Is South Africa A First World Country?

South Africa is a huge country at the bottom tip of the African continent; it is one of the first three countries in Africa in terms of economy and technological advancement. In fact, South Africa is better than some countries of Europe in terms of economy, and the development of the society.

South Africa is one of the world’s major hubs of tourism; it has biodiversity at a rate that is unseen for much of the world. Furthermore, South Africa has taken care of its natural blessings; which is why it is a favorite destination for visitors from all over the world.

The rainbow nation has people of all shades of color living together; its GDP Per Capita is around $7,055. But this does not explain much about its economy.

Is South Africa A First World Country?

Presently, South Africa is not currently assigned the status of a First World Country; however, there are lots of talking points about this country and its economy. But first let us establish the facts about this term “First World” countries, the history of the term, and its current usage.

The term “First World” was invented during the Cold War, and was used to describe countries that took sides with the United States and its key allies as they fought against the Soviet Union. Since that war had some economic undertones, it could be said that the first world meant capitalist countries.

On the opposing side of the ideological battle was the side called the “Second World,” better described as Communist Bloc. They were the countries that supported the Soviet Union.

An important consideration is the fact that the First World countries usually had freedom for its citizens, while “Second World” countries were mostly countries that were militarized, and offered little or no freedom to its citizens.

So the former meaning of the term “First World” was political, and no, South Africa was not a First World country by that definition, it did not participate actively in the Cold War.

“First World” The New Meaning

When the Cold War ended, the term was assigned a new meaning; it was changed to a more economic identity. The term now means rich countries, or at least countries with rich economies, and wealthy citizens. It also means countries with high industrialized economies, and a high carbon footprint.

First World countries usually have stable democratic governments, and citizens that enjoy freedom of speech, and other such freedoms.

First World Countries enjoy higher standards of living, and the citizens are generally happier than people of other countries.

The Present classifications also call some countries “Second World Countries.” These are countries with developing economies, who have met with some of the expectations of advanced societies, but who are still working towards full compliance. They usually do not yet have well industrialized economies, and the use of technology may not yet be as good as can be.

On the farther end of the spectrum are countries referred to as “Third World” countries. These are countries mostly located in Sub Saharan Africa; with great least developed economies, few industries that are not efficient, and GDP per capita that is poor. Usually, they are recovering from the economic effects of war; or they are just about to enter a new conflict.

By the second definition (the New Meaning) South Africa is not considered a “First World” country, but a “Second World” country. That means it has attained some level of development, but still has some way to go.

South Africa Has A Good Economy

South Africa has the third largest economy in Africa. Its GDP Per Capita is $7,055- an uncommonly high figure for sub Saharan Africa. South Africa’s economy thrives on mining, tourism, infrastructure, and services. This is one of the most visited countries in the world. Both the Gold and Diamond trades have been controlled from South Africa.

The country has 86,000 millionaires, and there are also a few ultra high net worth individuals in the country as well.


South Africa has some excellent healthcare facilities manned by excellent doctors. This country has made some incredible contributions to medical science, and continues to invest heavily in medical research through state funded initiatives, as well as those sponsored by academic institutions, and private individuals.

South Africa has universal basic healthcare; which means that all citizens are entitled to basic healthcare which is funded by the government. This is extended to refugees, asylum seekers, and expats as well. Just by living in South Africa, one gets free, government sponsored healthcare.

Steady Democracy

South Africa has a very stable democratic system. It has a president, as well as a two chamber parliament. The president holds executive power, but he depends on the confidence of parliament to complete his five year tenure. Otherwise parliament can remove him from office.

The constitution reigns supreme; it states that parliament can strike down any executive action. These checks and balances of government keeps South Africa balanced and functional. It also makes this a model country for the rest of the continent.

Press Freedom

Press Freedom, as well as freedom of expression are guaranteed by the constitution; investigative and expository journalism is rewarded by accolades both in the private sector and by almost every other sector of the country. South Africa does not interfere in news reportage, and members of the public may speak freely.



South Africa is a developing country, and has even been called a newly developed country. However, it has not been called a First World country as of yet, even though the country has made giant strides in the areas of democracy, economy, and improvement of the lives of its people.