Located at the southernmost tip of Africa, South Africa is the 25th largest nation in the world by total area and is wedged where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean.
South Africa has 3 capital cities: Pretoria/Tshwane (administrative), Cape Town (legislative) and Bloemfontein (judicial).
The country has 9 provinces: Eastern Cape, the Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, the Northern Cape, North West and the Western Cape.
The population is around 59 million. The country is ranked 24th in the world by population size. South Africa has a very young population, with a median age of 27 years old. The country has 11 0fficial languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, and Zulu.
South Africa’s economy grew by 0.8% in 2018 and should continue to grow at a higher rate in the coming years. It is ranked 33rd worldwide with a total GDP of $680.04 billion (2020).
Services and industry are the biggest contributors, responsible for 67.5% and 29.7%, respectively, of the national GDP.
Its main international trade partners are Europe (namely Germany, Spain and the UK), the United States, China & Japan. South Africa has an ongoing trade connection with China. China represents its top export destination, and South Africa enjoys a high volume of Chinese imports.
The country also has a strong relationship with Australia; both members of the Commonwealth. South Africa is also Australia’s largest export market and its most significant investment partner in Africa.
The country is the world’s largest producer and exporter of gold, platinum, chrome and manganese and the fourth-largest producer of diamonds. Gold represents 15.6% of total exports. Its top imports are crude petroleum, refined petroleum, cars, gold and broadcasting equipment.
South Africa has a Customs Union Agreement, as well as Free Trade Agreements with several countries. The Southern African Customers Union exists between South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland.
Within Africa, South Africa is part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) FTA, together with 15 other member states. With Europe, South Africa is part of the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA).
South Africa is also part of the EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) to reduce tariffs on selected goods.
Since 1 January 2021, South Africa has been part of The African Continental Free Trade Agreement, along with 54 nations of Africa. This has created the world’s largest free-trade area, making it easier to do business across Africa.
Expanding to South Africa? Here is a breakdown of the key things to keep in mind.
There are two types of business setup in South Africa: a South African subsidiary and “external company”. However, to be registered as a South African subsidiary, at least one of the incorporators must hold a South African visa.
External companies wishing to expand to South Africa do not need a South African visa. However, they must inform the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) with the different required documents within 20 business days of starting to ‘conduct business’ locally.
Setting up a company in South Africa requires a minimum paid-up share capital of 1 USD. A South African LLC can be 100% foreign-owned as only one director and one shareholder must be appointed.
All South African companies must comply with annual, bi-annual and monthly PAYE (Pay As You Earn tax), UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) and SDL (Skills Development Levy) requirements.
The law demands that if you employ one or more staff members who earn over R40,000 per year, you have to register your company for PAYE.
There are two monthly deadlines in terms of PAYE. First, you need to submit your Monthly Employer Declaration (the EMP201 form). Then, you need to pay your PAYE before the 7th of the following month.
The UIF contribution amounts to 2% in total and there is a cap of R148.72.
If your payroll is more than R500,000 a month, you must register for the skills development levy (SDL). These funds go towards developing and improving the skills of employees.
Foreign nationals are advised to seek professional advice when considering external companies, as South Africa does not have dual taxation treaties with all countries.
The unemployment rate is quite high in South Africa, at 27.1% (2018).
South African law distinguishes between employees and independent contractors.
From 1 January 2019, no worker must be paid below the national minimum wage, which is currently set at R20 per hour.
Around 7% of the population holds a university degree. This may affect businesses looking to hire from the local workforce. The workforce is multilingual, however, as South Africa has 11 official languages and numerous indigenous languages.
To work in South Africa, you will need to apply for a work visa before arriving. You can apply at the South African embassy or consulate in your home country. Apply at least six weeks before you leave your own country to come to South Africa.
There are different types of work visas; however, all work visas require that the holder have a sponsoring employer in South Africa.
Your South African work visa acts as your temporary residence visa.
Corporate worker certificates are applicable in cases where an employer wishes to employ many foreign workers for a limited time period. These are now issued for a maximum period of three years, and the worker’s spouse and children do not qualify for visas by extension. For workers’ families to accompany them to South Africa, the dependents must qualify independently for their own visas.
For companies, the tax year is the same as the accounting year. For individuals, the tax year begins on 1 March and ends on the last day of February of the following year (i.e. 28th or 29th).
The corporate tax is 28%. The VAT is 15% (since 1 April 2018).
Individual income tax rates in South Africa range from 18% to 45%, with a tax-free threshold of R78,150 (for persons under 65).