BRICS: Where does South Africa rank?

Much excitement surrounds the 10th BRICS Summit currently taking place in Johannesburg. Heads of State and representatives from the club’s five members – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are gearing up for a week of deliberation over common issues and shared interests. As the host, how does South Africa rank in terms of population and economy?

The BRICS countries make up a sizeable portion of the world’s population. Figures from the United Nations show that the five BRICS countries are home to just over 3 billion people (42% of the global population).1 This is mainly due to the inclusion of China and India. China is the most populated country in the world, with 1,4 billion inhabitants, followed by India at 1,3 billion.

South Africa is the most recent member of BRICS, having joined in December 2010. The country contributes only 1,8% to the total BRICS population (click on the image to enlarge).


Stats SA’s latest estimate pegs South Africa’s population at 57,7 million as at 1 July 2018.2 To get an idea of the sheer difference in size between the largest and smallest countries in the BRICS club, imagine if you duplicated every person living in South Africa 25 times over. You would end up with a population of equal standing to that of China’s.

China is the also the economic powerhouse in the BRICS bloc. The country was responsible for producing 67c of every dollar created by the five countries in 2016, according to Gross domestic product (GDP) data from the United Nations.3 South Africa is the smallest economy in the club, producing 2c for every dollar created.


The economic influence of the BRICS bloc on the world stage should not be underestimated. The five countries had a combined GDP of US$16,8 trillion in 2016, comprising 22% of global economic activity. This is not surprising, as China is ranked as the second largest economy in the world after the United States, according to the United Nations.3 India is ranked at 7, Brazil at 9, Russia at 13, and South Africa at 38.


1 United Nations, World Population Prospects 2017, Total Population – Both Sexes [Excel file], Medium variant tab (available here).

2 Stats SA, Mid-year population estimates, 2018 (download the report here).

3 United Nations, All countries for all years – sorted alphabetically [Excel file] (available here).