The Free State economy is becoming increasingly less reliant on primary sectors such as agriculture and mining. Manufacturing in the province emerged largely as a result of the growing need to process agricultural products in the 19th century, and the growing mining sector in the 20th century. Thus, since 1989 the Free State economy has changed from being dependent on the primary sector to a manufacturing, more export-orientated economy.
The Northern Free State (Fezile Dabe) contributes 70% of the manufacturing output in the Free State. The other four districts share the remainder of the manufacturing output in the province as follows: Motheo 13%, Thabo Mafutsanyane 8% and Xhariep 2%.
Some 14% of the province’s manufacturing is classified as being in high-technology industries. An important manufacturing industry in the province is located in the northern Free State, which is one of the most important chemical hubs in the southern hemisphere. The province has competitive advantages in the production of certain fuels, waxes, chemicals and low-cost feedstock from coal.
The growth in high-tech industries is significant in the context of the changing contribution of the gold mining industry to gross geographic product (GGP). The province’s development strategy centres on competitiveness, empowerment , capacity building and beneficiation.