When comparing the GDP of South Africa and the United States you may think that the U.S. trounces South Africa in terms of money, imports and exports. In some ways, you may be right for thinking like that. However, when examining the countries you begin to see that both nations are rich in activity that links them across the world.
In 2014, the IMF reported that the United States was second in the world’s GDP rankings with $17,418.9 billion–just behind China. On the other hand, South Africa finished 29th in the world with $704.9 billion. While both countries appear solid when looking at the numbers, the full story reveals itself when examining what products and nations are helping shape both nations purchasing power. Those numbers help reveal why the U.S. earned a 12 on the production characteristic index the Economic Complexity Index (ECI) while South Africa is at 59.
According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity at MIT, South Africa is the top exporter of Ferroalloys, Platinum, Titanium Ore and several other entities. In comparison, the U.S. is the top exporter of a diverse group that includes planes, medical instruments and soybeans. Just as each nation varies on its key exports, The OEC also reports that the U.S. top exports include cars, refined petroleum, helicopters, packaged medicaments and gas turbines. South Africa’s top exports show gold, platinum, coal briquettes, diamonds and iron ore as its top exports.
When it comes to its international dealings, South Africa holds strong ties with China on both fronts. Similarly so, the U.S. ships to China more than almost any other country–third to Canada and Mexico. Furthermore, the U.S. imports more goods from China than anywhere else. Both South Africa and the U.S. are big in importing crude petroleum. One interesting fact is that a the top exports of each nation–Cars for the U.S. and gold for South Africa–also ranks near the top of their lists of imports.
While the U.S. and South Africa differ vastly on several key subjects, both have significant options in growing its GDP. This should continue as the emergence of African nations is already evident. While South Africa doesn’t have the oil rich land that a country like Nigeria may have, it is using its local goods to assert itself as a player in African and global dealings.