Free State Province is the landlocked core of the country. It is centrally placed, with good transport corridors to the north and the coast. It is the third biggest of South Africa’s nine provinces in terms of size, and primary agriculture is a key economic sector. Mining is also important but has been declining steadily since 2008.
The Free State is situated in the heart of the country, between the Vaal River in the north and the Orange River in the south. This province is an open, flat grassland with plenty of agriculture that is central to the country’s economy. Mining is its largest employer.
Bloemfontein is the capital and is home to the Supreme Court of Appeal, as well as the University of Free State and the Central University of Technology. The province also has 12 gold mines, producing 30 percent of South Africa’s output.
The central province, which spans over 129 825 square kilometres, has a population of 2 753 200 (mid-year, 2013). Languages spoken include Sesotho (64.4%), Afrikaans (11.9%) and Zulu (9.1%). It’s the country’s third-largest province, making up 5.2% of South Africa’s total population. It contributes 5.4% to South Africa’s total gross domestic product (2006).
Agriculture is a key economic sector – 8% of the country’s produce comes from Free State. In 2010, agriculture provided 19.2% of all formal employment opportunities in the region. The major crops include maize, wheat, cattle and sheep, while peaches, cherries, apples, flowers, sorghum, asparagus, beans, cabbage and carrots are also grown.
Mineral resources – gold, diamonds and low-grade coal – are also important to the province; mining contributed 9% to the local economy and employed some 33 000 people in 2010. Other commodities include clay, gypsum, salt and uranium.
Manufacturing also features in the provincial economic profile. This sector makes up 14% of the provincial output, with petro-chemicals (via Sasol) taking account of more than 85% of the output.
Free State is strategically placed to take advantage of the national transport infrastructure. Two corridors are of particular importance: the Harrismith node on the N3 corridor between Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal and the N8. The N1 joins Gauteng to the Western Cape. Bloemfontein International Airport handles about 250 000 passengers and about 221 000 tons of cargo a year.
Important towns include Welkom, the heart of the goldfields; Odendaalsrus, another gold-mining town; Sasolburg; Kroonstad; Parys; and Phuthaditjhaba. The Free State is also home to the Vredefort Dome, the largest visible meteor-impact site in the world, which was formed two billion years ago when a meteorite 10 kilometres wide slammed into Earth. The Vredefort Dome is one of South Africa’s seven Unesco World Heritage sites.
In the northeastern Free State is the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, which is the province’s prime tourist attraction.
Sunkist’s biggest seller was ice lollies – but they don’t sell so well in Winter. So the company had to think of a new product line for the cooler months. This kind of creativity has grown the group from a small hobby to a national sweet maker.
South Africans consume more chicken than any other animal protein. This prompted the Free State Co-operative Limited to set up Grainfield Chickens, which is processing 390 000 chickens a week. It plans to boost output by implementing