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This article compares the real GDP per capita of the Cape Colony and Natal between 1861 and 1909 with that of Australia’s two most developed colonies, Victoria and New South Wales. Estimates of European and non-European GDP per capita for both South African colonies are also provided. Together, this information allows for the first time an evaluation of the growth performance of these important parts of the South African economy in the colonial era. The article concludes that South African performance in this period was stronger than often assumed and that by the beginning of the twentieth century European South Africans, now more fully integrated into a British World economy, operated at a level of GDP per capita that matched and in some places may have exceeded that of Australians. Non-European South Africans, however, did not share in these same advances.