South Africa is a major supplier of ostrich products to the world and produces approximately 70% of all ostrich meat, leather and feathers on the world market. At national level, the ostrich industry is the leading South African meat exporter in terms of volume and value. Despite the important position that the South African ostrich industry occupies in the world market, the contribution towards the local economy is less known. This article attempts to highlight the contribution of the South African ostrich industry to the national economy by investigating the contribution the ostrich industry makes towards economic growth and export earnings of the country and employment and livelihood opportunities it creates. The ostrich industry contributes 2% on average of the total gross value added by animal production as well as the added value by abattoirs, meat processors, tanneries, feather processors and agri-tourism. The contribution towards export earnings and balance of payments is approximately R1 200 million (representing 5% of total agricultural exports), which means that we will generate income, employment and increased production for the local economy to flourish even more. The industry provides employment to approximately 20 000 workers and being a predominantly rural-based industry, the investment in abattoirs and first-level processing units serves as an important stimulant to economic development and related job opportunities in rural areas. It remains crucial to strengthen the competitiveness of the industry due to its vulnerability to both input cost increases and unfavourable foreign exchange rates.