The biggest economies in the world in 2024: South Africa vs China, Russia and the USA

 ·7 May 2024

The IMF’s latest global economic outlook shows that South Africa is on track to reclaim its crown as Africa’s biggest economy in 2024. However, the continent’s heavyweight still performs far below the biggest markets on the global stage, including those in its own bloc.

On the global stage, two prominent groups are vying for influence: the long-established G7 and the ambitious BRICS+ economies.

The G7, formed in 1975, brings together major industrial democracies—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the USA. They meet annually to coordinate on global economic policy.

As of 2023, the G7 economies represented 26.4% of the world’s GDP and contributed 14.4% to the global GDP growth over the previous decade. Among its members, the G7 includes the USA, which is the largest and most industrialized economy globally.

On the other hand, BRICS, which officially came into being in 2009, originally included Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, with South Africa joining in 2010. By 2024, the group expanded to become BRICS+, welcoming Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and the UAE.

This expansion is part of BRICS+’s broader aim to bolster its influence over global economic governance and position itself as a voice for the Global South, offering an alternative to the G7 model.

Both alliances boast members with significant economic clout. For instance, within the BRICS+ bloc, South Africa is on the brink of becoming Africa’s largest economy, while China holds the position of the world’s second-largest economy.

BRICS+ economies have been experiencing rapid growth due to a combination of factors such as large populations, abundant natural resources for export, increasing urbanisation and industrialisation, and government policies to attract investment within the bloc.

However, the growth has not been uniform across all members, with China seeing the biggest boom in growth to make it the second largest economy in the world.

Gross domestic product (GDP) of the core BRICS countries from 2000 to 2028. Source: Statista

Research from the Hinrich Foundation, a global trade think tank, reveals that the landscape of global trade has been progressively dividing – with BRICS+ and the G7 at the centre of it.

The research shows that countries are shifting to now trade more frequently with their geopolitical allies.

The shift amounts to nearly $270 billion (R4.99 trillion) diverted to trade within blocs in 2023 compared with 2018.

Total South African trade with BRICS increased from R487 billion in 2017 to R702 billion in 2021.

Change in share of exports between and within G7 and BRICS. Graphic: The Hinrich Foundation

Current GDPs

Looking at live data provided by the International Monetary Foundation, the total GDPs of the G7 countries still greatly outweighs that of BRICS.

International Monetary Fund GDP valuations for April 2024 indicate that the BRICS+ economies have a combined $28.78 trillion GDP. This is equal to the GDP of the USA, who contributes greatly to the G7’s estimated total of $48.68 trillion GDP.

BRICS+ Country2024 GDP (est)
China $18 530 billion
India $3 940 billion
Brazil$2 330 billion
Russia$2 060 biillion
UAE$528 billion
Iran$464 billion
South Africa$373 billion
Egypt$348 billion
Ethiopia$205 billion
Total$28 780 billion
Source: IMF World Economic Outlook (April 2024)

China has the largest GDP out of the BRICS+ nations and has consistently been the largest economy of this bloc.

It is predicted that China’s GDP will overtake that of the U.S. by the end of the 2020s or early 2030s, to become the largest economy in the world, while some also estimate that India will also overtake the U.S. around the middle of the century. 

G7 Country2024 GDP (est)
USA$28 780 billion
Germany $4 590 billion
Japan$4 110 billion
UK$3 500 billion
France$3 130 billion
Italy$2 330 billion
Canada$2 240 billion
Total$48 680 billion
Source: IMF World Economic Outlook (April 2024)

While the GDPs of the G7 trump that of the BRICS+ economies, the majority of these developing countries sport GDP growth forecasts above the G7.

Although the growth forecasts for 2024 are generally lower than those of 2023, the BRICS+ countries are still projected to have a substantially higher average growth rate of 3.6% (above the global average of 3.2%), in contrast to the G7 nations, which have an average of 1%.

horizontal bar chart visualization of G7 and BRICS countries' real GDP growth forecasts for 2024
Graphic: Sabrina Lam, Visual Capitalist.

The current members of BRICS+ are projected to achieve an average GDP growth rate ranging from 189% to 205% by the year 2050, a stark contrast to the G7’s average growth rate of 50%, as reported by Goldman Sachs.

The five BRICS countries overtook the G7 countries in terms of share of the world’s total GDP in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2020. The BRICS+ grouping now hold around 36% of the world’s GDP PPP, compared to 30% held by the G7 countries.

Population size estimates and land size

Looking at population size, the BRICS+ group has a combined population of about 3.6 billion, or 45% of the world’s inhabitants.

This greatly outweighs the G7’s combined 776 million population estimate.

BRICS+ country2024 population estimate
India1 428 627 663
China1 425 671 352
Brazil216 422 446
Russia144 444 359
Ethiopia126 527 060
Egypt112 716 598
Iran89 172 767
South Africa60 414 495
UAE9 516 871
BRICS + total3 613 513 611
Source: Worldometers – Data sourced from United Nations Population Division estimates
G7 country2024 population estimate
USA339 996 563
Japan Canada123 294 513
Germany83 294 633
United Kingdom67 736 802
France64 756 584
Italy58 870 762
Canada38 781 291
G7 total776 731 148
Source: Worldometers – Data sourced from United Nations Population Division estimates

When it comes to land size, the current grouping of the G7 has a land mass of 19.7 million sq km (15.2% of the world), while the newly expanded BRICS + has a landmass of more than double that, at 44.2 million sq km (34.1% of the world).

Read: BRICS doubles in size – here are the official new members

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