCD Travel can get your travelers where they need to be. Talk to your account manager about how we can support your company’s growth across the globe.


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