The South African economy dominates Sub-Saharan Africa. Agriculture is strong enough for virtual self-sufficiency in foodstuffs: livestock is reared extensively, and large amounts of sugar, maize and cereals are produced. Wine and fruit are exported in large quantities.
The industrial sector has traditionally been based on mining as one of the world's largest exporters of gold, platinum and diamonds. It also has considerable deposits of coal, chromium, manganese and vanadium. The telecommunication networks have seen major improvements in recent years as undersea cables have brought international bandwidth in larger amounts at cheaper prices.
After decades of double-digit inflation, the period from 2004 to the onset of the global financial downturn was marked by healthy growth and inflation of under 5%. In the run up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup a construction boom benefitted the country and inflation was capped to 5.7% in 2010. The inflation rate was recorded at 5.5% in September 2012.
Unemployment remains a major problem, with an official figure of 25.5% in the third quarter 2012, but in many rural and urban townships it is estimated to be much higher. Other long-term problems include poverty, a high level of HIV/AIDS infection and an inadequate infrastructure for public transport and electricity.
The country still has a legacy two-tiered economy; one rivalling developed countries and a more basic informal sector, leading to an uneven distribution of wealth and income. South Africa is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU).
South Africa has three major trade show, conference and exhibition venues: Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, Cape Town International Convention Centre, and the International Convention Centre in Durban. Smaller venues exist in the hotels and universities of other major towns. South African Tourism provides information for conference organisers and delegates.