Free State Development Corporation

The Free State is in the middle of South Africa. It has borders with six other provinces and with Lesotho. Five major national highways intersect the province which is also well served by rail and air links. The newly-renamed Braam Fischer International Airport in the provincial capital city of Bloemfontein is the site of a multi-phase industrial and commercial development.

Rich soils and deep gold mines support large-scale commercial agriculture and labour-intensive mining. Wheat, maize, sunflower, sorghum and cattle and sheep farming predominate in the western and southern regions while the better-watered areas support nuts, potatoes, asparagus and cherry cultivation. The province's gold mines also supply silver and uranium while there are also large deposits of diamonds and coal. Bentonite, clay and gypsum are among the Free State's other assets.

The provincial economy is in the process of diversifying away from a reliance on farming and mining. The northern part of the province hosts a cluster of chemical companies anchored by Sasol, and vital to the South African economy. Manufacturing jobs in this sector are highly skilled. The province's capital city, Bloemfontein, hosts sites of architectural and historical importance as well as South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal, the University of the Free State and the Central University of Technology.

The current state and shape of Free State's economy clearly presents huge opportunities for investors in the manufacturing sector. The Free State Development Corporation (FDC) is actively promoting Free State business opportunities to attract both foreign and domestic investors to locate their business in the Free State province.

The opening of a Makro store in Bloemfontein, and extensions being carried out on other retail malls, indicate that a recovery in the provincial economy is under way. Massive investments by companies in the oil and gas and petrochemical sector in Sasolburg have also boosted the economy.

In agro-processing a number of opportunities exist in the province. Some products that are being explored are cherries, asparagus, vegetables, wholesale meat, leather and increased seed production in the province's eastern reaches.

Tourism is another sector that is being targeted as the province seeks to diversify its economy. The Free State has several large dams, including the Gariep and Vaal dams. These are major sources of water and venues for recreation, as are the Free State's lesser dams such as Sterkfontein, Allemanskraal and Kalkfontein. Tourism and aquaculture are just two potential income generators related to these water bodies.

Modernising and investing in the economy

In recent years, the scale of support for tertiary education in the province has increased, in line with the goal of creating a skilled work force able to work in a high-skills environment. In 2009 the provincial government awarded 129 full-time bursaries while in 2013 7521 were awarded . A further 500 were issued in 2014 and international study is also very much on the agenda: 194 students are in Cuba, 316 in China and a further 40 in Turkey. This will equip them for the increasingly globalised economy and strengthen the capacity of the Free State to grow its economy.

In the course of his State of the Province address in 2014, Premier Ace Magashule outlined several major infrastructure projects that will further serve to equip the Free State to modernise its economy and make it attractive to investors. From the national list of Strategic Integrated Projects, co-ordinated by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission, the Premier highlighted:-

  • The Durban - Free State - Gauteng Development Corridor, a logistic hub and a special economic zone for Maluti-A-Phofung comprising of the Harrismith Gateway and Tshiame Industrial Development Area.
  • The Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme Project, one of Eskom's major energy infrastructure projects will be complete in 2015.

Other major infrastructure projects include

  • The first Independent Power Producer (IPP) in Soutdrift near Bloemfontein. A second project is under way at Boshof.
  • Basic water supply infrastructure, with several areas supplied including Edenville, the QwaQwa areas (Kestell, Tshiame and Makgolokweng), Paul Roux as well as Jagersfontein and Fauresmth. This is not only important for residents but for the prospects of future economic investment in these areas.
  • The creation of investment nodes: Mangaung Airport Development Node; Harrismith logistics hub; N8 Development Corridor.
  • A 158 million litres per annum sorghum based bio-fuel production plant is under consideration in Bothaville valued at R2.1-billion.

District Municipalities.
The Free State province of South Africa comprises of one metropolitan municipality ( Mangaung Metro) and four district municipalities.






Population density
(per km²)

Fezile Dabi District Municipality






Lejweleputswa District Municipality






Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality






Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality






Xhariep District Municipality







Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality is made up of the towns of Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu. The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has the second largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and contributes 31% towards provincial output (Global Insight, 2013). It is the most developed of the district municipalities, and has prowess over the rest of the districts in the wholesale, retail & trade, finance, real estate & business services, transport & communication and community & social services sector.

The final stop-off point in South Africa for any traveller going to Lesotho is the busy town of Ladybrand in the Mantsopa local municipality. Tweespruit is a major sunflower seed production centre. In the Naledi local municipality, tourists are catered for on the Highlands of the Maluti Route. The steel bridge over the Caledon River at Wepener is a national monument.

FDC Head Office

33 Kellner Street

Tel: 051 4000 800
Email: \

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Fast Facts

  • Capital: Bloemfontein
  • Languages: 64.4% Sesotho
    Languages: 11.9% Afrikaans, 9.1% isiXhosa
  • Population density: 23 people per km²
  • Area 129, 480 km²
  • Share of total SA area 10.6%

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