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South Africa

South Africa lies in Southern Africa, bordering Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. To the south, it borders the Indian Ocean and to the west, the South Atlantic Ocean. This former British colony obtained its independence in 1910; however, it was not until 1961 that South Africa became a republic. The arrivals of the Europeans centuries ago shaped South Africa into a diverse country, often called the ‘rainbow nation’. Its population is comprised of black Africans, white Africans and the coloured population (people of hybrid origin). Because of this, diversity is an important aspect of South Africa; where 11 languages are recognized as official.  Community leaders range from rabbis and chieftains to rugby players and returned exiles. In the past, however, the diverse communities were not treated with humility and respect. During the apartheid era, the coloured and black population suffered immensely as a result of racial discrimination that was embedded in politics and society likewise. When Nelson Mandela was voted president of the country in 1994, it was clear that apartheid was now no longer part of South Africa. Over the years, South Africa has undoubtedly evolved into Africa’s most developed country, with political and economical stability. Unfortunately, South Africa has the second-highest number of HIV/AIDS patients in the world. This issue is addressed through the state-funded scheme which provides free anti-retroviral drugs to the citizens in need. South Africa is home to many high-rise buildings in cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg. At the same time, townships do exist, such as in Soweto. South Africa has an outstanding landscape, from desert dunes to farmlands and white sand beaches. Some of Africa’s best game viewing parks and reserves are in South Africa. From penguins to elephants and a diversity of bird species; South Africa has it all. It is a country with an intriguing human and cultural history. From the San and Khoikhoi people and the black African peoples to the Afrikaans and the British; South Africa is truly a rainbow nation, a nation where people of all race and creed and colours are living together in a coloured landscape.

CATEGORIES: Demographics - Quick Facts - Economy - Communications - Health Issues
Country Flag: South Africa Flag

Two equal width horizontal bands of red (top) and blue separated by a central green band which splits into a horizontal Y, the arms of which end at the corners of the hoist side; the Y embraces a black isosceles triangle from which the arms are separated by narrow yellow bands; the red and blue bands are separated from the green band and its arms by narrow white stripes

Nationality: South African(s)

Capital: Pretoria

Population: 44,187,637

note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

  • 0-14 years: 29.7% (male 6,603,220/female 6,525,810)
  • 15-64 years: 65% (male 13,955,950/female 14,766,843)
  • 65 years and over: 5.3% (male 905,870/female 1,429,944) (2006 est.)

Population growth rate: -0.4% (2006 est.)

Literacy rate:

  • ages 15 and above can read and write.
  • 86.4% of the population is literate (male: 87%, female: 85.7%) (2003 est.)

Major religions:Zion Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal/Charismatic 8.2%, Catholic 7.1%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%, other Christian 36%, Islam 1.5%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1% (2001 census)

Languages:IsiZulu 23.8%, IsiXhosa 17.6%, Afrikaans 13.3%, Sepedi 9.4%, English 8.2%, Setswana 8.2%, Sesotho 7.9%, Xitsonga 4.4%, other 7.2% (2001 census)

Quick Facts
  • total: 1,219,912 sq km
  • land: 1,219,912 sq km
  • water: 0 sq km
  • note: includes Prince Edward Islands (Marion Island and Prince Edward Island)

Area comparative to Canadian province: slightly smaller than Ontario

Natural resources:gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas

Environmental Issues:lack of important arterial rivers or lakes requires extensive water conservation and control measures; growth in water usage outpacing supply; pollution of rivers from agricultural runoff and urban discharge; air pollution resulting in acid rain; soil erosion; desertification

South Africa has well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy and transport sectors. It is a middle-income economy with an abundant supply of natural resources. In fact, South Africa’s stock exchange ranks among the 10 largest in the world. The modern infrastructure in South Africa allows for efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers. Unfortunately, this economic growth does not translate to less unemployment. South Africa continues to face high unemployment rates and economic problems. Some of the problems from the apartheid era, namely poverty and lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups, are still endemic. The South African economic policies are focusing on liberalizing trade and targeting inflation as means to increase job growth and household income.

Major industries:
  • mining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium)
  • automobile assembly
  • metalworking
  • machinery
  • textiles
  • iron and steel
  • chemicals
  • fertilizer
  • foodstuffs
  • commercial ship repair

Agricultural products:

  • corn
  • wheat
  • sugarcane
  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • beef
  • poultry
  • mutton
  • wool
  • dairy products

Oil production: 216,700 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Railways:20,872 km (2004)

Road map: 362,099 km (paved: 73,506 km , unpaved: 288,593 km)

Currency: rand (ZAR)


Telephone lines in use: 4.844 million (2003)

Cellular lines in use: 19.5 million (2004)

Television Stations: 556 (plus 144 network repeaters) (1997)

Radio Stations: AM 14, FM 347 (plus 243 repeaters), shortwave 1 (1998)

Internet users: 3.6 million (2005)

Health Issues

HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate: 21.5% (2003 est.)

People living with HIV/AIDS: 5.3 million (2003 est.)

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