The Free State produces a Gross Geographic Product (GGP) of some R44,1 billion (approximately $8 billion). Government is the largest contributor to the GGP at 15%. The economic activity of the province centres mainly around mining, agriculture and manufacturing, contributing respectively 22,6%, 11% and 14,5% to GGP. Tourism contributes 3%.
Gold production dominates the mining activities in the Free State – almost one third of South Africa’s gold production. The province’s contribution of 14,1% to the total mining production in South Africa is the fourth highest amongst the provinces. The Free State also has large deposits of coal, and is furthermore responsible for approximately 80% of the total bentonite production in South Africa. The mining industry is also the biggest net supplier of jobs in the Free State – approximately 22% of the Free State’s labour force.
The second most important sector in terms of GGP contribution is manufacturing, with a relatively wide spread of activities. The chemicals industry counts amongst the most important manufacturing activities, especially with the variety of chemical products produced by SASOL. Approximately 59% of the manufacturing industries can be categorised as high value added, low capital/labour ration industries. It is also interesting to note that 14% of the manufacturing concerns are classified as high technology industries – this is the highest percentage of high technology industries, compared to other provinces.
About 90% of the Free State is used for agricultural production with about 2 million ha under cultivation for crop production. An area of about 100 000 ha is under irrigation. The Free State is aptly referred to as the “bread basket” of South Africa, producing about 40% of the total maize production of South Africa, 50% of wheat, 80% of sorghum, 33% of potatoes, 18% of red meat, 30% of groundnuts and 15% of wool. A total of some 11 500 commercial farmers are farming on some 48 400 farming units in the Free State. The Free State Province Government has a structured policy for the development of emerging farmers in the province.