A large territory with a diversity of resources…
South Africa has always been one of the richest and most developed countries in Africa. During the 1980s, the lifestyle in some affluent neighbourhoods was comparable to that of Westerners, but in others, poverty was high. Industries and trade still flourish today.
The country was one of the largest suppliers of precious metals in the world. Gold accounted for half of its exports. It was full of riches: It had 51% of the world’s gold resources, 75% of its stocks of platinum. It also had chromium, manganese and alumina products used by major industries. Nearly 20% of the world’s diamonds came from South Africa.
South Africa’s electrical energy is still produced in part by a nuclear power plant located in the Cape Province and in part by a hydroelectric plant in Mozambique. The country is exceptionally energy independent.
Much electricity is still produced by coal. South Africa has enormous coal resources through which it also produces synthetic hydrocarbons (gas created in the laboratory). Part of this coal is exported. The country also exports cement, food products and textiles.
… which benefitted only Whites
The profits from all of these exports, which was increasing year after year, was pocketed by less than 17% of the population, that is to say Whites owners. Blacks saw a sharp rise in the unemployment rate, and this created a climate of insecurity among the population.
Whites, who owned 85% of all the agricultural land, hired young Blacks and paid them very low wages to grow corn, sugar cane, cereals and fruit which were exported. Maize was the staple diet of Black South Africa. Wine, wool and South African leather were also popular in global markets. The rest of the land was occupied by poor African families who practiced subsistence farming.
Author: Marianne Giguère