Despite the massive challenges our country faces, South Africa remains a great nation where individuals and companies punched far above their weight.
South Africa is known for its Nobel laureates like Nelson Mandela, F. W. de Klerk, Desmond Tutu, Nadine Gordimer, and J. M. Coetzee.
The country has also produced some of the world’s greatest sportsmen and women, like Gary Player, Naas Botha, Graeme Pollock, “Baby Jake” Matlala, and Penny Heyns.
However, South Africa’s achievements stretch far beyond politics, sport, and literature. The country has an excellent history of scientific, technological, and medical achievements.
It is the country of the first heart transplant, and many other medical innovations which led to three South Africans winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
South Africa is also doing great things in the technology space. Just think of Mark Shuttleworth and the ongoing innovations in the local telecommunications market.
Here are some of the standout achievements from South Africans in the fields of technology and telecommunications.
[Also see: Great South African inventions]
Sasol pioneered the world’s first commercial coal-based synthetic fuels manufacturing facility
Sasol pioneered the world’s first commercial coal-based synthetic fuels manufacturing facility. The company is also a world leader in gas-to-liquids and coal-to-liquids technologies, and operates one of the largest underground coal mining complexes. The company was formed in 1950 in Sasolburg, and has grown to a multi-national powerhouse with operations in 37 countries.
FNB named the most innovative bank in the world
In 2012, First National Bank was named the most innovative bank in the world at the Financial Global Banking Innovation Awards. The awards, run by BAI and Infosys, recognises innovation in the retail banking industry.
South Africa was one of the few nuclear countries, and the first to voluntarily cancel its nuclear programme
South Africa was part of an exclusive group of countries which had developed nuclear weapons, which included the United States, Russia, China, and Israel. South Africa also became the first country to voluntarily dismantled all of its nuclear weapons, and cancel its nuclear programme.
Kimberley was the first city in Africa to have electric street lights
Kimberley was the first city in Africa, and the southern hemisphere, to have electric street lights – which were first lit in September 1882. It also boasts the first electric tram system in South Africa and was the first city in the country to have an automatic telephone exchange.
Koeberg is the only nuclear power station in Africa
Koeberg is the only nuclear power station in Africa, and has the largest turbine generators in the southern hemisphere. The power station uses a pressurised water reactor (PWR) design, and was completed in 1985. Koeberg ranks among the safest of the world’s PWRs of its time, and is the most reliable Eskom power station.
Vodacom was the first network in the world to introduce prepaid mobile services using an “Intelligent Network” platform
Vodacom first launched cellular services in 1994, and three months after launch it became the fastest-growing mobile operator in the world. In 1996, Vodacom became the first network to introduce prepaid mobile services using an “Intelligent Network” platform. The operator also invented cellular antenna technology which reduces “noisy” emissions from cellular base stations.
South Africa is producing companies which are globally competitive
South Africa has produced great companies in the technology and telecommunications market, which are leaders in their field. Some of these companies are Naspers, MTN, Vodacom, Dimension Data, Blue Label Telecoms, and Poynting. MTN, for example, is one of the largest mobile operators in the world, with operations in Africa and the Middle East.
South Africa produces some of the world’s greatest weapons
South Africa produces some of the world’s best military equipment and technologies. Some of the country’s prominent achievements in the military products market are the G5 towed howitzer, the G6 self-propelled gun-howitzer, Denel’s NTW-20 anti-material weapon, the Cheetah fighter jet, the Rooivalk attack helicopter, and the AHRLAC aircraft.
South Africa was one of the first countries which used telephones
South Africa installed its first telephones in 1878, only two years after the telephone was invented. These telephones were installed in Cape Town after Adolph Boettge imported a few units from Siemens & Halske. South Africa is also credited as the country where the first telephones were used in warfare, after the Bell Telephone Company sent Sir Garnet Wolseley 12 sets of telephones for use in the Zulu War.
The Johannesburg Stock Exchange is the world’s best-regulated stock exchange
The World Economic Forum ranked the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) as the world’s best-regulated stock exchange for many years running. The WEF’s 2013-14 Global Competitiveness Report ranked South Africa first out of 148 countries for regulation of securities exchanges.