Flag of South Africa

Economic Growth and Trade

Nomboro Projects
Nomboro Projects at the South African Supplier Diversity Council's first business opportunity fair and annual conference.

Despite South Africa’s strong economic and political foundations, the country suffers from severe income inequality, poverty, unemployment and a lack of relevant job skills among historically disadvantaged populations. These deficits, if unaddressed, threaten the country’s stability and its potential to foster growth and investment in the region.

USAID assists the establishment of sustainable, broad-based economic growth in South Africa and stronger regional economic linkages. Working in partnership with the Government of South Africa, we are increasing access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises, improving linkages to historically disadvantaged businesses and leveraging evidence for policy-making to maximize the effectiveness of public resources.

We also work closely with the Government of South Africa to implement activities that promote increased trade.  USAID’s Trade and Investment Hubs are designed to reinforce regional and bilateral efforts to strengthen Africa's economic competitiveness and assist countries to take greater advantage of the trade opportunities provided by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and other global trade initiatives. The Trade and Investment Hub programs include trade capacity building, improvements to the private sector enabling environment, better market access and opportunities, trade facilitation, food security programs, and export promotion support for African products.

Learn more: Southern Africa Trade Hub

Private Sector Development

Small and medium-sized enterprises contribute half of South Africa’s gross domestic product and employ 60 percent of the workforce, yet historically disadvantaged businesses continue to struggle. In support of the Government of South Africa’s aim for greater participation and inclusion of black-owned businesses in the economy, USAID assists these organizations in accessing domestic and international market opportunities. To foster sustainable relationships between large and small businesses, USAID supports the South African Supplier Diversity Council, a corporate-led organization that champions diversity in supply chains and increases capacity and business opportunities for black-owned small and medium-sized enterprises geared toward becoming long-term, qualified and competitive national and international suppliers.

Development Credit

South Africa’s small businesses and historically disadvantaged entrepreneurs face challenges to access credit. To address this need, USAID supports credit guarantees with local banking institutions and development of new financial products to meet the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises. USAID has several credit guarantee agreements in place, with a total portfolio exceeding $100 million. These include:

  • A partnership with Cadiz Life Limited, which is expected to make financing available to more than 300 small and medium enterprises, create over 20,000 jobs in South Africa,
  • A partnership with ABSA Bank, of which at least 60 percent of its new clients under the guarantee will be historically disadvantaged borrowers.

USAID’s Development Credit Authority is also used to increase and improve the flow of capital to high impact social and environmental initiatives addressing critical global challenges including poverty, climate change or renewable energies.

Economic Policy

USAID promotes the Government of South Africa’s capacity to adopt policies and programs that foster economic growth, equity, and employment. This includes support that:

  • Assisted the Department of Trade and Industry in developing legislation that reduces costs and administrative burdens for small and medium enterprises
  • Elevates the role of evidence-based policymaking through activities such as randomized control trials to assess youth employment efforts
  • Promotes competitive business practices and economic policies through partnerships with South Africa’s Competition Commission and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission

What is the Africa Private Capital Group?

The Africa Private Capital Group (APCG) is a USAID initiative committed to unlocking commercially driven capital with development impact across Sub-Saharan Africa.  President Obama announced the APCG at the U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit (ALS) in August 2014 as part of the U.S.’s expanded commitments to trade and investment.

The APCG consists of a highly experienced team based in South Africa pursuing a strategy with three primary focus areas:

1) Transaction Facilitation (facilitating development-related investments sourced from private sector investors);


Many investments in sub-Saharan Africa are considered “unbankable” or too risky and need external engagement to get to financial close.  

The APCG engages in transaction facilitation when:

  • discrete barriers to investment are identified by an investor; 
  • the APCG and its network have the ability to remove the barrier/s and the coordinated effort will improve the likelihood of financial close, and;
  • the investment is strongly aligned with at least one of USAID’s development objectives. 

If you are an investor with a potential investment that has developmental relevance but needs assistance to reach financial close contact apcg@usaid.gov

2) Municipal Bond Facilitation (Improving municipalities’ ability to finance and service debt for public service projects); 

The APCG considers municipalities’ access to sustainable finance a key component to addressing the burdens of intense urbanization in Sub-Saharan Africa. The APCG serves as the coordinator of capacity building and risk mitigation across donors and other stakeholders to raise private sector debt through bond issuances.  The proceeds of the bonds will fund needed public services such as waste water treatment plants, roads, various power sources, market places, and other projects.

3) Pension Fund Engagement (Engaging South African pension funds to encourage investments into development-related transactions within sub-Saharan Africa);

South African pension funds play a major role in finance and provide stable, long-term capital. South African pension funds have $322B in assets under management and can invest 25% globally and 10% in private equity – the most likely medium for Sub-Saharan Africa. However, pension funds are risk averse, creating a role for the APCG to directly mitigate transaction risk and/or coordinate assistance and convene stakeholders to increase investment in sub-Saharan Africa.