Loss of topsoil is one of the principal soil degradation problems confronting agriculture throughout South Africa and receives special attention by policy-makers. For effective prevention and remediation, the spatial extent of the problem has to be established and monitored. Recent developments in the application of remote sensing and GIS to the study of soil erosion offer considerable potential in this regard. This paper outlines key technologies available for monitoring, and highlights the problems to be solved at a regional scale. The status of the technologies used in South Africa are reviewed and the more recent studies related to soil erosion are presented in a comparative context. Spatial, temporal and measurement variabilities are major constraints in erosion assessment. Previous erosion studies conducted in South Africa at the regional scale have disregarded important erosion factors and have overvalued less important ones. Different processes and interactions are likely to emerge as dominant when crossing scale boundaries. Such considerations highlight the need to establish a methodological framework to guide and standardize future regional soil loss monitoring efforts.