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This information is based on South Africa's submission to the 5th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, April 1997. Last update: 1 April 1997

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Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies

Institutional responsibility in this area lies within three ministries: that for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Foreign Affairs, and Trade and Industry.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

Generally, exports in certain sectors have increased over the past 10 years, as have environmental policy and regulatory initiatives from the Government. Examples include the National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998, development of a policy on Integrated Pollution Control and Waste Management, a policy on Conservation and Sustainable Utilisation of South Africa's Biological Diversity and the National Water Act 36 of 1998, amongst others.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA):

Environmental Impact Assessment addresses environmental issues associated with specific development proposals. Regulations passed under the Environment Conservation Act 73 of 1989 require identified activities to go through an EIA process. The recently adopted National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998 makes it a requirement that an environmental assessment be carried out in relation to any activity, which requires legal authorisation if it may significantly impact on the environment.

The establishment and expansion of many export-induced industrial activities will require EIAs to be completed. For example, for the Maputo Development Corridor linking Gauteng and Maputo, EIAs were undertaken to evaluate the conveyance of magnetite, the location of the plant processing and industrial processes. EIAs are also applicable to various petrochemical projects, which will add substantially to the petrochemical cluster in the Highveld Ridge area of Mpumalanga and increase the range of upstream and downstream opportunities.

Concerning possible negative impacts of trade on environment, it is to be noted that environmental legislation is undergoing significant reform in South Africa. The driving force behind this, tough, is the need to support the overall national objective of sustainable development which has the primary goal of alleviation poverty and fulfillment of basic human needs.

Environmental legislative reform is thus geared towards supporting the primary objective. At the same time, export orientated sectors are becoming increasingly aware of the potential barriers which inadequate environmental standards present to trade and are seeking to improve environmental performance.

Policies have been developed in a wide range of areas but have yet to be translated into legislative reform. Changes are intended to uphold constitutional rights, to promote principles of sustainable development, and to ensure meaningful involvement of civil society. The changes signify a shift to a more holistic and co-ordinated approach to environmental issues. South Africa's commitment to international treaties (e.g. CITES) has also had a direct bearing on some of the changes in the legislation.

Examples of policy and legislative responses include:

Legislation specific to natural resources management are designed to ameliorate possible negative effects of trade based on the resources. Examples include:

South Africa has not agreed to the derogation of any specific environmental legislation or regulation as an inducement to foreign direct investment.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans 

In the past 10 years, exports as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and imports as a percentage of Gross Domestic Expenditure (GDE) have both increased. In 1996, the Government adopted a Macroeconomic strategy titled the Growth, Employment and Redistribution Development Programme (GEAR). This strategy reinforced government policy to open up the economy to international competition and promote exports.

Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA):

South Africa is developing a pro-active strategic approach to planning development within a sustainable development framework. The approach is known as Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). Such assessment seeks to identify opportunities and constraints for development provided by the natural and social environments as well as mechanisms to mitigate negative impacts. SEAs are not legally required but are being carried out on a voluntary basis by national, provincial and local government and other organisations to assist with development planning and environmental management.

Examples include:

The decision not to award mining concessions in St Lucia in Zululand, north of Durban, is viewed as a boost to ecotourism in that part of the country. The conservation of the Greater St Lucia Lake, forested sand dunes and wetland plays an important role in the attraction of tourists to the area. This will, in turn, stimulate job creation, which will ultimately result in economic growth, provided ecotourism is developed and managed in a sustainable development way.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

There is a number of industrial-led initiatives. The South African industry is responding to international trends towards environmental responsibility. Initiatives include:

See also under Challenges.

Programmes and Projects   

Investment in infrastructure to provide electricity, water and sanitation services is an important factor in poverty alleviation. For example, access to electricity extends the potential for income generating activity, and access to water increase the time women have to devote to activities other than fetching water from long distances.

In response to the urgent need for decent housing, approximately 400 000 subsidised houses for low-income earners were built or under construction between 1994 and 1997, while another 700 000 subsidies were allocated by end of 1998. This will contribute to the provision of adequate housing under formal urban controls and reduce the negative effects of land invasions and informal settlement on the natural environment.

Investments by the Development Bank of South Africa in 1998/9, include various projects such as the upgrade of stormwater drainage systems and electrification. A project by the DBSA, providing access to potable water, included training of local manpower, creating employment during the execution of the project. Prepaid meters are being installed and consumers will pay R4/kl of water, as opposed to R100/kl for potable water normally supplied by donkey cart.

Eskom is also investing R50 million per year in the electrification of schools, clinics and community development activities. The provision of electricity leads to job creation and a subsequent rise in disposable income in a community. Electrification of schools and houses may lead to increased education levels and increased productivity levels.

The 1998 Presidential Jobs Summit and other job creation initiatives gave rise to a number of programmes to reduce unemployment. For example, the tourism industry has been targeted to create additional 450,000 jobs by 2005. This will be achieved through a combination of public and private investment in tourism. Government, business and the trade unions have separate and joint programmes to create jobs while possible restrictive labour laws are under review. This will contribute to a reduction in poverty, and its associated demands on natural resources. The launch of a R1 billion fund for job creation by the private sector should also go a long way in improving trade and investment and alleviating poverty.

In response to the occurrence of customs fraud, the Ministry of Safety and Security has adopted the Border Control Project, managed by the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and the Department of Home Affairs. Their action is aimed at combating escalating cross-border criminal and trade abuses.


Due to environmental monitoring systems at national level still being developed, no conclusive statement regarding linkages between environmental hot spots and export-induced production can be made.

Changes in export-induced production of economic sectors:

The changes in exports and the consequent changes in domestic production for South Africa's main economic sectors are shown in Table 1. While the information on changes in exports and production patterns is readily available, information between them and specific environmental 'hot-spots' is difficult to obtain.

Table 1. Changes in exports for the different sectors


Exporting 1996

R million

% share of total

exports (1996)

Avg Annual % change, real




Domestic production

Primary Sector

Agriculture, forestry and fishing

6 368




Mining: total

48 700




Gold mining

23 770




Other mining - including coal, diamond mining

24 930




Secondary sector

Manufacturing: total

77 596




Food processing

4 548





1 245




Tobacco products






1 876









Leather products










Wood and wood products










Pulp, paper and paper products

4 179




Chemical products

10 725




Petroleum refineries and petroleum products

4 312




Rubber products





Plastic products





Non-metallic mineral products





Iron and steel basic industries

12 876




Non-ferrous metal basic industries

9 200




Metal products

5 987




Non-electrical machinery

4 039




Electrical machinery





Motor vehicles and vehicle parts





Other transport equipment





Other manufacturing





Electricity, gas and water










Tertiary section

Trade, catering and accommodation





Transport, storage and communication





Finance, property and business services





Numbers in ( ) indicate negative growth

ND No data

Although no direct institutional mechanism exists to identify "Hot spots" particularly in relation to trade and investment, a number of initiatives to collect environmental information exists or have recently been initiated.

Inequality, skewed distribution of economic resources and mass unemployment are major causes of poverty in South Africa. Since 1993, positive economic growth rates have not led to formal employment generation in the non-agricultural sectors. Formal non-agricultural employment was 7% lower in 1996 than in 1990. These recent trends in employment mark a change from historical patterns, where employment tended to increase as production increased, although by smaller proportions. The tendency for formal employment to decline in years where GDP is growing, has led some to conclude that South Africa is experiencing jobless growth. It might be more accurate to say that job creation in some sectors has been more than outweighed by job losses in others. There is also some evidence of job creation that has not been captured in the statistics, including jobs in the informal sector.

Changes in employment, compared to the yearly investment, as well as annual production changes, are reflected in the table below.

  Avg Annual % change, real Employment no (1000)
  1996 1997 1998
  Investment Domestic production Employment

Primary sector

Agriculture, forestry and fishing 1.6 2.1 -0.8 852 ND ND
Mining: total ND ND ND 570 ND ND
Gold mining

Other mining - including coal and diamond mining













Secondary sector

Manufacturing: total ND ND ND ND 1396 1347
Food processing 5.5 -0.7 -2.3 183 172 170
Beverages -12 -1.4 -3.3 32 30 30
Tobacco products -9.1 -3.3 -6.5 3 ND ND
Textiles 24.5 -0.8 -6.3 80 76 57
Clothing 7.6 -0.1 ND 125 140 131
Leather products -3.7 0.8 -7.1 8 7.5 6.6
Footwear 7 -5.8 -4.4 26 23.7 22.4
Wood and wood products -2 0.1 -0.1 62 66 75.8
Furniture 9.4 0.7 1.9 50 ND 45.9
Pulp, paper and paper products 6.5 -0.3 -0.6 50 47.1 45.1
Printing and publishing 22.9 -0.5 0.1 54 51.5 54.8
Chemical products -5.4 2.7 -1.1 117 90.2 96.2
Industrial ND ND ND 16 27.5 28.3
Other ND ND ND 17 62.7 67.9
Petroleum refineries and petroleum products ND 1.2 -3 17 17.4 16.7
Rubber products 4.9 -2.1 -0.9 18 16.1 15
Plastic products 9.2 2.1 0.7 48 48.4 58

ND No data

From this table it can be seen that employment in most sectors has decreased from 1991 to 1996.

Increases of more than 1% in domestic production as a result of increases in trade for the 1991-1996 period were experienced by the following sectors:

Decreases of more than 1% in domestic production as a result of decreases in trade for the 1991-1996 period were experienced by the following sector:

Investment is one of the key factors in economic growth. As a percentage of GDP, gross domestic fixed investment (GDFI) fell from an average of 27% during the 1970s to an average of around 17% during the first half of the 1990s. Investment levels have increased over the past two years, especially in manufacturing. Although investment has risen as a proportion of GDP, it remains far below the levels experienced in the mid-1980s.

Sectors that have experienced increases in investment during the 1991-1996 period are:

(% increase)

Economic growth:

Primary sector contribution to GDP has fallen from 11.5 percent to 10.1 percent in the last decade. Secondary sector contribution has also fallen from 26.5 percent to 24.5 percent over the same period. The contribution of the tertiary sector, in contrast, has increased from 53.4 percent to 56.6 percent.

The table below illustrates the contribution of the various sectors to the South African economy (R million, at constant 1995 prices) and annualised percentage change



1989 1998 % change p.a.
Agriculture, forestry and fishing 25559 24304 -0.6
Mining 35451 34892 -0.2
Manufacturing 107828 108258 0.04
Electricity 14881 19296 2.9
Construction 17611 16839 -0.5
Wholesale and retail trade 68031 73791 0.9
Transport, storage and communication 37732 53573 3.97
Financial and related services 74546 94565 2.7
Community, social and personal services 99344 111000 1.2

Strongest growth sectors over the last decade include electricity (2.9 % per annum), transport (4.0 percent per annum) and financial and related services (2.7 % per annum).

Consumption and production:

Primary sector:

Agriculture: Agriculture has indicated growth in all aspects during the 1991 to 1996 period. The conversion of natural vegetation to agricultural crops has shown a sharp increase per year between 1930 and 1970 due to the widespread availability of tractors, fertiliser and pest control, national land policies, and supported prices for farm produce. South Africa has a limited area of high-quality agricultural land (only 12 % is economically cultivatable under current circumstances) and since the 1970s there has been a small net conversion (stabilised at around 10 500 thousand hectares).

Mining: Trends in production can also be seen in the mining sector, which had declined in each of the four quarters of 1998, declined further at an annualised rate of 2 % in the first quarter of 1999. Gold production, in particular, declined as producers reacted to sustained cost pressures and a relatively static gold price. Production volumes in the other branches of the mining sector, especially diamond, platinum and coal mining, rose slightly as these mines benefited from more stable international commodity prices and uncertain supplies of diamonds and platinum from the Russian Federation.

Secondary sector:

A decline in the real value added by the secondary sectors of the economy during the middle quarters of 1998 was followed by modest increases in the fourth quarter of 1998 and in the first quarter of 1999. The manufacturing sector roughly maintained its slight growth momentum of the fourth quarter of 1998, but output growth in the utilities sector (i.e. the sector supplying electricity, gas and water) accelerated somewhat in the first quarter of 1999. This small acceleration arose because domestic activity became slightly less subdued than before and because the demand for electricity from neighboring countries picked up somewhat. Real value added by the construction sector responded in delayed fashion to the third-quarter rise in home mortgage rates and declined in the first quarter of 1999.

The dual nature of the South African economy implies a diverse demand for food from the middle to upper income levels there is increasingly a demand for healthier, convenient quality foods, whilst the poorer sections of the population still demand staple foods to be provided at low prices. These divergent trends have important implications for each of the food processing sub-sectors.

Almost 60% of the grain milling industry's output is sold to private households. Maize and wheat, which are the country's staple crops, are consumed in the form of bread and maize meal, respectively. As consumer income rises, the demand for maize meal tends to decline whilst other grains gain preference. Besides personal consumption, 29% of sales are made to food processing sub-sectors.

The signing of the Trade Protocol between SADC countries could create a large export market for food processors as trade between these countries is freed and non-tariff barriers are removed.

Tertiary sector:

Activity in the tertiary sector slowed down perceptibly from an annualised growth of 2.5 % in the second quarter of 1998 to 0.5 % in the fourth quarter and 1 % in the first quarter of 1999. The growth in real value added by the sector finance, insurance, real-estate and business services slowed down from an annualised rate of 2 % in the fourth quarter of 1998 to 1.5 % in the first quarter of 1999, most notably because of a decline in the number of real-estate transactions concluded. The rapid expansion of telecommunication services decelerated in the first quarter of 1999 and the real value added by the transportation and communication sector rose at an annualised rate of 3 %, compared with a growth of 3.5 % in the fourth quarter of 1998.

Impacts on environment

Primary sector:

Agriculture contributes the most to carbon dioxide, nitric oxide and volatile organic carbon, while agricultural activities contribute the most to methane (48% of the national total) and nitrous oxide (78% of the national total) emissions. The main sources of the farmer are cattle and sheep. The main source of the nitrous oxide is the use of nitrogen fertilisers.

The possibility exists that the use of genetically engineered crop types could lead to unanticipated impacts in agriculture and water use.

Mining: Trends in oil and coal consumption (fossil fuel burning) is the main source of carbon dioxide, which is currently responsible for more than 60%, compared to methane which is responsible for 20% and nitrous oxide together with chlorofluorocarbons and ozone for the remaining 20% of the enhanced greenhouse effect. Water vapour is the largest contributor to the natural greenhouse effect in South Africa. The values are expressed in energy terms for easy comparison. Note that during the 1980s, due to the international oil embargo against South Africa, coal was substituted for oil as an energy source. After 1994 this trend reversed itself. The current growth rate in energy consumption, which relates directly to the emissions of the gases in question is approximately 5% per annum as is the trend in other developing countries.

The total emissions of sulphur dioxide from the energy sector were fairly stable during the 1990s and remained at about 1.7 kilotons from 1989 to 1993, despite the overall rise in energy production. This is due to management of coal quality and a small degree of sulphur dioxide removal from the stack emissions.

The current gold sales by Britain have negative effects on gold producing countries, especially those in southern Africa. It was noted that 30 out of the 41 countries that have been designated highly indebted are either gold producers or have a big portion of their workforce dependent on income from gold producing countries (such as Mozambique and Lesotho). These will have major impacts on the environment as retrenched workers move back to rural areas, having to make a living from the land.

Secondary sector:

A recent phenomena in the South African economy since 1994 is the increasing average year-on-year growth recorded in secondary sector activities, most notably manufacturing and construction, where average year-on-year growth has passed the long held first place of tertiary activities. This underlines the conclusion that manufacturing-related pollution and waste is likely to increase if uncontrolled.

Much of the production in the manufacturing sector depends on the import of intermediate goods and services. Negative trade relations will therefore have a detrimental impact on this sector. Increases in exports in the manufacturing sector over the last 9 years (% annual growth) were the most in the furniture sector, followed by the electrical sector, with the petroleum sector being ranked third. The electricity-generating sector contributes about 47 percent of total CO emissions and 41 percent of NOx emissions. The petroleum sector will also have environmental impacts as a result of wastes being generated from this sector.

The food-processing sector is driven by a number of factors, including climatic conditions, overall economic growth, private consumption expenditure and the continued deregulation and liberalisation of the agricultural sector. This process of deregulation and liberation has raised competitive pressures, which, in turn, have accelerated the restructuring of the food processing industries. Import control on almost all agricultural products has now been lifted and replaced by import tariffs, whilst the new Agriculture Marketing Act, which was promulgated early in 1997, resulted in the dismantling of agricultural marketing boards. The food sector's strong backward linkages with the agricultural sector imply that agricultural output and prices will have a direct impact on its own competitiveness.

Tertiary sector:

The transport sector, which experienced a growth of 4% per annum over the last decade, contributes about 44 percent of total NOx emissions, 48 percent of CO emissions and 45 percent of total national volatile organic emissions (VOC). The building of new roads and the maintenance of existing roads naturally place great pressure on the environment and can lead to the disturbance of sensitive ecosystems. Emphasis on road transport also depends heavily on petrol, diesel, and oil, and contributes to pollution. Countries in the Northern Hemisphere have launched initiatives to encourage the use of rail transport. Road vehicles, rather than trains or aircraft, contribute the most to the total carbon dioxide, nitric oxide and volatile organic carbon emissions from the transport sector (94%, 53% and 89% respectively). Motor traffic also contributes to lead emissions, especially in urban areas. The introduction of compulsory environmental impact studies for new road developments, however, is regarded as an important attempt towards sustainable development

A rise in income and standard of living of the poor may lead to increased pressure on the environment in other ways, as it may lead to increased demand for consumer goods. The production of consumer goods not only utilises material directly or indirectly taken from the environment, but the production process itself generates waste and pollutants. Certain consumer goods, such as motor cars and electrical appliances, utilise energy sources that contribute to greenhouse gases. Illustrative of this point is the increase in the number of motor cars on South African roads. Although the overall sales of new cars have dropped in recent years, the number of cars on South Africa's roads has increased because older cars are not being taken off the roads. Currently, 6.55 million vehicles are registered, of which 3.8 million are passenger vehicles. Ten years ago, there were about 5 million motor vehicles registered, of which 3.3 million were passenger cars. More cars on the roads mean an increase in fuel emissions into the atmosphere. As the average age of South African motor vehicles is estimated to be around 12 years, the country does not share in the benefits of the greater fuel efficiency of new motor vehicles. The sale of fuel has increased steadily from 1994-1998. Petrol sales have increased from 9 629 millions of litres to 10 883 millions of litres, while the sales of diesel have increased from 5 110 millions of litres to 5 959 millions of litres.

Although the depreciation works in the favour of domestic producers (by making imports expensive relative to exports, and by making South African exports cheap relative to other producers), the higher rand prices of imported goods have an impact on inflation. This is because key inputs (including machinery, parts and oil) are imported.

On an international scale, South Africa has a low score on the United Nations human development index (HDI), which provides a composite measure of human development and includes income, life expectancy and adult literacy. According to this measure, in 1993 (latest date for which data are available) South Africa occupied the 100th place out of a total of 174 countries, largely because of the relatively poor performance with regard to both adult literacy and life expectancy. As a result, South Africa falls within the group of countries classified by the United Nations as having medium human development (with an HDI in the range 0,500-0,799). By comparison, countries with a similar level of per capita income have almost all achieved a substantially higher level of human development and are classified by the UN in the higher human development category, with an HDI of above 0,799.


Concerning other issues that are of importance, and that constitute challenges or constraints in trade related activities, the role of organised labour is to be noted: protracted periods of labour-disputes lead to massive loss in investor confidence. The disputes stem from different views by labour and business (employers) over a range of issues. Job creation and security, safety at workplace, workman compensation and inclusivity in industrial restructuring are of importance to labour unions, while the management considers restructuring as critical in ensuring sustained productivity in the industry.

The role of NGOs needs to be expanded, particularly in regards to links with rural communities who often lose out on potential benefits of development. NGOs act as a watchdog in ensuring balance between development and conservation needs. The contribution of environmental groups in resource management is now being realised and there is a need to enhance their participation in promoting sustainable development.

The need to improve/expand links with SADC neighbours to ensure greater balance in the development process within southern Africa. One of the issues that have been identified as a key to the economic developmental growth of the region is to create a free market for the member states.

Another constraint is the potential loss of key human resources through HIV/AIDS and other notifiable diseases. Although most people have access to formal health services, many find it prohibitively expensive, and seek the services of traditional healers. The most important notifiable disease is Tuberculosis, accounting for nearly 4% of all deaths. The extent of HIV infection and AIDS is not accurately known at this time, but the disease could have devastating consequences on the population structure, potentially having the greatest impact on the economically active section of the population. This could reduce growth in GDP by 2-3% by 2010.

The strong and sustained fall in international commodity prices since 1994, as well as the emerging market financial turmoil over an extended period of more than 18 months recently, have impacted on capital flow to South Africa, putting pressure on the exchange rate and interest rates. The economic and social pains of several policy actions, including the reduction of the budget deficit from 10% to 4% and inflation from double digits to 5%, as well as large reductions in import tariffs, will not have to be inflicted again. The benefits from these earlier difficult policy decisions should start to flow in the years ahead.

Important structural changes are currently feeding into the South African economy as it adapts to the dictates of the global economy. These are reflected in fiscal and monetary policy adjustments, whilst in the real economy the quest for international competitiveness forces industries to achieve efficiency gains of an exceptional nature. An important outcome of these structural changes is the increased emphasis on productivity, especially labour productivity, as companies endeavour to conform to standards set by international competition.

The occurrence of customs fraud is another important trade and economic issue in South Africa. Customs fraud results in an estimated R3 billion per annum loss of tax revenue, undermines local industry and, hence, South Africa's industrial policy and job creation objectives. The consequences of fraud are strongly felt in various sectors, including clothing and textiles, footwear and electronics - where thousands of jobs have been lost. Customs and VAT fraud includes the under-valuation of imported goods, forged documentation, the abuse of the import permit system, the removal of imported goods in transit, the incorrect description of goods, false claims on VAT refunds and the redirection of imports. Please see the 'Challenges and Constraints' section in this chapter for action taken to combat customs fraud.

The Public Service fulfils an important role in South Africa and needs to maintain integrity and accountability in performing its duties at all times, while executing policies aimed at advancing the delivery of services. A Code of Conduct, setting ethical standards for public servants, was launched in June 1997. One of its main objectives is stamping out corruption, which has a major effect on the economy and economic growth. Officials will in the course of their duties be expected to report to the appropriate authorities fraud, corruption, nepotism, maladministration and any other act that constitutes an offence or which is prejudicial to public interest.

The lack of trained employees is a major issue in South Africa, having an indirect impact on trade and economic growth.

The implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Rare and Endangered Species (CITES) requires the use of permit controls, regulations and training of nature conservators in the General Investigations, Special Investigations, and in particular, the Import Export Sections which enforce the requirements of the international convention. Special Investigations make provision for the execution of covert investigations as a proactive means to curb the mercenary trade in illegal wildlife products. It also provides for a monitoring function at major airports to regulate the in and outflow of wildlife products.

See also under Status.

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

No information available.


Environmental information:

Industrial pollution is regulated by both liquid and effluent discharge and atmospheric emission permits. Both of these require data to be submitted to the government. A holistic approach to the management of this data still needs to be developed and there is no link between this and trade and investment data.

Environmental inventories take stock of factors influencing the environment, providing the information base for the management of these factors. Examples are:

Web sites and other sources where information related to trade, investment and economic growth can be found, are listed in the table below.

Table: List of web sites listing information related to trade, investment and economic growth.

Type of information


Potential users


Socio-economic statistics HSRC


Academic researchers; public

Monthly brochure

Financing DTI Business sector
Export/Import DTI Business sector
Small business ventures DTI Small business
Foreign Investment Guides DTI Foreign Investors
Social and economic developments NEDLAC Nedlac constituencies, public in general
Infrastructure funding INCA Potential funders Annual reports
National State of the environment DEAT Wide variety of users will be web-based - currently under review
Cities State of the Environment     http://www/deat/issues/transprt/index.htm
Census data Statistics SA Wide variety of users
Economic data Statistics SA Wide variety of users
  SA Reserve Bank Wide variety of users
Information on products, services, imports, exports and business opportunities in South Africa Trade Page Everyone wanting to do business on the Internet
Guide to potential investors in SA Bowman Gilfillan Inc, Attorneys - Johannesburg Potential foreign investors to SA
Broad overview of the considerations and procedures involved in making an investment in South Africa Bowman Gilfillan Inc, Attorneys - Johannesburg Potential foreign investors to SA
Information on SDIs, IDZs SDI initiative Potential investors, general public
Trade enquiries for the sourcing of products from SA Cape Business News National and international business people
Regular updates on certain key indicators, economic information Financial Mail, Economist, Finance week, 'Finansies en Tegniek', Business Day wide variety of users

Economic information and forecasts Bureau for Market Research (BMR), Bureau for Economic Research(Standard Bank) and private companies such as SANLAM, Mutual Wide variety of users Some in brochures, some available on the web
Initiative for economic empowerment (IEE) - Business Skills SA. (NGO responsible for training small business people) (those already in business or intending to start) drawing up of business plans, aiding in securing financial assistance from banks, informative brochi and after care (follow-ups).
Loans from banks and general information


Training, loans (from government funds).

Independent Business Enrichment Centre (IBEC) (NGO)

Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) (parastatal)

Business people



People involved in small business




Local media (TV and newspapers)

Research and Technologies

No information available.


No information available.


Considerable economic and other co-operation takes places through SADC, including in areas such as health, education, mining, geology, mineral resources, environment, mineral processing, mineral markets and information systems. In the area of energy, an important project investigation is underway regarding a regional hydropower network (Powerpool) involving Zaire and other Southern African Countries.

Regular formal and informal communication is conducted between the Gauteng Province (Directorate of Environment) and the Canadian, United States of America and the Danish Trade Offices in Johannesburg and Pretoria. Visits by prominent environmentalists looking for trade opportunities in the environmental area are encouraged, particularly those offering technology, which have the potential for improving the quality of life in the Gauteng Province. The Western Cape Province (Department of Education) encourages guides and co-ordinates school activities that are orientated towards the promotion of sustainable development through trade liberalisation. (See "Education")

International Trade Fairs have been attended which serve to improve reactions, highlight products and processes that contribute towards sustainable living and encourage investment in South Africa. However, to date, few domestic policies have been formulated which are designed to accelerate sustainable development through trade. Continuous discussions are taking place to integrate trade and environmental affairs and concrete proposals are expected.

South Africa has signed the Convention on International Trade in Rare and Endangered Species (CITES) It has also signed the Trade Protocol between the countries of the SADC (Southern African Development Community).

* * *

This information is based on South Africa's submission to the fifth and eighth Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: October 2000.


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Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies    

The following national bodies deal with different aspects of sustainable consumption and production: Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Minerals and Energy (DME), Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEA&T), Department of Transport, Department of Land Affairs, Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), Department of Agriculture, Department of Welfare, and Department of Defence (DoD).

The following provincial departments are responsible for the administration of consumption and production patterns at the provincial level: Mpumalanga Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Eastern Cape Department of Economic Affairs, Environment and Tourism, Free State Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Free State Directorate of Housing and Specialised Services (water supply and sanitation), KwaZulu Natal Department of Traditional and Environmental Affairs, Northern Province Department of Agriculture, Land and Environment, North West Parks Board, North West Department of Environmental Affairs, Gauteng Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Environment, Western Cape Department of Environmental and Cultural Affairs, and Northern Cape Department of Health, Welfare and Environmental Affairs.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations

Regulatory framework

The following regulations seek to promote sustainable consumption and production:

The Water Services Act (1997) sets requirements for local government tariff structures and other water related issues in local government. Some of the objectives of the Act are to: set out the rights and duties of consumers and those who are responsible for providing services; promote, support and strengthen the capacity and authority of local government while creating mechanisms that will allow national and provincial governments as well as consumers to monitor its performance; and promote the effective and sustainable use of financial and natural resources.

The Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Act (1965) establishes a structure for the control of atmospheric emissions. Four categories are addressed: the control of noxious or offensive gases, where the requirement is that activities stated in the Act may only be executed if a registration certificate authorising the process had been issued by the chief air pollution control officer; the control of smoke which focuses mainly on the control of fuel burning appliances; the control of dust where the offender can be required to avoid dust migration through whatever best practicable means can be used; and the control of fumes emitted by vehicles.

The Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (1983) deals with a wide variety of agriculturally related sustainable use aspects such as the protections of wetlands, soil conservation, control of weeds and invader plants and ensuring that the carrying capacity of land is not abused.

Nuclear Energy Act (1993) established a control structure for radioactive emissions.

Hazardous Substances Act (1973) deals with and controls the importation, manufacture, sale, use and disposal of hazardous substances.

Fertiliser, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act (1947) deals with the use, disposal, registration and other aspects of the substances.

Occupational Health and Safety Act (1993) controls the operation of machinery which includes the control of noise pollution in the work place and aspects relating to the manufacture, storage, use and exposure of employees to hazardous substances.

Marine Living Resources Act (1998) aims to provide for the conservation of the marine ecosystem, the long-term utilisation of marine living resources and the protection and orderly access to exploitation of such resources. A strict conservation policy in a fishing zone of 200 square nautical miles is followed by the Government. It is enforced by marine conservation inspectors along the Cape Coast and in fishing harbours. Licenced South African boats include: 2844 fishing boats (excluding deep sea and Natal Trawlers), 97 deep sea and Natal Trawlers, 33 inshore trawlers, 2634 handline boats, 325 squid boats and 68 purse seiners. The only foreign vessels fishing off the South African coast are 86 Japanese and 26 Taiwanese tuna boats.

The Environmental Impact Assessment regulations underpin legal procedures to ensure rational decision making regarding sustainable land use against the realities of growing population and economic needs. Prescribed procedures involve communities and NGOs as stakeholders and are administered by provincial authorities. The emergence of EIA regulations in South Africa has had a notable positive effect on the promotion of energy and material efficiency.

A variety of legislation deals with waste management. Waste disposal is mainly administered in terms of Section 20 of the Environment Conservation Act (1989) which deals with the permitting of waste disposal sites. Littering is also addressed in the Act. There are several other Acts that also deal with waste management, for example the Abattoir Hygiene Act (1992), the Advertising of Roads and Ribbon Development Act (1983) and other legislation dealing with aspects of waste disposal from their specific perspective.

The National Forests Bill (1998) focuses on the principle of sustainable forest management. The Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry is given power to set criteria, indicators and standards for assessing and enforcing sustainable forest management and creating incentives to manage forests in a sustainable way. Principles guiding decision- making state that forests must be developed and managed so as to sustain the potential yield of their economic, social and environmental benefits, and to conserve natural resources, especially soil and water. Special measures are included to protect indigenous forests and trees. Regulations may be made to control the collection, removal, transport, and various other activities relating to parts of or products from protected trees.

The Water Services Act (1997) provides for the phasing in of a tariff structure designed to promote water conservation by all stakeholders, including consumers. In addition, this act requires that water services activities have a duty to progressively ensure efficient economical and sustainable access to water services, noting the duty to conserve water resources. Water Boards are required to take measures to promote water conservation and water demand management, and to promote public awareness.

Legislated Codes of Practice, Standards and Guidelines, aligned with international practice, are mandatory and were established by government. Voluntary Codes of Practice, Standards and Guidelines originate from a variety of sources, including industry itself, driven by the need to be on par with international practice.

Financial incentives

Monetary measures are embodied in the DEA&T’s national Integrated Waste and Pollution Management Regulations and its matching strategies and programmes, intended to systematically encourage waste minimisation, and reuse and recycling of products and resources. The waste minimisation team of the National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) is developing a proposed incentive scheme to be incorporated in the strategy. 

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

There is no specific National Strategy, Policy or multi-year Work Programme dealing with sustainable Development.

The Growth, Employment and Redistribution Policy (GEAR) and DTI’s environmental policy process mandates the DTI to contribute to accelerated economic growth, ensuring stronger employment creation and improved standards of living for all South Africans, by implementing a set of integrated trade and industrial policies. These policies are generally aimed at improving industrial competitiveness, facilitating South Africa’s re-integration in the world economy, restructuring state enterprises, expanding trade and investment flows in Southern Africa and attracting foreign direct investment in particular. The increased export and inward investment flows are expected to stimulate employment creation which, in its turn, provides a powerful vehicle for redistribution and poverty alleviation. DTI’s environmental policy process addresses DTI’s conformance with its legal sustainable development obligations and the need for enabling measures to allow industry, and small enterprises in particular, to conform to environmental and social legislation in a feasible way.

The White Paper on Integrated Pollution and Waste Management Policy for South Africa acts as a statement of intent by the government on minimisation and management of South Africa's diverse pollution and waste streams, in a manner which is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, as well as politically acceptable. The fundamental approach of this Policy is the prevention of pollution and minimisation of waste at source, efficient management of inevitable waste, control of impacts and remediation of affected environments. The policy promotes efficiency, re-use, recycling, treatment, measuring, testing and reporting.

The Code of Practice for Mine Residue Deposits of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) covers management of mine residue deposits and its environmental impacts. One of the major concerns in this regard is coal discards, amounting to close to 60 million tonnes annually. The Code of Practice will be referenced in the revised Minerals Act and as a guideline to the Mine Health and Safety Act 1996 requirements.

The White Paper on Agriculture (1995) promotes maintaining and developing an economically viable, market-directed and competitive farming sector with the family farm as basis. It promotes a production approach based on the sustainable use of natural agricultural land and water resources. The White Paper on Agriculture includes policies for sustainable production and consumption.

The White Paper on Land Policy (1997) addresses issues regarding the allocation and utilisation of land and measures to enhance the effectiveness of administration of public land.

The White Paper on Mineral and Mining Policy for South Africa (1998) contains a section on participation in ownership and management, which examines imbalances in industry. It also addresses issues which look at health and safety, housing needs, migrant labour, industrial relations, management of down-scaling of production and ownership of mineral rights.

The Draft White Paper on Energy Policy for South Africa (1998) promotes energy efficiency and the use of renewable sources of energy.

The White Paper on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity (1997) identifies, as a national priority, the necessity for the sustainable use of biological resources and emphasises the need to restore degraded ecosystems and integrate biological diversity considerations into land-use planning and environmental assessments.

The White Paper on Marine Fisheries Policy for South Africa (1997) aims at uplifting impoverished coastal communities through improved access to marine resources and the sustainable management of those resources (including sustainable utilisation and the replenishment of living resources).

The White Paper on Population Policy for South Africa (1998) is a multi-year national action plan scheduled for development in 1999. Major population concerns that link directly with consumption and production patterns are the pressure of the interaction of population, production and consumption patterns on the environment; the high incidence and severity of poverty in both rural and urban areas; inequities in access to resources, infrastructure and social services, particularly in rural areas; and implications for redistribution and growth and the alleviation of poverty. Major strategies of the policy are reducing poverty and socio-economic inequalities through meeting people’s basic needs for social security, employment, education, training and housing; providing infrastructure and social facilities and services; and ensuring environmental sustainability through comprehensive and integrated strategies which address population, production and consumption patters independently as well as in their interactions.

The voluntary implementation of ISO 14000 and SABS ISO 14000 standards, obtained from the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and adapted for South African conditions by the SABS, plays a major role in encouraging sustainable consumption and production patterns. It is envisaged that the SABS will establish sectoral advisory committees to facilitate more interaction with industry and inform industrial cluster studies.

Voluntary SABS ISO codes of practice include: a series of Environmental management systems, Guidelines for environmental auditing, and the Environmental management - Life cycle assessment - principles and framework.

The DME, (in collaboration with the US Department of Energy), embarked on a project to provide a framework of technical and performance standards for non-residential buildings in South Africa. The policy document, consisting of five modules, will be published as a guideline to be reviewed for a period of one year and commented on and will then be introduced as a voluntary SABS standard.

The National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998) endorses the concept of tradable rights for water use, including the use of effluent discharge.

Unleaded petrol is made available to motorists cheaper than leaded petrol in order to promote use of unleaded petrol.

A number of public and commercial recycling initiatives, supported by original manufacturers, have achieved results on par with other parts of the world. Materials recycled include glass, paper, plastics, metals and oil. Paper recycling is encouraged by a regular collecting service in selected residential areas.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

All national policies are being developed in a participatory manner.

A number of local governments implement Local Agenda 21 programmes. They play a key role in promoting the principles of sustainable development at the local level, encouraging the people of South Africa to work towards a society where all people have sufficient food, clean air and water, decent homes and green space in their neighborhoods, providing for spiritual, cultural and physical harmony with their natural surroundings. In addition, it addresses the maintenance of natural life sustaining processes by ensuring that the carrying capacity of the environment is not exceeded.

An encouraging number of industries have, on a voluntary basis, adopted environmental management measures and systems. It is, however, not necessarily the norm yet. Responding to international trends, trade requirements and sustainable development legislation, industries are increasing their efforts towards energy and resource efficiency and waste and pollution minimisation.

A number of Industry Associations have developed their own codes of conduct, such as the Mining Industry Code of Conduct and the Code of Conduct of the International Chamber of Commerce, adopted by affiliated members. Responsible Care, an international environmental management programme for the chemicals industry, which calls on chemical companies to demonstrate their commitment to continuously improving their performance in the protection of health, safety and the environment, is co-ordinated in South Africa by the Chemical and Allied Industries Association.

Programmes and Projects   

South Africa’s National Forestry Action Programme (1997) is designed to facilitate implementation of the National Forests Bill. The programme seeks to establish an agreed and effective system to maximise the benefits of industrial forestry while managing the impacts on the environment in general and impacts on water resources in particular. Another priority is the establishment of a system of national resource accounts for the forest sector, adequate systems for valuing the resources and an effective system of monitoring and evaluation of management practice, especially for natural forests and woodlands.

The Committee on Environmentally Sound Management of Hazardous Materials is assigned with the task to look into the management of hazardous waste and chemicals in general and to focus on baseline studies, harmonisation, chemical registration and regulation of imports and exports of hazardous substances.

The DME is currently supporting various programmes on energy efficiency. It launched the Low Smoke Fuel Programme in 1994 to promote the provision of cleaner and affordable energy to disadvantaged communities. The programme was enhanced by the Macro-Scale Experiment (MSE), which was conducted on potential low smoke fuels at a rural site in July 1997. The results indicated that by using low-smoke fuels, air pollution levels in the study area abated by 56 %. This experiment demonstrated what could be achieved when the State, community and contractors work together to address a problem. The results of the experiment will be used to calibrate an Integrated Decision Support Model, which will assist in the policy-formulating process.

The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF), in consultation with stakeholders, including industry, NGOs and others, drives a variety of programmes and projects regarding the management of water resources. These programmes and projects cover a spectrum ranging from mining, industry, and agriculture to urban usage. A variety of guidelines, procedures and strategies are available or under development.

In 1996, the Department of Local Government and Housing (DLGH) of KwaZulu-Natal embarked on a strategy to initiate a Local Agenda 21 (LA21) programme in KwaZulu-Natal. The first phase of the strategy involved the compilation and dissemination of an information package dealing with the principles and processes of LA21, and the convening of an LA21 conference. Phase two, conducted in 1998, entailed a user-friendly Guideline Document on the implementation of LA21.

Some programmes, such as the Low Smoke Fuels programme, focus more on social and environmental aspects, while others such as LA21 focus specifically on integration of social, economic and environmental aspects.

A number of local governments implement Local Agenda 21 programmes. They play a key role in promoting the principles of sustainable development at the local level.

Many individual industries have their own procurement programmes which include environmental and broader social development considerations, e,g,. favoring small contractors and specific environmental criteria. Programmes may, for example, include a requirement to subcontract to surrounding communities. The Gauteng Department of Environmental Affairs is in the process of formulating a green procurement programme.

The metals industry sector has introduced a number of incentives to encourage research, innovation and manufacturing partnerships that will enhance sustainable production. The Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme, the Support Programme for Industrial Innovation, and the Sectoral Partnership Fund are co-funding programmes.

A cleaner production unit was established in the DEA & T to promote cleaner production, waste minimisation and pollution prevention. An international conference on Cleaner Production was held in May 1998 in South Africa. Cleaner Production programmes were launched in three industries e.g. fishing, textile and metal plating. The focus of these programmes are sustainable and efficient consumption and production.

The number of ISO 14000 and SABS ISO 14000 certificated industries are steadily growing. The implementation of Responsible Care programmes is common in formal chemical industries.

The Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa encourages sustainable production by means of a low-interest financing scheme for manufacturing projects with Cleaner Production as an essential element. A growing appreciation of the benefits of Cleaner Production in terms of reduced materials and operational costs, coupled with increased production efficiency, is apparent among private sector firms.

See also under Status and Research and Technologies.



Mining and industry are the largest energy consumers, accounting for nearly half of total energy consumption in South Africa. Households, at 22 % and transport make up most of the other half while agriculture accounts for 3 % of energy consumption. In rural areas most household energy is obtained from fuel wood, with the remainder sourced from coal, illuminating paraffin, and a small amount from liquid petroleum gas. An extensive solar power programme, in combination with an accelerated electrification programme, is making a major contribution towards enhancement of the sustainability of rural energy consumption.

The accelerated electrification programme targets formal and informal households in urban as well as rural areas, with the objective of raising the percentage of electrified households from the 1992 level of 32 %, to more than 70 % by 2000. Despite the total number of homes approaching 8.5 million, more than 63 % have already been equipped with electricity.

Escom, South Africa’s electricity supplier, has used solar systems and micro-hydro schemes to bring electricity to more than 1500 schools and 300 clinics in rural areas. In addition, Escom, in a joint venture with Shell International Renewables, commenced with the first phase of a programme entailing electrification of 6000 homes, using solar technology. The second phase targets another 44,000 homes.

Electrification programme progress statistics showing number of connections

Year Escom Local Government
1991 30 000  
1992 145 000  
1993 208 000 70 000
1994 254 000 164 000
1995 313 000 150 000
1996 307 000 137 000
1997 285 000 166 000
1998 300 000(planned) 150 000
1999 290 000 (planned) 150 000
TOTAL 1 750 000 918 000

Escom conducts constant and ongoing research into alternative energy sources: solar, wind, hydro, nuclear, biomass, wave, geothermal.

A new type of nuclear technology, the Pebble Bed Nuclear Reactor, is very promising and feasible applications for South Africa are investigated.

Electricity and coal provide about three-quarters of energy consumed by the industry and mining sectors. The balance is made up largely of coke and blast furnace gases and small amounts of heating oils. Total primary energy supply for 1996 was 4.552 million TJ, compared to 4.527 million TJ in 1997. This included coal, crude oil, gas, nuclear, hydro and renewable energy.

The mining industry depends on electricity for 87 % of its energy use. Minerals and metal processing use large amounts of both electricity and coal, mostly in large scale minerals beneficiation processes, with base metals the largest single industrial energy consuming sub-sector.

The food sector shows both a high total use and relative high intensity, although, in terms of value-added, its energy requirements are very modest in comparison with the minerals and metals industries. The chemicals and pulp and paper industries consume large amounts of energy at high intensities.

Consumption of energy by sector was as follows (total energy consumption of 2.47 million TJ):

  1997 (%) 1996
Industry 35.9 35.4
Residential 24.4 24.9
Transport 23.6 23.6

Escom produces 98.3 % of the electricity in South Africa, using a low quality coal that would otherwise be discarded. A volume of 90 million tons was used by Escom in 1997 to generate 170,464 GWh of electricity as opposed to 85 million tons of coal to generate 163,541 GWh of electricity in 1996. Escom has reduced its total particulate emissions by 91 % over the last 15 years, despite increased electricity output. Short term total emissions decreased by 25 % and relative emissions by 30 % compared to 1996, despite a 5 % increase in energy production.

Total energy supply equaled total energy consumption (176,000 GWh) in 1997. In terms of total primary energy supply, coal contributed most (72.9 % for 1996 compared to 74 % in 1997). This was followed by crude oil (13.6 % in 1996 compared to 12.3 % in 1997).

The national approach to energy and material efficiency, waste reduction, recycling, public transport and quality of life comprises a mixture of quantified and quality indicators. There is scope for developing a general paradigm of interlinked quality of life and sustainable consumption and production targets.

In 1993, the Chief Air Pollution Control Officer (CAPCO) published new guidelines for particulate emissions for the petroleum industry, stating that within five years (i.e. by 1998), allowable concentrations have to be diminished from 500 mg/m3 to 120 mg/m3.

In 1994 the CAPCO introduced a new guideline for sulphur present in the fuel used in refinery heaters, to be reduced from 3.5 - 4%, to 2% by weight. Expressed in terms of tons of sulphur dioxide, this translates to a reduction from 60 tons to about 48 tons per day.

Water use and management

The irrigation sector has by far the largest water demand of all water sectors in South Africa at 54 % of the country’s total demand, including state regulated water schemes (9.8 % of total demand), irrigation regulated by irrigation boards (11.4 % of total demand) and private irrigation schemes (30.7 % of total country demand). Industry uses 11 % of the country’s demand and forestry 8 %. The major areas for demand growth are likely to be the domestic, urban and industrial sectors as a result of population growth, increasing levels of service provision, and increasing industrialisation.

Escom sustained specific water consumption at 1.2 R/kWh, and has probably achieved the lowest water consumption possible at power stations. Further reductions will only be possible with the development of new dry-cooled power stations.

Water demands in South Africa have been growing at 4 – 5 % per annum since the 1930’s, and it is estimated that within three decades, i.e. by 2030, the country’s water resources would be fully utilised under current growth and consumption patterns.

Total daily average sales of water by Rand Water increased as follows over the last ten years:

1986-1987: 1 820,383 megalitres

1996-1997: 2 656,288 megalitres

In terms of the National Water Act, the allocation of water depends on the principles of sustainability, along with a range of mechanisms for protection of natural water resources. The mechanisms include better management practices such as Cleaner Production, Cleaner Technologies, recycling of water and waste minimisation. Demand management through tariff and water pricing and water conservation measures is supported by the National Water Act (Act 36 of 1998), in which re-use and recycling of water is promoted.

The management programme for water quality relies on the SA Water Quality Guidelines issued by DWAF. The guidelines focus on establishing tailor made effluent standards for individual industries or other producers of waste water based on the policy of determining the needs of the receiving water body and structuring the standards with reference to the water quality required by downstream water users.

In a joint venture between DWAF and the mining industry, a sector specific management strategy in terms of water management for prospecting and mining activities has been initiated. One of the steps in this regard is the development of a set of the Best Practice Guidelines for water quality management in the mining industry. Research conducted by the mining industry has resulted in the wide-spread use of water-recovery technology, to the extent that many mines can report a 30% reduction in the use of raw water resources. In the Witbank Dam Catchment Management Programme, water quality objectives, achieved through the allocation of permissible waste loads per industry, were set by a multi-sectoral group.

Metals and minerals

Gold ore (average grade): The amount mined decreased from 496.9 tonnes in 1996 to 492.6 tonnes in 1997 (4.95 g of gold per t of ore).

Diamonds: Carats mined increased from 9,886 in 1996 to 10, 935 in 1997.


The contribution of Agriculture to GDP was 4.2%, 4.7% and 4.5% in 1995, 1996 and 1997 respectively.

Maize production:

Production totaled 8,488 mt in 1997, compared to 9.69 mt in 1996. 1996 human consumption was approximately 3.1 mt, representing per capita consumption of 62 kg/person/year. Industrial processing of maize for animal feed comprised 1.2 mt.

Wheat production:

The 1997/98 season yielded 2.3 mt of which 1.8 mt are designated for human consumption - per capita consumption of 57 kg/person/year.

Wool production:

Average annual production totals 55.1 million kg of greasy wool, 5.7 million kg from white wool breeds, other than Merino.

During 1996, South African consumers spent a total amount of R 77,694 million on food commodities.

Livestock numbers (1997 vs. 1996):

Fishery sector

In terms of South African Total Allowable Catches (TAC), quotas are adapted annually to allow for more sustainable consumption. For example, TAC of hake in 1995, 1996 and 1997 varied from 148,000; 151,000; and 151,700 tonnes nominal mass respectively. Pilchard TAC quotas have decreased over the 3-year period and were fixed at 117,000: 105,000; and 98,000 tons nominal mass respectively.


In 1997 plantations covered an area of 1,518,138 ha. Yields vary from an average of 15 m3 of per ha per annum for softwood to 20 m3 per ha per annum for eucalyptus and 9 m3 per ha per annum for wattle. The production from plantations in 1996 amounted to some 24.7 million m3. More than 10 million m3 of firewood is chopped annually.

Renewable energy sources

Renewable energy sources other than biomass, have not yet been exploited to the full in South Africa. Research projects are, inter alia, investigating solar, wind and hydro energy. Current and envisaged main uses of solar energy include the use of solar power for water-pumping and for heating. Research is presently conducted to evaluate the feasibility of building a solar thermal power plant in the Northern Cape, and a wind farm in the Western Cape.

Waste management

The National Waste Management Strategy will be completed by December 1998. As part of its implementation, priority pollutants will be identified and targets set for reduction.

The Pollution Research Group of the University of Natal has conducted a number of projects including ways of recycling water and using co-products of one process as input for others. The group also provides guidelines on water and waste management, especially for the Textile Industry.

A project was launched by the DEA&T with DANCED support in August 1997 with the aim of establishing a National Waste Management Strategy Project (NWMS) for South Africa. The baseline situation in South Africa with regard to cleaner production and waste minimisation was reviewed and targets for waste minimisation identified. The Situation Baseline Analysis Report comprised a synthesis of the findings of the four NWMS Task Groups i.e. Waste Minimisation, Non-Hazardous Waste, Hazardous and Related Wastes and Waste Information System.

Recycling operations exist for paper (including packaging), cans and glass. Consumers cooperate by using recycling bins placed at selected centres. Agencies related to paper manufacturing collect waste paper on arrangement. Labeled recycled paper is popular with "green-conscious" commercial and private consumers.

Examples of activities having impacts in changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns

After 20 years of flaring these gases to the atmosphere, Samancor's Manganese Alloy operation in Meyerton found a way to burn carbon monoxide and gases containing hydrogen. In the process, the company generates an average of 30 Megawatts of electricity every hour, about 10 % of the total plant demand. The benefits to both the atmospheric environment and the company are significant: About 275,000 MW hours of electricity are generated each year, with an average availability of 98 %, saving the company R28 million annually in power costs. The electricity saved would have been generated by Escom power stations burning 10 tons of coal each hour, or 87,600 tons per annum. Gases containing hydrogen are no longer released to the atmosphere. The plant made a giant leap in terms towards energy efficiency.

Sasol Fibres' acrylic fibre manufacturing process is unique in South Africa because the fibre is coloured during production as opposed to providing undyed fibre for dyeing by the garment manufacturer. This is cheaper and easier for the customer, allowing for a virtually effluent-free garment manufacturing operation. More important, the environmental benefits are exceptional. Dyeing the fibre early in the process is far more efficient - Sasol Fibres effluent contains only some 1 – 2 % of the dye left in the effluent of the more conventional processes, and only 0.1% to 0.02% of the amount of additives and chemicals. The effluent from Sasol Fibres' gel dyeing process contains only 0.06 kg of additives and 0.05kg of dye per tonne of acrylic fibre.

In December 1997 Polifin a member of the chemicals manufacturing industry completed a ZAR 100 million upgrade to eliminate mercury from its processes and effluent.

Caltex Oil installed two electrostatic precipitators. Caltex is the only South African refinery to date that has gone this route, which has proved completely successful - particulate emissions have dropped to less than 100 mg/m3. Caltex Oil has also made significant strides since 1994 in reducing SO2 emissions even further than the regulatory maximum of 48-tons per day. The refinery is operating at, and often below, its stringent in-house target of 28-tons per day.

Escom's coal-fired Matimba Power Station reduced its ash emissions from 6,000 tons a month in 1990 to 3,400 tons per month in 1993 and 232 tons per month in 1998. In addition, defying the precipitator's reliance on good quality coal for top performance, Matimba achieved 15 % better performance in 1996 than 1995, using the same quality of coal. In 1997 Matimba's ash emissions were 75 % below the required limit for the year.

Significant progress has been made in the area of Clean Coal Technologies and in the reduction of dust from mine residue deposits through vegetation cover and the new approach of rock cover in combination with vegetation.

The Mondi sulphite pulp mill reduced sodium levels to a third (from about 2 500 mg/l to around 800 mg/l).

Saldanha Steel has installed a closed loop cooling system to reduce water consumption used for cooling. This was a result of water supply being identified as a key issue during the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the limited water supply in the West Coast Region. Although the temperature reduction capacity of the closed loop cooling system was not high enough to allow it to be installed for all the processes, those processes that do use the system have resulted in a reduction in the consumption of fresh water from 18 000 m3 to 12 000m3/day.

The Aerosol Manufacturing Association, reports that the Aerosol industry, has totally phased out CFCs from their products over the past 10 years. Any aerosol manufactured in South Africa now contains either hydrocarbons, compressed air or compressed nitrogen as propellant.

The Foam Blowing industry, producers of both rigid and flexible foams, has to a major extent succeeded in moving from CFCs to HFCs, which are less destructive to the ozone layer - only 10% as destructive as CFCs. This is seen as an intermediate step, and the industry will be moving to cytopentane in the near future.

The Solvent industry has moved away from 1,1,1-TCE and is now using aqueous solutions. Companies have phased out all TCE from their production where possible.

The Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Industry both used CFC 12 in their cooling systems. The refrigeration industry has moved over to using HFC 134a. The Air Conditioning industry uses a multitude of substitution products (all ozone friendly) depending on the application. No new refrigeration or air conditioning units contain CFCs.

Fire fighting equipment previously based on halons, now use CO2, water mists, argon or helium, all of which are ozone friendly.

The Gold Mining sector is replacing equipment that runs on CFCs with CFC-free machinery.

An interesting case study can be made out of the prepayment water metres installed in some peri-urban areas on behalf of Rand Water. Although these were installed to combat the problem of payment for services, they have resulted in major savings in water consumption.

Water restrictions in the Vaal River system are not uncommon, as this is probably the most exploited river system in South Africa. The river system supplies water to Gauteng Province and parts of the provinces of Eastern Transvaal, North West, Free State and Northern Cape, and shows the highest shortfall in available water. The first water restriction was announced in 1976. The longest continuous period was from 1983 to 1988. Restrictions in 1995 accomplished a saving of 40 % on water for agricultural purposes, 30 % on domestic use and 10 % on water used for mining, industry and commerce.

In Hermanus, South Africa, the introduction of a Water Demand Management Programme resulted in savings of 16.5% over the first 12 months, compared with the average of the previous three years. Unaccounted-for water was reduced from 18 % to 11 %.

A multi-stakeholder National Steering Committee on Climate Change was established to steer policy processes related to the international Framework Convention on Climate Change. As an active participant, the mining industry is investigating the use of alternative technologies for the reduction of emissions.


The key issues and constraints to implementing effective programmes to address the issues related to promoting sustainable consumption and production in South Africa include the following:

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

South Africa supports awareness raising and educational programmes for environmental authorities. The DEA&T, with the aid of donor funding, has begun developing training courses for local and provincial authorities, with regard to sustainable development at the local level.

Education, training and awareness-raising take place through several media, including educational institutions, conferences and workshops, awareness-raising campaigns, and publications. The following provide examples:

Educational Institutions

Conferences and Workshops




The Foundation for Research Development has launched the Directed Theme Programme for Food Production and Food Security which focuses on the development of human resources and expertise to serve the needs of small-scale and resource-poor farming communities and systems. The FRD currently supports more than 150 grant-holders at universities and technikons conducting research and training students within the Programme Framework. (Refer also to the numerous examples given under "Status," above.

The Industrial Environmental Forum (IEF) strives to engender environmental awareness in production and consumption by channeling knowledge and expertise to the industrial community and encouraging an atmosphere for innovative thinking rather than prescriptive controls. The members of the Industrial Environmental Forum (IEF) voluntarily agree to a ten-point Code of Conduct and are also signatories to the International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Charter for Sustainable Development. Members of the IEF are committed to continuous improvement, self-regulation and openness about performance in the environmental arena.

Green conscious consumers are mostly guided by labeling and additional trade information. There is scope for enhancement of labeling and for a greater extent of consumer awareness.

DEA&T has initiated a project that will encourage sustainable consumption and production through education regarding environmental resource economics.


The Programme for Development Research (PRODDER) published by the Human Sciences Research Council is a Southern African development information medium which collects and disseminates information on all Southern African development issues and role players. Given the potential important contribution of information to the development process in Southern Africa, PRODDER has, since 1987, established itself as a leading Southern African development information service, compiling and disseminating information on thousands of Southern African development-related organisations.

The provinces of Gauteng and Mpumalanga, sponsored by DANCED, published comprehensive information documents addressing procedures for implementation of EIAs. National EIA guidelines refer developers to the IEM principles which are set out in a series of 6 booklets published in 1992.

The mining industry supports various fora dealing with scientific and technological developments. These fora include the International Committee for Coal Research, the Coal Research Forum and the National Science and Technology Forum.

The South African Energy Information System is a database with relevant energy information and is kept in the library at DME.

Auditing and monitoring systems

The Environmental Management Programme Reports (EMPR) revision process and the EMP Performance Assessment and Monitoring Regulations are designed to provide information to the regulator for purposes of informed decision making. This programme is overseen by the DME.

The Waste Disposal Permit System, administered in terms of Section 20 of Subsection 1 of the Environment Conservation Act, 1989, as well as the Water Permit System, administered in terms of Section 21 of the Water Act, 1956, are overseen by the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF). The air pollution control system is overseen by the Chief Air Pollution Control Officer, under the auspices of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.

The ROSE Foundation (Recovery of Oil Saves the Environment) is a South African non-profit organisation which has the task of regulating the environmentally acceptable collection and recycling of used oil for the lubricants industry. This organisation is funded by South Africa's main lubricant manufacturers, with the aim of protecting the natural environment against the potentially devastating effects resulting from irresponsible oil dumping. The Foundation provides users of lubricants with purpose-designed containers, which they empty as needed, at a nominal fee. A well designed assessment, auditing and certification system for members is managed by the ROSE Foundation.

The Oil Industries Environmental Committee comprises representatives of eight oil companies of which six are members of the South African Petroleum Industry Association. The committee collectively agrees on general standard practices to minimise impacts on the environment. Examples of these include the purchase of forty-three oil spill response trailers, as well as first-response equipment for ports and harbours. They have also developed practices such as the investigation of corrosivity of soils to address the reality that 70% of leaks from underground storage tanks occur as a result of corrosion. A vulnerability map of South Africa, showing the vulnerability to underground tank pollution of ground water per area, was created.

The South African National Accreditation System in 1998 launched their division for auditing and certification bodies and personnel, that provides for international mutual recognition of eg. ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 certification.

The National Metrology Laboratory invested in state-of-the-art measuring equipment to provide for efficient infrastructure and facilitation of environmental reporting and implementation of environmental management measures.

Regulation 5(4) of the Hazardous Chemical Substances Regulations imposes a duty on the employer to monitor the exposure of employees to substances hazardous to health. The Department of Labour is responsible for auditing and monitoring.

Indicators related to consumption and production patterns.

South Africa, through the DEA & T is assisting in testing the CSD proposed list of sustainability indicators, of which indicators related to consumption and production patterns are part.

The CSIR is driving an internally funded project to research indicators of biodiversity. In a separate project, the CSIR is looking at developing criteria and indicators of sustainable development of terrestrial ecosystems. The research approach is to develop practical and easy to implement indicators. Sectors that will be addressed include Forestry, Agriculture and Conservation. This is a three-to-five-year process which is presently in its second year.

The South African government, through DEA&T, is initiating the development of a Pollutant Release Transfer Register (PRTR), that will give guidance and statistics on amount of waste produced and pollutants emitted.

There are projects going on within industry to develop sustainability measures. Indicators are based on CAPCO records, from which targets and alarm levels are derived. Conformance with targets is often linked to a monetary bonus scheme. Areas covered are air emissions, water economy and quality, elimination of legal incidents and clients’ perception of the efficiency of the industry’s environmental management measures.

Information on some of the issues addressed in this discussion on "Consumption and production patterns, can be obtained from the following web sites:

South African Environment Page:

Central Statistical Services:

South African Government Index:

South African legislation:

Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism:

Department of Water Affairs and Forestry:

Department of Minerals and Energy

Chamber of Mines of SA:






Agricultural Research Council

South Africa Online

Pollution Group: University Natal

Environmental Process Engineering Group:

Rose Foundation:

Technology and Human Resources for Industry Programme:

Southern African Conference on Cleaner Production

Water demand management initiative

Research and Technologies   

The National Productivity Institute (NPI) has initiated an annual Productivity Award system through which industries submit improvements made to their productivity during the year to the NPI, which then presents the award for the best improvements in productivity. Clean and environmentally sound technologies implemented to improve productivity are looked on favourably.

Regulations on Environmental Impact Assessment brought a new corporate focus on cleaner production patterns. The National Waste Management Strategy promotes waste minimisation through cleaner technologies that will minimise waste at the source as opposed to end of pipe solutions.

The DTI’s proposal for a National Technology Transfer Centre, awaiting approval, includes cleaner technology certification for all technology transfer transactions facilitated by the Centre.

In industry practice, the culture of promoting and applying clean and environmentally sound technologies is growing, as has been substantiated in this report.

Research, development, demonstration or pilot projects and other activities

The Science sector conducts research on how to create more sustainable consumption and production pattern. Research themes include:

Research is also being done in terms of both eco-labeling and life-cycle assessments.

The situation assessment of the South African appliance market revealed a focus on name brand loyalty rather than technical innovation. A climate of decreased import duties, intensified international competition and large differences among consumer groups, indicated the need for a segmented labelling programme. Stakeholder consultation revealed that: the stakeholders were largely unaware of the concept of energy performance labelling; the stakeholders preferred an approach that ensured a level playing field; the retail sector will be a key stakeholder in the labelling programme development; and consumer groups prefer a mandatory approach to labelling. Escom is interested in linking its domestic sector promotional activities with the labelling programme. The labelling programme is encouraged by DME, DEA&T and DTI.

The DEA & T is engaged in a project to develop criteria and indicators for sustainable development of terrestrial ecosystems. This project adopts a research approach to develop practical and easy to implement indicators which will address specific land uses and encourage sustainable land management. The objectives include maintaining biological diversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and the ecosystem’s potential to fulfill, now and in future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national and global levels (without damaging other ecosystems). Sectors that will be addressed include forestry, agriculture and conservation. This is a 3 - 5 year process, presently in the second year.

The Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) of the World Conservation Union (IUCN) is implementing research on Water Demand Management. The project is financially supported by SIDA, and is planned for completion within 18 months effective from January 1998. The main aim of the project is to establish and assess the level at which water demand management is being practised in the region against a background of diminishing resources and increasing demand. IUCN has commissioned five country studies through which to execute the project. The CSIR, through its Division of Water Environment and Forestry Technology (Environmentek) accepted the invitation to lead the South Africa country study.

The Industrial Symbiosis Project started in February 1997, and is conducted by the University of Cape Town. It is concerned with optimising the economic and environmental performance of Small and Medium Enterprise (SME). The general theme of the project is industrial symbiosis or industrial ecology/ecosystems and draws on parallels with models of biological ecology. The aim is to demonstrate the co-operation between firms that can realise gains in eco-efficiency for the sector as a whole. Results of the project will be used to prepare operational strategies for the SME sector to improve its economic competitiveness by striving for improvements in environmental performance, recognising that unavoidable waste generation equates to operational inefficiency.

A national resource accounting research project, linked to the USAID resource accounting project covering Southern Africa, has been initiated under the auspices of the DEA&T, Statistics South Africa, and the University of Pretoria. Envisaged outcomes include linkages between macro economic policies and the environment.

The Water Research Commission is funding a project entitled ‘Development of a Philosophy and Methodology for the Implementation of the Polluter Pays Principle’. The project is aimed at developing a system for calculating equitable pollution charges, with incentives to encourage polluters to move from diffuse to more controllable point-source pollution. The mining industry forms the focus of the research project and has been integrally involved in the development of the project.

See also under Status.


The range of sources for funding of activities include national budget, Official Donor Aid (ODA), (for example the UK, Germany, NORAD, USAID, DANCED, SIDA and others, See under Cooperation), assistance by institutions and company funding. 

Industry contributes in terms of research and training funds, funds committed to environmental management systems and personnel, investment in cleaner technologies, measuring and testing equipment and in reporting. Private sector inter-country partnerships represent joint investments in technology, equipment and training required to implement agreed environmental management systems.

The mining industry is the only industry cluster in South Africa for which financial provision for post-closure environmental management is legislated. As such, each mine has to make financial provision for post closure environmental management, which includes reduction of environmental impacts at source during the lifetime of the mine.

REFSA (Pty) Ltd (Renewable Energy for South Africa) is a subsidiary of the state-owned Central Energy Fund group of companies which operate in the energy arena. Its main objective is the financing of renewable energy-based systems for those households that cannot readily be connected to the national grid. Its activities are guided by an independent and representative board of directors, to which several key institutions have been approached to nominate members. These are, amongst others, the DME, Escom, the Independent Development Trust, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the World Bank Group. REFSA commenced its operations by launching a number of pilot projects designed to identify possible financing and delivery models. These include providing loans to potential customers through the retail banking sector operating in the rural areas, and financing interested rural communities on a collective basis and assisting them to manage a tendering process for the procurement and installation of systems.


The work done to develop a National State of the Environment report, as well as the City State of the Environment reports is funded by NORAD. Research on Water Demand Management (WDM) is financially supported by SIDA. DANCED funded and assisted with a number of policy formulation and related processes and, in cooperation with DANIDA, provides technical assistance and co-funding for lead projects on environmental management in industry.

DANCED, has, over a three year period, set aside 8 million rand for Cleaner Production projects in selected industrial sectors (including the Fishing and Fish Processing, Abattoirs and Dairy, Wood and Furniture, Metal Plating and Textile Industries), with the aim of promoting Cleaner Technology in South Africa. Criteria used for support is the recognition of negative environmental impacts associated with the activities of the specific sector. This donor agency is committed to the transfer of technical skills relating to the environment as spelt out in Agenda 21.

USAID is contributing to the development of a Resource Accounting system and database for Southern Africa, and the counterpart project for South Africa has commenced in 1998.

SIDA contributes to competitiveness enhancement in the textile-and-clothing and other sectors, as well as in a new growth programme, for SMMEs, combining sustainable development and productivity principles.

The UK, through a range of seminars hosted by the British Council, involves South Africa in educational discussions.

The Federal Republic of Germany, supported by its partners in the Global Initiative for Sustainable Development, notably Brazil, Singapore and South Africa, will in 2000 host the Urban 21 global conference on the urban future. The German Government has approached DTI through the DEA&T, to discuss a programme that will support possible country to country small business partnerships with the objective of promoting the manufacture of green products.

The environment forms a significant part of the United States assistance pledged to South Africa. A commission was established with Vice-President Gore and Deputy President Mbeki as co-chairmen. The Conservation and Environment Committee of the Commission has the following working groups: Nature conservation and tourism, Environmental management and pollution, Water, Fisheries, and Oceans and atmosphere.

Water and Rivers

South Africa shares a number of rivers with neighbouring states. Codes of conduct regarding tributaries of shared rivers are covered by bilateral agreements and supported by studies such as the Limpopo Basin Study, the Lesotho Highlands water scheme and the Nkomati basin project. South Africa is also a signatory of the SADC protocol on shared water courses.

Agricultural cooperation and trade in agricultural goods

The national Department of Agriculture is represented in Brussels, Rome and Geneva. The Department of Agriculture is responsible for matters concerning agricultural relations with other countries, for example bilateral agreements with Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique.

The Department of Agriculture, DTI and the Department of Foreign Affairs cooperate with respect to trade negotiations, for example between South Africa and the EU, the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative and the Cairns Group. Negotiations regarding the implementation of the Convention on Biodiversity are also covered. South Africa obtained qualified membership of the Lomé Convention, which will allow South African companies to tender for contracts funded by the European Development Fund and to make use of the rules of accumulation. The ARC is represented in Paris and Washington at the relevant South African missions.


South Africa has a bilateral agreement with Mozambique which covers the harvesting of hake in SA waters in exchange for a comparable amount of Mozambique prawns.


A bilateral Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Minerals and Energy and the German Government to collaborate on the promotion of solar cookers in South Africa, was implemented in 1997. During the implementation phase, solar cookers or stoves were distributed, accompanied by training, information workshops and evaluations.

Environmental Management Agreements

In addition to its commitment to implement Agenda 21, South Africa is party to a number of legally enforceable international environmental agreements. These include:

Participation and monitoring of implementation is administered by the DEA & T.

South Africa is inter alia a participant in negotiations / research relating to:

South Africa will be hosting a Regional Training Centre for English speaking African countries, where courses will be presented on management of hazardous waste and related issues.

SADC Protocols

South Africa has either ratified, or signed with the aim of ratification, four SADC protocols, namely the Protocol on Energy, the Protocol on Trade, the Protocol on Mining, the Protocol on Transport, Communications and Meteorology and the Protocol on Combatting Illicit Drug Trafficking.


A number of commercial alliance agreements, aimed at strengthening bilateral trade and economic co-operation between South Africa and foreign countries, have been signed or are being negotiated.

In conformance with policies and business practice in their own countries, most foreign investors in SA are committed to responsible management of environmental aspects, minimising pollution and waste, and conserving water.

* * *

This information is based on South Africa's submissions to the fifth, sixth and seventh Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: December 1998.

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Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies  

The Department of Finance is responsible for decision-making in the field of financial resources.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

Foreign direct investment is subject to the same environmental legislation as local investment. For example, no industrial development will be permitted without a mandatory process of environmental impact assessment. Incentives for investment in cleaner production technologies for both local and foreign investment will be investigated as part of the National Waste Management Strategy.

Certain environmental issues are addressed by the application of fiscal instruments. For example, a relatively high tax on fuel, which is partly in recognition of the external costs associated with fossil fuel consumption, is maintained. Furthermore, a price differential between leaded and unleaded fuel was introduced to encourage the use of unleaded fuel. However, "the environment" does not receive direct financial benefits from present fiscal instruments.

While it is relatively straightforward to impose an environmental tax, the situation becomes far more complex when there is a maximum limit on the total tax burden. While much work has been done on market based fiscal instruments, not enough is known yet in South Africa on how to suitably shift, and not increase, the tax burden. Furthermore, given the current income distribution problem in South Africa, a progressive tax system is a high priority at present. A set of guidelines on the interdependent use of regulations, market-based instruments and self-regulation mechanisms is currently being drafted. The implementation procedures and frameworks are still needed.

Concerning the introduction of new environmental taxes, levies, or charges, a process is underway to identify suitable economic instruments that may be used in the management of South African water usage and waste disposal.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

South Africa is in the process of implementing a long-term plan entitled the Growth, Employment and Redistribution Strategy (GEAR), which provides a basis for macro economic development. While this policy document does not specifically refer to environmental issues or sustainable development, it addresses the priorities of any developing country such as South Africa, which are to eradicate poverty and meet the basic needs of all its inhabitants.

It must be noted that a policy is being formulated on user charges, which favors moving towards a system where the user increasingly bears the costs of a service. There is much scope here for the recovery of the cost of providing certain environmental services or goods.

Apart from the above policy framework, a National Advisory Committee has recently been formed to direct a project that seeks to investigate the linkages between environmental and macroeconomic policy in South Africa. This is being done with a view to advising on the frameworks required to achieve sustainable development, including social, economic and environmental aspects.

The Departments of Agriculture and Water Affairs and Forestry have initiated numerous policy reforms to identify and eliminate environmentally unsustainable land and water subsidies. In particular, these reforms aim to redress past imbalances, which provided for subsidised capital and irrigation water to large commercial farms, often at the expense of emerging farmers and the environment.

There are no specific environmental policies pertaining to foreign direct investment (FDI), though national environmental regulations would apply to all foreign and domestic investors.

In terms of freshwater management, irrigation schemes have often received water at subsidised costs. The present price is based on historical costing and the full environmental and social costs are not included.

A multitude of subsidies exist, which are distorting the relative costs of factors of production, making labor relatively more expensive than the other factors, and shifting production towards more capital intensive and energy intensive methods. This has contributed to the decrease in labor absorption rates over the years as well as to the unemployment and poverty problems. Part of the GEAR strategy involves the reduction of such distorting subsidies in order to shift production to more labor intensive production methods.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

Government channels subsidies of over R 1,5 billion a year to about 1 400 non-governmental organisations, focused on developmental welfare services, support for the unemployed and meeting the needs of women and children. Some 4 000 personnel in child and youth care and residential centres are receiving specialized training.

No changes were made in national, provincial and regional budgets to address sustainable development. Churches, Independent Development Trusts (IDT) and other NAOS have played a major role in financing and supporting social development, particularly in the poverty-stricken communities. Environmental capacity enhancement projects undertaken by community forums and community based NAOS have recently been funded by the Reconstruction and Development Programme based in different government departments. However, there is a need to engage communities in programmes that stimulate economic growth and sustainable development.

Programmes and Projects   

Concerning financial mechanisms used to combat poverty, the redistributional aspects of the South African budget have been considerably enhanced, and the tax system has been reformed in favour of low-income earners. On the expenditure side, a significant reprioritisation of the budget has taken place, with over 60% of expenditure now going to social services and to meeting the needs of the poor. Expenditure on social services (comprising education, health and welfare) increased by an annual average rate of 12% from 1995 to 1998. Specific achievements under the South African Government's Redistribution and Development Programme (RDP), which have been actively supported through the national budget, include:

Since 1994 the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has brought 25 liters of potable water per person to over three million people and has created 100 000 jobs every year. There are 1 025 projects which are underway, expected to serve 4,9 million people. Sanitation services will be provided to approximately 50 000 households by the end of 1999.

Over 900 projects have been implemented creating some 40 000 jobs in 1998 under the Working for Water programme, curtailing the spread of alien plants in water catchment areas.

Land reform is gathering momentum. By the end of 1998, 3 623 households had regained their rights to land. Under the land redistribution programme 179 088 hectares of land had been transferred to 33 366 households. Please refer to the 'Capacity Building' section of this chapter for more information on financial mechanisms aiming the reduction of poverty.

A new social grant was introduced in April 1998, providing assistance to caregivers of children under the age of seven.

The housing subsidy scheme launched in 1994 has contributed to the building of 629 449 houses. Approximately 936 754 subsidies have been approved since 1994.

The primary school nutrition programme reaches approximately 5 million children in poor communities, contributing to their nourishment, enhancing learning capacity and many employment opportunities.

Primary health care services are largely provided at no charge. Government has built 638 clinics over the last four years, introduced a cost-effective essential drugs list and conducted successful immunisation campaigns and AIDS awareness programmes.

Because macroeconomic decision making in South Africa is not based on an assessment of the availability and quality of natural resources (resulting in unsustainable or inefficient resource use which lowers social welfare), a framework for information and analysis to support sustainable macroeconomic policy is required. One of the tools for accomplishing this is Natural Resource Accounting (NRA). Work on this has commenced on a small scale in South Africa by an environmental economics working group. It is envisaged that the NRA project will be expanded throughout Southern Africa, with capacity building in government ministries, to promote an awareness of the importance of environmental economic analysis and the development of the institutional linkages necessary for compilation of NRA. One of the tasks of the NRA project is to identify the level of subsidisation each sector receives from the government and the total cost of subsidies and to conduct analyses to indicate economic and social justification, as well as the cost effectiveness and environmental impact thereof. However, this will not be done in the initial phases of the NRA project.


No information available.


No information available.

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

Concerning financial mechanisms to combat poverty, it is to be noted that educational enrolment has increased by over 1,5 million since 1994, while the average number of learners per teacher has decreased from 40 to 34 over this period. Improved grade 12 examination results in 1998 signal a turnaround in school performance. Key initiatives are in progress to improve management in schools and strengthen learning and teaching skills. In support of access to higher education, Government funds a National Student Financial Aid Scheme and targets assistance at development and redress in universities and technikons. See also under Programmes and Projects.

Developing skills is a responsibility Government shares with its social partners. Agreement has been reached on the way forward. Preliminary organisational work is underway for the creation of education and training authorities and introduction of learnerships as part of a joint strategy for extending improved learning opportunities to all.


South Africa's national budget, which includes a comprehensive survey of the expenditure and service priorities of all government departments, is available from the department's web page at

Research and Technologies   

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism recently completed a research project on the use of economic instruments to address environmental problems. An assessment of economic instruments and their suitability for environmental management in South Africa was investigated. It is likely that new legislation will be addressed within the next year.


No information available.

* * *

This information is based on South Africa's submissions to the fifth, sixth and eighth Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: October 2000.


For details on the South African national budget 1996, click here:
For information on participating states in the Global Environment Facility, click here:
For information about issues and projects in Africa from the World Bank, click here:

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Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies  

The South African Bureau of Standards (a parastatal standard making body) has been involved in the development of the ISO 14000 series. Additionally, the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) was launched recently. This body will accredit certification bodies, and environmental certification will become an area of activity in the near future. These SANAS accredited products and services will be recognised throughout the world. The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism is currently holding discussions with other National Departments and Provincial Governments to encourage the adoption of the ISO 14000 series.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

South Africa's Intellectual Property Rights legislation that will be passed in Parliament will comply with the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.

In terms of the Technology Transfer Act that is currently being drafted, the Department of Trade and Industry's Technology Transfer Centre, to be launched in 1999, will require "best available affordable cleaner technology" clearance for all technology transfer transactions. The use of Best Available Technology Not Entailing Excessive Cost (BATNEEC) is considered an essential principle in environmental management.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

It should also be mentioned that after evaluating EIAs in terms of the Land Development Objectives (LDOs) as specified in the Development Facilitation Act, provincial and local governments have decided to require that an Environmental Management System be incorporated into development applications in order to promote the consideration of best technology, practice and alternatives into business plans.

Although South Africa does not have a specific national policy or strategy with regard to ESTs, some government departments and research institutions, such as the Medical Research Council (MRC), have developed policies and strategies on integrated environmental management and the use of environmentally sound technology. The policy document on Science and Technology, 1996, provides the framework for the development of a national system of innovation that would promote ESTs.

Sectoral strategies and policies are available, for instance, in the electricity sector: clean coal technologies, water use and energy-efficiency.

Provincial departments have created policies that address the need to travel abroad for study tours, conferences or meetings. This is to ensure that capacity building is achieved as well as to strengthen existing networks and build up new information networks. Because of South Africa's geographical location, these types of networks are not always efficient, and it has been recognised that Internet and E-mail networking is also of great value. Capacity building is perceived as a major priority by Government, particularly in the field of environment. This is being addressed, although no formal policy exists.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

Several organisations and associations operate as platforms within the field of ESTs. There are technical centres, various specialised committees, policy groups and professional or business institutions, such as the Industrial Environmental Forum (IEF), which coordinates environmentally sound technology within the industrial sector, as well as the Water Research Commission (WRC) to which technology transfer is a key issue, that also bring stakeholders together.

The private sector plays a leading role in disseminating knowledge and information about cleaner processes in industry. The IEF is completely funded by business, and aims to promote awareness on the transfer of ESTs through participation and peer incentives. The chemical industry in South Africa has adopted the International Responsible Care Initiative and is continuously seeking to achieve cleaner production. Current interactions with government include discussions on the introduction of incentives to promote cleaner production processes.

Companies, some with international divisions, regularly survey the available technological development and bring relevant process technology into South Africa for adaptation to local conditions. A group of environmental consultants has accumulated wide and detailed experience in the field of clean production and manufacturing technology, and the services provided contribute advisory expertise to those businesses without resident specialists. The private sector has contributed major investments in waste water treatment technology, some of which hold world-wide patents.

The CSIR, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Environmental Scientific Association of South Africa are among the other role players in terms of cleaner production processes. In the energy sector, promotion is taking place regarding electricity, clean coal technology and future energy supply and demand.

Several universities are also collaborating with local authorities and industrial small, medium and micro enterprises in efforts to promote cleaner production processes.

Programmes and Projects   

Programmes of action have been developed by a number of government departments and research institutions such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the MRC. No institutions have yet been identified for implementation.

Cleaner production initiatives recently initiated will partly focus on implementing pilot projects targeting the following industrial sectors:

Stakeholders representing industry, various government departments and research institutions are involved. Through various sector-specific industrial associations, the invitation to forward pilot project proposals has been disseminated. The implementation of several pilot/demonstration projects is supported by DANCED.

Objectives of the pilot projects:


No information available.


No information available.

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

The Department of Education encourages transfer of technology in schools. At the same time, steps are being taken to integrate environmental education across the curriculum in order to ensure that communities have access to information on the environmental risks of technologies. In this way, informed economic choices can be made. Social and cultural priorities are considered during transfer of technology.

DEA&T is organising a cleaner production regional conference for 1998, which will serve as a platform to promote the concept of cleaner production within the Southern African region. Issues related to technology are shared with international organisations such as the World Federation of Technical Assessment Organisations.

A 2.5 year capacity building project has been launched by the Gauteng Provincial Government with DANCED which will include training in cleaner production technology. This project involves, among other things, a study tour to South Africa and Sweden which concentrates on these issues and the implementation thereof. Provincial Governments have budgeted for some small pilot projects in this area, the results of which will go towards new national regulatory frameworks.

See also under Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans.


There are no recent national data available to indicate in which sectors ESTs are most urgently needed, but the National Waste Management Strategies and Action Plans (NWMS) will include baseline studies which will address this question. Indications are that ESTs are needed inter alia in mining, agriculture, small to medium manufacturing and processing industries, liquid fuels for the most deprived communities, water for all sectors of the economy, as well as for energy, transport, tourism, off-shore oil and gas pollution reduction, small business, and domestic, urban and rural energy.

See also Decision-Making: Major Groups Involvement.


No information available.


See under Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-Raising and Programmes and Projects.

* * *

Economically Sound Technologies (ESTs) in water and waste management

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies    

No information available.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

Through the Environmental Management Programme requirements of the Minerals Act, 1991, and the mine water related research done through WRC, environmentally sound waste management technologies at mines are specifically promoted. The environmental management programme requirements for the mining industry are based on Best Available Technology Not Entailing Excessive Costs.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

Through the National Water Policy, 1997, a system of economic incentives will be put in place to foster the development of low-waste and non-waste technologies, and to reduce pollution and other impacts on water resources. A sector-based approach will be integrated with water resource management strategies and functions and, where appropriate, regulated sectors should take responsibility for the development, evaluation and implementation of ESTs that will meet the requirements for water resource protection. The system of economic incentives has yet to be developed in detail, and its implementation is seen as a long-term process.

No financial instruments are used at present to encourage the use of ESTs in the field of water management. However, there is provision for two types of economic instruments in the draft National Water Bill, 1997. The first is the setting of water tariffs at levels which reflect the real cost of water and its relative scarcity or abundance. This is intended to act as an incentive for the development of water-efficient technologies, and improved recycling and reuse. The second is the introduction of a system of waste charges, to be imposed for discharges to water resources. These are intended to encourage the development and implementation of improved treatment technologies as well as low-waste technologies. Funds raised in this way will be used for resource protection activities.

South Africa's Draft Policy on Environmental Management outlines the following with regard to pollution and waste management, which implies ESTs: "Waste management must minimise and avoid the creation of waste at source especially in the case of toxic and hazardous wastes". The Draft Policy on Integrated Pollution and Waste Management in South Africa proposes a policy to promote the implementation of a hierarchy of waste management practices, namely reduction of waste at source (cleaner production/technology), reuse, recycling and safe disposal as the last resort. Furthermore, the National Waste Management Strategies and Action Plans (NWMS) will propose strategies and actions for each component of pollution and waste management that will advocate the use of ESTs (possibly within the strategy and action plans regarding cleaner production/pollution prevention).

The Department of Water Affairs and the DEA & T are using guidelines for the issuing of permits for waste disposal. The Draft Policy on Integrated Pollution and Waste Management in South Africa refers to waste management in the context of cleaner production/pollution prevention. 

Organisations such as state corporations and government departments have already formulated or are in the process of formulating policies on waste stream reduction and the management of effluent discharges.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

No information available.

Programmes and Projects   

A strategy on cleaner production will be developed through the NWMS project, which has implications for the promotion of ESTs.


No information available.


The Environmental Management Policy has recognised the current problem that: "There are no effective incentives to encourage all waste producers to adopt cleaner production processes and minimise waste generation". In the draft Integrated Pollution and Waste Management Policy document, promotion of cleaner technology has been identified as a priority.

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

No information available.


No information available.


No information available.


No information available.

* * *

Housing technologies

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies    

No information available.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

No information available.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

No information available.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

No information available.

Programmes and Projects 

The Housing and Urbanisation Information System (HUIS) and the Housing Subsidy System (HSS) are being developed to respond to the need for technology for housing and housing information for planning purposes. The basis for the HUIS includes the refinement and updating of a database created by the Development Bank for Southern Africa and the Council for Science and Industrial Research. Tenders for the development of a HUIS have been called for.


Housing support is necessary to establish a range of financial, institutional, technical and logistical support mechanisms that will enable communities to continually improve their own housing circumstances. Housing Support Centres are in the process of being set up as identifiable bases where beneficiary families may gain access to a serviced site as well as the relevant subsidy package. 


No information available.

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

In Housing Support Centres people would receive training in materials manufacture and basic construction skills, together with the necessary information and advice to enable them to contribute directly to the design and construction of their own homes. Environmentally sound and appropriate technologies including know-how, services, equipment, organisational and managerial skills are provided by the Housing Support Centres.


See under Programmes and Projects.


No information available.


No information available.

* * *


Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies  

Biotechnology research is conducted by government departments, parastatal bodies and industry.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

A draft bill on the safe use and handling of genetically modified organisms has been developed and submitted to parliament for approval to be written into national legislation. The bill takes into account the UNEP Guidelines for Biosafety. South Africa is also actively involved at subregional, regional and global levels in the negotiations on the development of a protocol on biosafety under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity. It is intended to control genetically modified organisms by means of the Genetically Modified Organism Act, 1996 which is to be administered by the Department of Agriculture and a statutory Executive Council consisting of cross-sectoral representation. The application of the Act includes genetic modification of organisms, use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and gene therapy. Excluded from the Act are human gene therapy, activities which are considered conventional and which do not involve r-DNA, as well as activities where GMOs are not used as recipient or parental organisms in conventional techniques. Human gene therapy should be controlled by the Department of Health because of the moral and ethical issues that are involved in this type of therapy.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

No information available.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

See under Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies.

Programmes and Projects   

No information available.


No information available.


No information available.

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

No information available.


No information available.

Research and Technologies   

No information available.


No information available.


No information available.

* * *

This information is based on South Africa's submissions to the 5th and 6th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: December 1997

For access to the White Paper on Science and Technology - 'Preparing for the 21st Century', click here:
For access to the homepage of the research institute CSIR, providing information on water, environment and forestry technologies, among many other issues, click here:
For information on science and technology from the South African Communication Service WWW Page, click here:
Click here to link to the Biosafety Information Network and Advisory Service (BINAS), a service of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which monitors global developments in regulatory issues in biotechnology.
Click here to go to the Web Site of UNEP's International Register on Biosafety.
Click here for the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Biosafety WebPages

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Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies    

No information available.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

Currently, industrial development is subject to the conditions of regulations made under sections 21, 22 and 26 of the Environment Conservation Act 73 of 1989, which includes a rigorous process of environmental impact assessment.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), in cooperation with other stakeholders, is in the process of formulating a national policy and strategy for ecologically sustainable industrial development. The Draft Environmental Policy for Trade and Industry will endeavour to harmonise the principles and objectives of the Growth, Employment and Redistribution Strategy (GEAR) and the draft Policy on Environmental Management. The process will be conducted as an integrated research and participation exercise that will determine how the environmental performance of industry could be managed in a way least restrictive to economic growth, international competitiveness and employment.

The development of a Plan of Action will follow after the completion of the Environmental Policy for Trade and Industry. The Department of Trade and Industry will be responsible for the co-ordination of the implementation of the program. Objectives still have to be formulated in terms of the strategy for ecologically sustainable industrial development and capacity developed and targets will be subject to the formulation of a programme of action. Individual companies have however set time- bound targets for corporate reduction of waste and improved resource efficiency.

There is no particular policy to promote green industries.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

The draft Policy on Environmental Management recognises the importance of enhancing partnerships with industry in order to ensure that a more environmentally friendly approach to production is adopted.

Programmes and Projects 

In terms of the Technology Transfer Act that is currently being drafted, the DTI's Technology Transfer Centre, to be launched by 1999, will require "best available affordable cleaner technology" clearance for all technology transfer transactions.


No information available.


In South Africa, the principal threats to human health as a result of industrial activity are the potential of some sectors to emit air, soil and water pollutants and/or generate waste containing hazardous substances. Lack of appropriate legislation and injudicious siting of industrial areas next to residential areas in South Africa have resulted in a legacy of poor environmental quality of some residential areas. This situation has to be addressed. The need for a more targeted strategic approach to government policy in this regard has been recognised by stakeholders and is reflected in the Draft Environmental Policy.

Principal threats to human health and/or the sustainable use of natural resources include:

Industry is a significant user of freshwater in South Africa. In 1980, industrial use of water (including mining and power generation) was estimated at 1 779 million cubic metres per annum, about 11 % of the total demand for freshwater resources in the country. By the year 2000, industrial demand is expected to reach approximately 3 400 million cubic metres per annum, or about 15% of the total demand (based on consumption and production needs of a growing population).

South Africa's water resources are very unevenly distributed across the country. In arid or water-scarce areas water supply is a constraint to industrial development. This constraint has served as an incentive to industry to develop water recycling processes.

Pollution of freshwater by industry is a problem in South Africa. The failure of historical source control mechanisms to achieve the desired level of water resource protection has been recognised in the National Water Policy as well as in the draft National Water Bill, 1997. The Policy and proposed legislation provide a framework within which a range of regulatory mechanisms will be applied to improve both source control and resource protection and management.

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

No information available.


No information available.

Research and Technologies   

No information available.


No information available.


No information available.

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This information is based on South Africa's submission to the 6th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, April 1998. Last update: December 1997
For access to the White Paper on a National Strategy for the Development and Promotion of Small Business, click here:
For information on the supportive role of the research institute CSIR in the area of industry, click here:

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Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies  

The Department of Transport is currently reviewing its legislation and formulating an Environmental Policy for Transport. The Department of Environmental Affairs and tourism (DEA&T) has been commissioned to provide reports on emissions, including vehicle emissions. 

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

No information available.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

The use of environmental impact management tools and cleaner technologies are promoted in the reviewed environmental policy, and a guideline document has been finalised which integrates environmental management into its planning, development and decision-making processes.

One of the strategies that will be pursued by South Africa is closer cooperation between transportation planning and land-use planning. Inventories of requirements and indicators will be compiled to allow progress to be monitored on a regular basis, in accordance with government policy.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

No information available.

Programmes and Projects   

No information available.


No information available.


No information available.

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

No information available.


A database for all independently monitored atmospheric emissions is being organised at the South African Weather Bureau, which is a sub-sector of the DEA&T.

Research and Technologies   

No information available.


No information available.


No information available.

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This information is based on South Africa's submission to the 5th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, April 1997. Last update: 1 April 1997

For access to the Working Documents for Land Transport Bills and Cross-Border Road Transport Bill, click here:
For acess to the White Paper on Western Cape Provincial Transport Policy, click here:
For information on transport from the South African Communication Service WWW Page, click here:

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Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies  

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEA & T), Directorate of Tourism Development Planning and Provincial Liaison is responsible for sustainable tourism at the national level. 

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

No specific legislation exists, which seeks to ensure sustainable tourism development, nor are specific areas set aside for the purpose. However, many government and private sector owned properties such as protected areas and wildlife ranches are being run, promoting eco-tourism activities to a greater or lesser extent. New eco-tourism destinations and services are, due to the increase in demand, almost daily launched for business purposes.

Integrated Environmental Management (IEM) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) are applied to monitor continuously the progress of tourism development in order to make the necessary corrections or revisions to ensure sustainability. The Environmental Conservation Act of 1989 may be applied for control and penalising of offenders damaging environmental practices on the part of businesses and visitors.

Environmental management systems are applied in hotels and other tourist establishments on an ad hoc basis, depending on the sensitivity of the product owner.

In view of the fundamental importance of guidelines for the promotion of sustainable tourism, the DEA & T has as a priority the development of a framework and guidelines for sustainable tourism included in its Chief Directorate, Tourism’s business plan.

The National Tourism Organisation of South Africa (SATOUR) has prepared basic voluntary guidelines for ecotourism, i.e. Ecotourism: Principles and Practices. Generally, the guidelines have been well accepted.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

There is no specific national strategy on sustainable tourism which is one of the majors constraints that exist to pursuing sustainable tourism. However, the Tourism White Paper proposes ‘responsible tourism’ as the key guiding principle for tourism development and is seen to include sustainable tourism development. The white paper covers economic, technical, environmental, social, institutional and financial aspects related to sustainable tourism. Eco-tourism and nature-based tourism are integral parts of the National Tourism Policy.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

Due to the fact that at the local level guidelines for sustainable tourism development are in the process of being formulated and that procedures and regulations are not yet available, no local bodies can currently be held responsible for the enforcement or promotion of such guidelines. However, in the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), the Tourism White Paper and its implementation strategy, Tourism in Gear, appropriate authorities have to promote implementation of principles, which may be referred to as ‘responsible practice’ into the project cycle. These authorities include Local and Metropolitan and Regional Councils.

While every effort is made to involve all role players and stakeholders in appropriate decision-making, it will also be done when the process is initiated to formulate guidelines for sustainable tourism development in South Africa. A working group, representative of role players and stakeholders, is anticipated which will finalize an action plan for the formulation of guidelines. An interactive process which will include opportunities for constructive consultation (including appropriate formal forums which ensure attendance to the views and needs of all interested parties) will be fundamental for the exercise.

Programmes and Projects   

The following illustrates activities which are geared both to sustainable tourism and to eco-tourism and nature-based tourism:

Responsible Tourism Development Programme aims to develop a replicable socio-economic development model that will focus on community empowerment, based on sustainability.

The Spatial Development Initiatives (SDIs) of the South African government aims at (i) generating sustainable economic growth and development in developing areas with inherent economic potential; (ii) creating sustainable employment over the long term for previously disadvantaged communities of the area; (iii) maximising private sector investment in and lending to the area; (iv) empowering previously disadvantaged communities and emerging entrepreneurs (SMEs) to exploit (spin-off) business opportunities; and (v) maximising export orientated growth by exploiting the area’s underutilised potential.

South Africa is involved in the implementation of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, under UNESCO. Biosphere Reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal/marine ecosystems, or a combination thereof. They are established to promote and demonstrate a balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere. Biosphere Reserves have three primary functions, namely development, conservation and a logistical function. The structure of a Biosphere Reserve physically consists of three elements: a core area that is a clearly identified natural area which is strictly protected (a) securely protected area for example a National Park; (b) a buffer zone that is a clearly identified area within which cooperative activities, compatible with sound ecological practices such as recreation, tourism and research which have a limited effect on the area, are permitted ; and (c) a transition zone that is a flexible area or area of cooperation which may contain a variety of agricultural activities, settlements and other uses in which local communities, management agencies, scientists, non-governmental organisations, cultural groups, economic interests and other stakeholders work together to manage and develops the area’s resources in a sustainable manner. Currently, a proposal for designation of South Africa’s first Biosphere Reserve is under scrutiny of UNESCO and their response is awaited. A further three possible areas are considered for designation.


Travel and tourism, encompassing transport, accommodation, catering, recreation and services for travellers, is expected to generate 69.8 billion ZAR (USD13,1 billion) to economic activity in South Africa in 1998, growing to ZAR 270.2 billion by 2010. Travel and tourism economic activity in real terms is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 5.5 percent from 1998 to 2010 in South Africa.

While the Travel and Tourism Sector will in 1998 probably contribute 2.6 percent to the South African GDP (worldwide: 4.2 percent to GDP), 3.3 percent is anticipated by 2010 (worldwide 4.4 percent). The Travel and Tourism Economy contribution, encompassing the flow-through effect across the South African economy as a whole, is expected to grow from the current 8.2 percent (worldwide: 11.6 percent) to 10.3 percent (worldwide: 12.5 percent).

Travel and Tourism’s contribution to total South African exports, services and merchandise should be 13.2 percent in 1998 and increase to around 17.5 percent in 2010.

Taxes from Tourism and Travel are expected to be ZAR 15 billion (USD 2.8 billion) in 1998 in South Africa, i.e. 8,4 percent of total taxation and is expected to grow to ZAR 55.1 billion by 2010, i.e. 10.6 percent of total taxes.

The current 248,141 jobs in the Tourism and Travel Industry represent 2.4 percent of total employment and is expected to rise by an annual 3.1 percent in 12 years’ time. The present Travel and Tourism Economy employment is estimated at 737,617 jobs, i.e. 7 percent of total employment and is anticipated to rise to 1,254 million, i.e. 9.3 percent of total employment by 2010.

The growth of the tourism sector in the economy is described in the following table

Tourist arrivals for the period 1987 – 1997

1987  703351           339 307      364 044  
1988  804985 14         388102 14    413 368 14
1989  930393 16         472 076 22    454 818 10
1990 1029093 11         498 712 6    528908 16
1991 1709554 66         521257 5 1 186 529 124
1992 2703191 58         559913 7 2 142 249 81
1993 3093183 14         618508 10 2 462 277 15
1994 3668956 19         704630 14 2927982 19
1995 4488272 22      1 071 839 52 3290931 12
1996 4944430 10       1172394 9 3506757 10
1997 5436848 10       1379611 18 3568518 7

Source: SATOUR

The anticipated average increase in tourism arrivals from overseas over the medium to long term is fifteen percent per annum and six percent per annum from the African continent whereafter at least ten percent is expected for the two combined.


Section 21 of South Africa’s Environment Conservation Act identifies activities which may have a substantial detrimental effect on the environment. It also outlines application of regulations and the responsibilities in terms of these regulations. However, the current impact of tourism on social, institutional and cultural issues requires urgent attention with a view to considering the need for the establishment and implementation of guidelines to promote sustainable tourism development. See also under Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans.

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

The National Tourism Organisation of South Africa, SATOUR, promotes tourist attractions through a variety of ways. These ways include promotional material which is distributed or used by its domestic and international offices to inform the demand side through road shows, exhibitions and other events about South Africa as an exciting tourist destination. Every year, a new theme in terms of the country’s extraordinary product offering is selected for marketing. Eco-tourism or nature based tourism (including culture) is promoted under the auspices of the slogan ‘Explore South Africa’ with the suggestion to ‘Go Wild’.

In addition to the South African Wildlife College, various universities offer training and education which promote sustainable tourism.

The World Tourism Organisation’s programmes are used to educate policy makers in the concept and policy design of sustainable tourism.

The itineraries of various tour operators focus on awareness raising programmes on sustainable tourism.

Tourism product owners are increasingly aiming at attracting environmentally-conscious tourists.


Basic guidelines have been prepared by SATOUR to assist both decision-makers and the tourist industry in promoting sustainable tourism. Guidelines have also been prepared for tourism development along the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape Province.

Mapping and inventorying of natural resources and ecosystem characteristics in tourist areas has taken place. An ENPAT is being developed to support planners, developers and (potential) product owners to optimise their project development proposals.

Various GIS data sets on natural resources and ecosystem characteristics have been completed, such as the National Land Cover data set, the South African Terrain Inventory, the South African Bird Atlas and Ramsar Sites.

Availability of information on sustainable tourism is presently dependent on negotiation. A WWW Site is being considered.

Attention is being given at regional level to develop guidelines and indicators, e.g. The Transkei Wild Coast.

Research and Technologies   

South Africa is considering to investigate technology-related issues that need to be or are being addressed, such as those associated with transportation, provision of freshwater, sewage and waste disposal, bulk infrastructure, appropriate technical and maintenance processes and procedures, engines and motors, equipment, maintenance implements, vehicles and commercialised wildlife management.


Formulation of guidelines is primarily funded by the government from the national budget.


A number of ‘model sustainable tourism destinations’ are reportedly being developed through different initiatives. These destinations have not yet been appraised for the purpose by Government and, accordingly, can not officially be declared as such.

Cooperation with Local Authorities or private sector in promoting sustainable tourism has not yet been initiated, but is inevitable in the future.

South Africa participates in the Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity in terms of the Berlin Declaration on Biological Diversity and Sustainable Tourism, as well as in the formulation of guidelines for Tourism Environmental Assessment by the Secretariat for Eastern African Coastal Area Management.

* * *

This information is based on South Africa's submission to the 6th and 7th Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: December 1998.

For access to the White Paper On Development and Promotion of Tourism in South Africa, click here:
For information on wildlife and tourism from the South African Communication Service WWW Page, click here:

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