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Who's On? > Visit Detail > Country Facts for South Africa
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Map of South Africa
Background:After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments, but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902). The resulting Union of South Africa operated under a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races. The 1990s brought an end to apartheid politically and ushered in black majority rule.
Location:Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa
Geographic coordinates:29 00 S, 24 00 E
Map references:Africa
Area: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:slightly less than twice the size of Texas
Land boundaries:total: 4,862 km
border countries: Botswana 1,840 km, Lesotho 909 km, Mozambique 491 km, Namibia 967 km, Swaziland 430 km, Zimbabwe 225 km

Coastline:2,798 km
Maritime claims:territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to edge of the continental margin

Climate:mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights
Terrain:vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain
Elevation extremes:lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Njesuthi 3,408 m

Natural resources:gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas
Land use:arable land: 12.08%
permanent crops: 0.79%
other: 87.13% (2001)

Irrigated land:13,500 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:prolonged droughts
Environment - current 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
Environment - international agreements:party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note:South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland
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 2005 est.)

Age structure:0-14 years: 30.3% (male 6,760,137/female 6,682,013)
15-64 years: 64.5% (male 13,860,727/female 14,750,496)
65 years and over: 5.2% (male 893,360/female 1,397,403) (2005 est.)

Median age:total: 23.98 years
male: 23.12 years
female: 24.86 years (2005 est.)

Population growth rate:-0.31% (2005 est.)
Birth rate:18.48 births/1,000 population (2005 est.)
Death rate:21.32 deaths/1,000 population (2005 est.)
Net migration rate:-0.22 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2005 est.)
Sex ratio:at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.64 male(s)/female
total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (2005 est.)

Infant mortality rate:total: 61.81 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 65.6 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 57.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:total population: 43.27 years
male: 43.47 years
female: 43.06 years (2005 est.)

Total fertility rate:2.24 children born/woman (2005 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:21.5% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:5.3 million (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:370,000 (2003 est.)
Nationality:noun: South African(s)
adjective: South African

Ethnic groups:black African 79%, white 9.6%, colored 8.9%, Indian/Asian 2.5% (2001 census)
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)
Literacy:definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 86.4%
male: 87%
female: 85.7% (2003 est.)

Country name:conventional long form: Republic of South Africa
conventional short form: South Africa
former: Union of South Africa
abbreviation: RSA

Government type:republic
Capital:Pretoria; note - Cape Town is the legislative center and Bloemfontein the judicial center
Administrative divisions:9 provinces; Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North-West, Northern Cape, Western Cape
Independence:31 May 1910 (from UK); note - South Africa became a republic in 1961 following an October 1960 referendum
National holiday:Freedom Day, 27 April (1994)
Constitution:10 December 1996; this new constitution was certified by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996, was signed by then President MANDELA on 10 December 1996, and entered into effect on 3 February 1997; it is being implemented in phases
Legal system:based on Roman-Dutch law and English common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
Suffrage:18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:chief of state: President Thabo MBEKI (since 16 June 1999); Executive Deputy President Phumzile MLAMBO-NGCUKA (since 23 June 2005); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Thabo MBEKI (since 16 June 1999); Executive Deputy President Phumzile MLAMBO-NGCUKA (since 23 June 2005); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term; election last held 24 April 2004 (next to be held April 2009)
election results: Thabo MBEKI elected president; percent of National Assembly vote - 100% (by acclamation)
note: ANC-IFP is the governing coalition

Legislative branch:bicameral Parliament consisting of the National Assembly (400 seats; members are elected by popular vote under a system of proportional representation to serve five-year terms) and the National Council of Provinces (90 seats, 10 members elected by each of the nine provincial legislatures for five-year terms; has special powers to protect regional interests, including the safeguarding of cultural and linguistic traditions among ethnic minorities); note - following the implementation of the new constitution on 3 February 1997 the former Senate was disbanded and replaced by the National Council of Provinces with essentially no change in membership and party affiliations, although the new institution's responsibilities have been changed somewhat by the new constitution
elections: National Assembly and National Council of Provinces - last held 14 April 2004 (next to be held NA 2009)
election results: National Assembly - percent of vote by party - ANC 69.7%, DA 12.4%, IFP 7%, UDM 2.3%, NNP 1.7%, ACDP 1.6%, other 5.3%; seats by party - ANC 279, DA 50, IFP 28, UDM 9, NNP 7, ACDP 6, other 21; National Council of Provinces - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - NA

Judicial branch:Constitutional Court; Supreme Court of Appeals; High Courts; Magistrate Courts
Political parties and leaders:African Christian Democratic Party or ACDP [Kenneth MESHOE, president]; African National Congress or ANC [Thabo MBEKI, president]; Democratic Alliance or DA (formed from the merger of the Democratic Party or DP and the Freedom Alliance or FA) [Anthony LEON]; Inkatha Freedom Party or IFP [Mangosuthu BUTHELEZI, president]; Pan-Africanist Congress or PAC [Stanley MOGOBA, president]; United Democratic Movement or UDM [Bantu HOLOMISA]
Political pressure groups and leaders:Congress of South African Trade Unions or COSATU [Zwelinzima VAVI, general secretary]; South African Communist Party or SACP [Blade NZIMANDE, general secretary]; South African National Civics Organization or SANCO [Mlungisi HLONGWANE, national president]; note - COSATU and SACP are in a formal alliance with the ANC
Flag description: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
Economy - overview:South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; a stock exchange that ranks among the 10 largest in the world; and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. However, growth has not been strong enough to lower South Africa's high unemployment rate; and daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era, especially poverty and lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups. South African economic policy is fiscally conservative, but pragmatic, focusing on targeting inflation and liberalizing trade as means to increase job growth and household income.
GDP:purchasing power parity - $491.4 billion (2004 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:3.5% (2004 est.)
GDP - per capita:purchasing power parity - $11,100 (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:agriculture: 3.6%
industry: 31.2%
services: 65.2% (2004 est.)

Labor force:16.63 million economically active (2004 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:agriculture 30%, industry 25%, services 45% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate:26.2% (includes workers no longer looking for employment) (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line:50% (2000 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:lowest 10%: 1.1%
highest 10%: 45.9% (1994)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:59.3 (1993-94)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):4.5% (2004 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):16.7% of GDP (2004 est.)
Budget:revenues: $47.43 billion
expenditures: $52.54 billion, including capital expenditures of NA (2004 est.)

Public debt:45.9% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - products:corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool, dairy products
Industries:mining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textile, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair
Industrial production growth rate:5.5% (2004 est.)
Electricity - production:202.6 billion kWh (2002)
Electricity - production by source:fossil fuel: 93.5%
hydro: 1.1%
nuclear: 5.5%
other: 0% (2001)

Electricity - consumption:189.4 billion kWh (2002)
Electricity - exports:6.95 billion kWh (2002)
Electricity - imports:7.873 billion kWh (2002)
Oil - production:196,200 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:460,000 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:NA
Oil - imports:NA
Oil - proved reserves:7.84 million bbl (1 January 2002)
Natural gas - production:1.8 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:1.8 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - exports:0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - imports:0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:14.16 billion cu m (1 January 2002)
Current account balance:$-2.48 billion (2004 est.)
Exports:$41.97 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Exports - commodities:gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment (1998 est.)
Exports - partners:US 10.2%, UK 9.2%, Japan 9%, Germany 7.1%, Netherlands 4% (2004)
Imports:$39.42 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Imports - commodities:machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments, foodstuffs (2000 est.)
Imports - partners:Germany 14.2%, US 8.5%, China 7.5%, Japan 6.9%, UK 6.9%, France 6%, Saudi Arabia 5.6%, Iran 5% (2004)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:$11.68 billion (2004 est.)
Debt - external:$27.01 billion (2004 est.)
Currency (code):rand (ZAR)
Currency code:ZAR
Exchange rates:rand per US dollar - 6.4597 (2004), 7.5648 (2003), 10.5407 (2002), 8.6092 (2001), 6.9398 (2000)
Fiscal year:1 April - 31 March
Telephones - main lines in use:4.844 million (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular:16.86 million (2003)
Telephone system:general assessment: the system is the best developed and most modern in Africa
domestic: consists of carrier-equipped open-wire lines, coaxial cables, microwave radio relay links, fiber-optic cable, radiotelephone communication stations, and wireless local loops; key centers are Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, and Pretoria
international: country code - 27; 2 submarine cables; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 2 Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations:AM 14, FM 347 (plus 243 repeaters), shortwave 1 (1998)
Radios:17 million (2001)
Television broadcast stations:556 (plus 144 network repeaters) (1997)
Televisions:6 million (2000)
Internet country
Internet hosts:288,633 (2003)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):150 (2001)
Internet users:3.1 million (2002)
Railways:total: 20,872 km
narrow gauge: 20,436 km 1.065-m gauge (10,436 km electrified); 436 km 0.610-m gauge
note: includes a 1,210 km commuter rail system (2004)

Highways:total: 275,971 km
paved: 57,568 km (including 2,032 km of expressways)
unpaved: 218,403 km (2002)

Pipelines:condensate 100 km; gas 1,052 km; oil 847 km; refined products 1,354 km (2004)
Ports and harbors:Cape Town, Durban, East London, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, Saldanha
Merchant marine:total: 2 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 31,505 GRT/37,091 DWT
by type: container 1, petroleum tanker 1
foreign-owned: 1 (Denmark 1)
registered in other countries: 7 (2005)

Airports:728 (2004 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:total: 144
over 3,047 m: 10
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
1,524 to 2,437 m: 51
914 to 1,523 m: 67
under 914 m: 11 (2004 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:total: 584
1,524 to 2,437 m: 34
914 to 1,523 m: 300
under 914 m: 250 (2004 est.)

Military branches:South African National Defense Force (SANDF): Army, Navy, Air Force, Joint Operations, Joint Support, Military Intelligence, Military Health Service (2004)
Military manpower - military age and obligation:18 years of age for voluntary military service; women have a long history of military service in non-combat roles - dating back to World War I (2004)
Military manpower - availability:males age 18-49: 10,354,769 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:males age 18-49: 4,927,757 (2005 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:males: 512,407 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:$3.172 billion (2004)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:1.5% (2004)
Military note:with the end of apartheid and the establishment of majority rule, former military, black homelands forces, and ex-opposition forces were integrated into the South African National Defense Force (SANDF); as of 2003 the integration process was considered complete
Transnational IssuesTop
Disputes - international:South Africa has placed military along the border to stem the thousands of Zimbabweans fleeing to find work and escape political persecution; managed dispute with Namibia over the location of the boundary in the Orange River
Illicit drugs:transshipment center for heroin, hashish, marijuana, and cocaine; cocaine consumption on the rise; world's largest market for illicit methaqualone, usually imported illegally from India through various east African countries; illicit cultivation of marijuana; attractive venue for money launderers given the increasing level of organized criminal and narcotics activity in the region

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