All The 9 South African Provinces Ranked From Richest to Poorest

Among other African countries, South Africa stands as one of the most respected with a robust economy, infrastructural growth, and considerable stable polity. Unlike most other countries on the continent, South Africa has been able to diversify its economy with each province also making strides for itself. When one has all South African provinces ranked according to their wealth, Gauteng leads the chart followed by Western Cape while Limpopo and Eastern Cape are at the last spot of the log.

Detailed South African Provinces Ranked By Wealth

1. Gauteng

South African Provinces Ranked
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  • Population: 14.3 million
  • GDP Per capita: $9,681USD
  • Important sectors: Real estate, finance, business and government service
  • Land Mass: 18,178 square kilometers
  • Languages: isiZulu, English, Afrikaans, Sesotho

Gauteng ranks as the richest province in South Africa with a GDP per capita of $9,681USD. The province has such a broad financial shoulder thanks to its city and capital, Johannesburg, as well as Pretoria, which are the biggest urban city in the country and the administrative capital of the country, respectively.

With a landmass of 18,178 square kilometers, which takes only 1.5% of the country, and a population of over 14.3 million people, Gauteng is the smallest province and at the same time, one of the most populous, having around 25.3% of SA’s population. It is a well-urbanized province that also has many industries. The major contributors to the economy of Gauteng are the financial sector, real estate, and business services.

Gauteng contributes close to 35% of South Africa’s GDP; in 2016, it contributed R1.5 trillion of the country’s GDP of R4.35 trillion. In the same year, it emerged as Africa’s event’s largest economy after countries like Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, and Sudan, while it was almost two times bigger than the economy of Tanzania.

2. Western Cape

Western Cape
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  • Population: 6.5 million
  • GDP Per capita: $8,694USD
  • Important sectors: Finance, trade, catering and accommodation, tourism, manufacturing
  • Land Mass: 129,462 square kilometers
  • Languages: Afrikaans, isiXhosa, English

As one would rightly guess, this province is located on South Africa’s south-western coast. It is ranked second among the richest provinces in the country with a GDP per capita of USD 8,694. The most popular city, which is also the capital of the province, is Cape Town, which is the second-most populous city in the country only after Johannesburg.

It has a landmass that makes for 10.6% of the country and a population that makes 11.5% of the country. This province has been tagged the fastest growing provincial economies in South Africa. Manufacturing, finance, service sector, trade, catering, and accommodation remain the main contributors to the economy of the province.

As of 2016, the contribution of the province to the South African economy was placed at R596 billion, which makes for 13.7% of the country’s GDP. This means that it was also the second-highest contributing province only after Gauteng.

3. Northern Cape

  • Population: 1.2 million
  • GDP per capita: $6,688USD
  • Important sectors: Mining and quarrying, government services, finance
  • Land Mass: 372,889 square kilometers (30.5%)
  • Languages: Afrikaans, Setswana

Bordering Namibia in Karas and Hardap and Botswana in Kgalagadi, Northern Cape is not only among the richest when one has all South African provinces ranked, but it is also one of the most interesting. Referred to as the “Diamond Province” because it is home to Kimberley, which also doubles as its provincial capital. Kimberley is the place with the biggest man-made hole in the world, the Big Hole, which is the result of diamond mining.

The province has a GDP per capita of $6,688USD, with mining, agriculture, finances, and government services as the main contributors to the economy of the province. Northern Cape contributed the least to the economy of the country back in 2016, with R91 billion (2.1%). Making over 30 percent of the entire landmass of South Africa, Northern Cape is the largest by size and with a population of only 1.2 million, it is the least populous province in the country.

4. North West

South African Provinces Ranked
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  • Population: 3.9 million (6.8%)
  • GDP per capita: $6,677USD
  • Important sectors: mining, government services, finance
  • Land Mass: 104,882 square kilometers (8.6%)
  • Dominant Languages: Setswana, Afrikaans

North West has the second least population in South Africa of 3.9 million, making up 6.8% of the country, and it occupies 8.6% of the country’s landmass. The provincial capital is Mahikeng, and it is also one of the major economic hubs together with Klerksdorp.

It has a GDP per capita of $6,677USD with mining as the major economic contributor of the province. Government services and finance, as well as agriculture, are also contributors. It is known as Platinum Province because of the abundance of the mineral. Also, it houses two of the eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in South Africa; Taung Skull Fossil Site and the Vredefort Dome.

As of 2016, its contribution to the economy of South Africa was put at R280 billion (6.4%), only above Free State and Northern Cape.

5. Mpumalanga

  • Population: 4.4 million (7.9%)
  • GDP per capita: $6,251USD
  • Important sectors: mining, trade, catering and accommodation, manufacturing
  • Land Mass: 76,495 square kilometers (6.3%)
  • Dominant Languages: siSwati, isiZulu, Xitsonga, isiNdebele

This province sleeps on the border of Swaziland and Mozambique and is located in eastern South Africa. It has the smallest landmass of 76,495 square kilometers, only after Gauteng, and the provincial capital is Mbombela, which before now, was referred to as Nelspruit.

The GDP per capita of this province is $6,251USD, and the main drivers of their economy include mining, manufacturing, construction, and trade. More so, with its weather, agriculture also has a good place in the economy of this province. To the South African economy, the province contributed 7.4% of the GDP of the country; R324 billion.

6. Free State

South African Provinces Ranked
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  • Population: 2.9 million people
  • GDP per capita: $6,213 USD
  • Important sectors: Government services, finance, trade, catering, and accommodation
  • Land Mass: 129,825 square kilometers
  • Dominant Languages: Sesotho, Afrikaans

Free State may be at the heart of South Africa, but not so much about its economy when compared to others. It has a population of 2.9 million people and a landmass of 129,825 square kilometers. Significantly enough, this province is the Judicial capital of the country, and it has its provincial capital at Bloemfontein.

It has a GDP per capita of $6,213. At the forefront of the economy here is the mining of minerals such as gold, diamond, and bituminous coal. Also, tourism has been a contributor just as trade and government services. In 2016, its contribution to the GDP of South Africa was R218 billion (5%), sitting only above Northern Cape’s R91 billion.

Interestingly, while it may not be the poorest province in South Africa, it is home to some of the poorest municipalities in the country based on taxable income such as Tokologo, Nketoana, Tswelopele, and Mohokare Local Municipalities.

7. KwaZulu-Natal

  • Population: 11.1 million (19.6%)
  • GDP per capita: $4,767USD
  • Important sectors: manufacturing, finance, government services
  • Land Mass: 94,361 square kilometers (7.7%)
  • Dominant Languages:  isiZulu, English

KwaZulu-Natal is yet another province that is interesting for many reasons. For one, it has some of those places that many, both within and outside of the country, would love to visit. Durban is the city that is most known in the province, but the capital is Pietermaritzburg. Outside of India, Durban has the highest number of Indian settlements compared to anywhere else in the world.

The province has a landmass of 94,361 square kilometers, for its population of 11.1 million people, making it the most populous province only after Gauteng. The GDP per capita of the province is placed at USD 4,767. The major driving force of the economy here include things like mining, tourism, and financial sectors. Durban boasts of a good number of industries, which are also at the center of the overall economy. It made a contribution of R692 billion (15.9%) to South Africa’s GDP in 2016; it is only topped by Gauteng.

8. Limpopo

South African Provinces Ranked
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  • Population:  5.8 million (10.2%)
  • GDP per capita: $4,259USD
  • Important sectors: mining, government services, trade, catering, and accommodation
  • Land Mass: 125,755 square kilometers (10.3%)
  • Dominant Languages: Sesotho, Xitsonga, Tshivenda

With all South African provinces ranked, Limpopo is one of the poorest in terms of GDP per capita, which stands at $4,259. More than this, it has one of the highest rates of poverty in South Africa, with 78.9% of the population in abject poverty. Also, wealth distribution here is highly unequal.

With its capital as Polokwane, it was previously known as Northern Province. The province has a landmass of 125,755 square kilometers and a population of 5.8 million people. The contribution of Limpopo to South Africa’s economy as of 2016 was R312 billion (7.2%)- it topped Northern Cape’s 2.1%, Free State’s 5%, and North West’s 6.4%. Mining, as well as agriculture and tourism, are the main driving forces of the economy of the province

9. Eastern Cape

Eastern Cape
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  • Population: 6.5 million (11.5%)
  • GDP per capita: $3,651USD
  • Important sectors: government services, trade, catering and accommodation, finance
  • Land Mass: 168,966 square kilometers (13.8%)
  • Dominant Languages:  isiXhosa, Afrikaans

The poorest province in South Africa is the Eastern Cape, which only boasts of a GDP per capita of 3,651 USD. The province has a population of 6.5 million, adding up to 11.5% of the country’s population, and a landmass of 168,966 square kilometers, which means that it covers around 13.8% of the landmass of South Africa.

The major contributors to the economy of the province include manufacturing and finance, as well as the agricultural sector, although the practice is mostly done at the subsistent level, and so the potentials are not well harnessed. Despite its state among other provinces in the country, the Eastern Cape still manages to be a little developed with good road and rail transport systems, as well as three airports and fast-growing industries.

In 2006, the province contributed R331 billion to the GDP of South Africa, adding up to 7.6% of the entire GDP of the country. It contributed more than Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West, and Northern Cape.

South African Provinces Ranked By Contribution To South African Economy

From 2016, not much has changed as regards the contributions of the different provinces to the economy of South African, looking at the March 2020 GDP. Here is the latest GDP ranked by provinces:

  • Gauteng:  34.94%
  • KwaZulu-Natal: 16.04%
  • Western Cape: 13.86%
  • Eastern Cape: 7.51%
  • Mpumalanga: 7.24%
  • Limpopo: 7.18%
  • North West: 5.89%
  • Free State: 5.14%
  • Northern Cape: 2.19%​

Note: From March 2020 to June, the economy of South Africa fell by as much as 51% as a result of COVID-19 lockdown and other restrictions.

Is the most developed province in South Africa also the richest? 

South African Provinces Ranked
The provincial growth rates from 2009 to 2017 (Image Source)

Gauteng is not only the richest province in South Africa, but it is also the most developed. The economic hub of the country, it enjoys a development that spreads to different sectors, including education with more than 15 universities and educational institutions that are spread in different parts. It also has a robust transport system, and a sports system that is also thriving.

On human development, the Human Development Index shows that in South Africa, Gauteng is the best in human development with 0.726, but that is only after the Western Cape with 0.741. The human development index brings the statistics of the life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators of a country.

As regards economic development, Gauteng has remained the richest province in South Africa, judging by provincial growth rates from 2009 to 2017. By the end of the studies, Gauteng tops with an average growth of 1.89% followed by Western Cape at 1.82%, and then KwaZulu-Natal at 1.68%.

The worst performing provinces in the 10-year period are the North-West, which only recorded an average of 0.53%, followed by Free State with an average of 1.08%, and then Limpopo with only 1.20%.

Gauteng is the richest province in South Africa, but does it also have the largest population?

As stated, Gauteng has the smallest landmass in South Africa, measuring only 18,178 square kilometers, which translates to 1.5% of the total landmass. The province with the smallest landmass is Mpumalanga, which occupies 76,495 square kilometers, amounting to 6.3%, which is a significant difference.

Nonetheless, this small landmass does not seem to affect its population as Gauteng still has the largest population in the country of more than 14.3 million people (25.3%) as against the closest province to it; KwaZulu-Natal with a population of 11.1 million people (19.6%).

The metropolitan municipalities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Ekurhuleni do not only drive the economy of the province, but also have the highest population while the local municipalities of Mogale City, Randfontein, and Westonaria have the lowest population in the province.

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Tim van der Walt
Tim van der Walt
Tim is another of our talented writers, the one who plays music on replay, drinks more coffee than beer, plays video games, and reads poetry. In between, Tim reviews products, write about computers, games, and talk tech and arts. If there is a WIII, he thinks it could be caused by bad writing.
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