Economy of Africa


The trade union movement in South Africa is Africa’s strongest. With the Congress of the South African Trade Unions, COSATU, at the helm, the trade union movement played a crucial role in the liberation struggle against apartheid. Today, the relationship between the government and the union is not as smooth.

South Africa

Country Facts

State condition: Republic, unitary state

Surface: 1 221 037 km²

Capital: Pretoria (Government), Cape Town (Parliament), Bloemfontein (Supreme Court)

Language: English, Afrikaans, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Southern Sotho, Siswati (Swazi), Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu are all official languages

Labor market and economy:

According to COUNTRYAAH, South Africa is one of the middle-income countries in the world. The country has large natural resources, a developed financial system and good infrastructure. However, economic growth has been low in recent years and has not been able to cure unemployment. In 2019, the proportion of unemployed was 27 percent for adults and among younger people 53 percent. As the business community has rationalized, many jobs have disappeared and growth in other sectors (public sector, service sector) has not been able to offer all redundant new jobs. A large proportion of the population is dependent on work in the informal sector.

The government is working to strengthen the influence of blacks in the business world, among other things through a system of laws, Black Economic Empowerment, BEE. The purpose is to transfer parts of the industry from white to black owners and for government agencies to place their orders primarily with companies run by blacks.

A cooperation agreement has been signed with China, which will provide investments corresponding to SEK 140 billion, primarily in infrastructure.

Extreme poverty prevails among large ethnic groups. Crime and corruption are major problems. Climate change, which has made the country increasingly affected by drought, also poses a threat to a positive development. South Africa has pursued a relatively protectionist policy and has not opened its home market to neighboring countries that have criticized South Africa for being xenophobic.

Just over 20 percent of the population is HIV-positive. HIV medicine is free.


After decades of war, South Sudan was declared an independent state in 2011. The country is extremely poor, lacks almost complete infrastructure and has many internal conflicts. The largest asset is large oil deposits. Trade union activities are conducted only to a small extent.

South Sudan

Country Facts

Surface: 644 329 km2 (though unclear borders with Sudan)

Capital: Juba

Language: English, as well as local languages

Labor market and economy:

The new country is struggling with enormous problems. The economy is in ruins after the long war with Sudan and the internal strife that continued after independence. South Sudan is considered to be one of the four countries most at risk of a famine in 2020, according to a report by the UN agency WFP, World Food Program. In 2018, an agreement was reached with the opposition to form a coalition government in 2019 and that a national army would be organized. The date for that has been postponed, but the fighting in the country has decreased and oil production has resumed during the year. South Sudan is probably the country in the world that is most dependent on its oil exports, but the country lacks a coast and most of the oil exports have to go via Sudan. In the longer term, an oil pipeline is planned through Kenya. 98 percent of the state budget is linked to oil. Low oil prices in recent years have led to further problems.

The country has potentially very fertile land. The White Nile, whose water may become an asset in contacts with Sudan and Egypt in the future, forms one of the world’s largest wetlands north of the capital.

Both industry and commercial agriculture are undeveloped. Most formal employment is therefore in the public sector. The vast majority of South Sudanese support themselves on their own farms. To survive, several jobs are often required and therefore the own cultivation is often combined with barter or street sales.

South Sudan is completely dependent on aid. The largest contributors are the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the United States and Norway. Agreements with China on major investments have also been reached. South Sudan is a member of the East African Economic Community.


After an eight-year war of liberation, Zimbabwe was founded in 1980 with a strong economy based on agriculture. Under Robert Mugabe, the country developed into a police state. Hopes for major improvements after his fall in 2018 have not been fulfilled. Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), which is the country’s only trade union confederation is connected to the World Trade unions, the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic

Surface: 391 109 km²

Capital: Harare

Language: English, Shona and Sindebele are official languages

Labor market and economy:

Agriculture and the mining industry form the basis of the economy, cotton and platinum are the main export products. 68% of the population lives in rural areas and largely subsist on farming for their own household. The economy is in ruins due to the policies pursued under Robert Mugabe in combination with severe crop failure for several years. China and South Africa are Zimbabwe’s largest trading partners.

Unemployment is judged to be very high, there are no reliable figures. One million Zimbabweans have sought work abroad, mainly in the United Kingdom and South Africa. Child labor is common


The copper-rich Zambia did not become independent from Great Britain until 1964. Variations in copper prices hit the country hard. The union has played a central role in the development of society and was an important force in the democratization process.


Country Facts

State condition: Republic, unitary state

Surface: 752 614 km²

Capital: Lusaka

Language: Official English language, bemba the most widely used of 7 major African languages

Labor market and economy:

Zambia’s economy is strongly linked to the mining industry and how the world market price of copper develops. Copper accounts for about 85 percent of exports. For a ten-year period until 2015, Zambia had one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but lower copper prices have led to lower growth in 2015-17 but have now improved again. In 2019, the country was hit by both droughts and floods, which led to a crisis for food supply in certain parts of the country.

Only about 10 percent of the able-bodied part of the population are formally employed, mainly in the mining industry, but also in the construction and manufacturing industry. Many large infrastructure projects, funded by China, also create some jobs, but unemployment is high.

All employees are covered by a social insurance system, but they are often underfunded and perform poorly.

About half of the population works in family farming and often supplements their income with various small jobs in the informal sector. The country is regularly affected by drought with famine as a result in some parts of the country. Zambia is one of the world’s most indebted countries and has been granted debt relief.