Form of Government: Republic
Area: 1 220 813 sq km
Population: 59 622 350 inhab. (estimate 2020)
Density: 48.84 inhab./sq km
Coordinates: lat. 22° - 35° S; long. 16° - 33° E
Capital: Pretoria=Tshwane (administrative capital) 741 651 inhab. (2011); Tshwane (Pretoria) 2 921 488 inhab. (2011), urban agglomeration; Bloemfontein (judicial capital) 256 185 inhab. (2011); Mangaung (Bloemfontein) 747 431 inhab. (2011), urban agglomeration; Cape Town=Kaapstad (legislative capital) 433 688 inhab. (2011); Cape Town 3 740 026 inhab. (2011), urban agglomeration
Currency: South African rand (100 cents)
Human development index: 0.709 (rank: 114)
President and head of government: Cyril Ramaphosa (ANC), elected 15 February 2018, reconfirmed 22 May 2019
National Assembly: seats based on the elections of 7 May 2014: ANC (African National Congress), 249; DA (Democratic Alliance), 89; EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters), 25; IFP (Inkatha Freedom Party, Zulu), 10; NFP (National Freedom Party), 6; others, 21
Internet: www.statssa.gov.za (Statistics South Africa)
Member of AU, Commonwealth, SACU, SADC, UN, WTO
South AfricaUseful information
International license plate code ZA
International dialling code 0027
Travel vaccinations requirement yellow fever (required only if traveling from a country with risk of transmission, including travelers having transited more than 12 hours through the airport of a country with risk of transmission); malaria prophylaxis (recommended for some areas)
Electricity (Voltage) 220/230
Driving side left
Internet code .za
DST not applied
Annual average temperature (°C) Cape Town 16.2; Durban 20.5; Johannesburg 16.2
Average temperature in January/July (°C) Cape Town 20/10.5; Durban 23.5/16.5; Johannesburg 20/10.5
Daily sunshine hours in June/December (average) Cape Town 6/11; Durban 7/6; Johannesburg 9/9
Annual average precipitation (mm) Cape Town 505; Durban 1010; Johannesburg 703
Days of rainfall (annual average) Cape Town 89; Durban 89; Johannesburg 71
Politics and current affairs
On 8 July, former President Jacob Zuma, under investigation for corruption, was arrested on contempt of court. Violent revolts broke out, especially in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, which the army repressed.
South Africa is bordered to the north by Botswana, to the north-east by Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Mozambique and to the north-west by Namibia. It lies to the east and the south-east on the Indian Ocean and to the south-west and the west on the Atlantic Ocean. The country also completely surrounds Lesotho. Mostly surrounded by the sea, South Africa is predominantly made up of plateaux that rise up towards the coast (to the east lie the Drakensberg mountain range) as well as a large escarpment from the foot of which extends the coastal plain. The main rivers are the River Orange, with its tributary of the River Vaal, and the River Limpopo. The climate is tropical with abundant rainfall in the east, mediterranean in the south and less rainy in the west.
The Union of South Africa was created from the federation of the former Boer republics of Orange and Transvaal and the British colonies of the Cape and Natal in 1910. It was an autonomous Dominion of the British Crown and fully independent in 1931. In 1948, the white oligarchy of Dutch descent (the Boers), belonging to the National Party, officially imposed a regime of racial segregation (apartheid) on the country. In 1960, the African National Congress, incorporating the black opposition, was outlawed. South Africa was condemned by the international community and left the Commonwealth, proclaiming itself a republic on 31 May 1961. The process of dismantling apartheid began in 1990-91 during the presidency of Fredrik De Klerk, who legalised the ANC and released its leader, Nelson Mandela, from prison. The first free multi-racial elections, accompanied by the withdrawal of international sanctions, were held in 1994 with the victory of the ANC and the election of Mandela as President. The provisional 1993 Constitution and the new Constitution in force since 4 February 1997 guarantee the cohabitation of the different communities by means of the total protection of minority groups and the sub-division of the state into nine provinces, each benefiting from a wide range of autonomy.
The President of the Republic is elected by the National Assembly and exercises executive power. The Parliament is made up of the National Assembly (400 members elected for five years by proportional representation) and the National Council of the Provinces (90 members designated by the provincial assemblies, with a mandate of five years). Those parties gaining at least 20% of the votes in the National Assembly may appoint a Vice-President.
The defence force, (SANDF), set up in 1994, was formed by integrating the soldiers of the military wing of the ANC into the South African armed forces.
The legal system is based on British Common Law and on Dutch Law. In 2006, the National Assembly approved a law allowing for the marriage of homosexual couples.
|Soweto||1 271 628||inhab.||2011|
|Johannesburg||4 434 827||inhab.||2011|
|Cape Town||3 740 026||inhab.||2011|
|Population by age and gender (% - 2020)|
A significant percentage of the population carries the AIDS virus, though prevention campaigns have seen the number of new cases plateau. The growth rate of the population varies greatly according to the ethnic groups.
Growth is structurally stunted. Political crises and uncertain economic management have held back foreign investments, increased instability of the rand and contributed to a worsening of evaluations by rating agencies. A chronic problem is the scarcity of electric energy; the construction of new power stations and an update of the electrical network are proceeding slowly. In this scenario, the shutdown of many economic activities to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has further increased unemployment, already high, which is struggling to reabsorb despite the fact that the growth rate has returned to positive in 2021. The distribution of wealth is highly polarized and a large part of the population has to rely on government subsidies to survive. High deficit complicates the adoption of effective policies to stimulate the economy.
|Agricultural prod. index (2004-06=100)||116.56||index||2016|
|Agricultural prod. index (2014-16=100)||101.73||index||2019|
|Active population||21 743 198||units||2020|
|Active population, Females||45.5||%||2020|
|Unemployment rate, Females||47.8||%||2020|
|Expenses||1 844 000||M LCU||2019|
|Revenues||1 501 000||M LCU||2019|
|Currency in circulation||177.572||BN LCU||2020|
|International reserves||55 008.492||M US$||2020|
The country is a large-scale producer of cereals, especially maize (Free State, Mpumalanga, North West) and wheat (Western Cape). The range of fruit crops is also very significant: potatoes, citrus fruits, apples, tomatoes, pears, peaches, plums, apricots and tropical fruit (bananas, papayas, pineapples and mangos) are grown, while the south-western area of the Cape excels for its vineyards. Main industrial crops include sugar cane and tobacco, followed by soybeans, sunflowers, peanuts, cotton, castor oil plants, kenaf, sisal, Phormium and tea.
The forests, on the southern maritime slopes and on the Drakensberg, produce tannin-bearing wood (wattle) and wood for industrial processing (Eucalyptus), as well as timber.
Wool and karakul skins are produced from sheep; angora goats are also very widespread.
The most abundant species of fish (sardines, mackerel and cod) are caught in the cold Atlantic waters of Port Nolloth, Lambert’s Bay, Stompneus Bay, Saldanha, Cape Town and Hout Bay. Aquaculture of molluscs is also developed (especially abalones).
|cereals, total||13 311.516||1000 t||2019|
|potatoes||2 505.775||1000 t||2019|
|roots and tubers, total||2 594.467||1000 t||2019|
|beans, dry||66.355||1000 t||2019|
|beans, green||20.997||1000 t||2019|
|grapes||1 993.048||1000 t||2019|
|castor oil seed||6.721||1000 t||2019|
|sugar cane||19 482.246||1000 t||2019|
|seed cotton||73.308||1000 t||2019|
|citrus fruits||2 783.368||1000 t||2019|
|citrus fruits, nes||11.633||1000 t||2019|
|maize||2 300.5||1000 ha||2019|
|sweet potatoes||32.112||1000 ha||2019|
|carrots and turnips||7.609||1000 ha||2019|
|beans, dry||59.3||1000 ha||2019|
|beans, green||3.825||1000 ha||2019|
|castor oil seed||8.914||1000 ha||2019|
|sugar cane||298.611||1000 ha||2019|
|seed cotton||24.802||1000 ha||2019|
|citrus fruits||82.997||1000 ha||2019|
|citrus fruits, nes||0.273||1000 ha||2019|
|timber||28 322 702||m³||2019|
|cattle||12 588.635||1000 heads||2019|
|cattle and buffaloes||12 588.635||1000 heads||2019|
|pigs||1 389.659||1000 heads||2019|
|sheep||22 085.207||1000 heads||2019|
|goats||5 251.039||1000 heads||2019|
|asses and mules||161.542||1000 heads||2019|
|birds||174 588||1000 heads||2019|
|crustaceans and molluscs||15 234.991||t||2019|
|freshwater fishes||1 427.1||t||2019|
Mineral resources are abundant and diversified. Substantial coal deposits are found at Witbank, Ermelo-Breyton and Springs (in Mpumalanga), at Vryheid, Utrecht and Paulpietersburg (in KwaZulu-Natal), at Clydesdale-Sasolburg (in the Free State province). The country is extremely rich in gold, with deposits in Witwatersrand (the most famous), Odendaalsrus, Elsburg (Germiston), West Driefontein, Western Deep Levels, East Daggafontein, Vaal Reef, Freegold, President Brand and Kloof. Some gold minerals also contain uranium. There are also numerous diamond deposits: the main ones are those in Kimberley (a national monument), in Pretoria (Premier) and in Jagersfontein and Koffiefontein (Free State province). Alluvial diamonds are found on the bed of the River Vaal (to the west of Kimberley), at Lichtenburg and at the mouth of the River Orange (Port Nolloth) where with special equipment diamonds are also mined from the sea bed. Platinum mines are particularly productive (at Rustenburg and Union), and as a result the country accounts for three-quarters of world output.
Other minerals mined include iron (at Thabazimbi, in the Limpopo area and in Prestwick, in Natal), manganese (in Postmasburg, Hotazel, Lohathla, Mamatwan, Adams, Devon and Gopani), chromite (in Rustenburg-Northam and Steelpoort), antimony (in Gravelotte), vanadium (in Witbank), lead (in Broken Hill and Pering), zinc (in Gamsberg, Pering and Maranda), tin (in Waterberg and Potgietersrust), copper (in Okiep-Springbok, in the northern Cape and in Phalaborwa, in the Limpopo area), nickel (in Rustenburg and Insizwa), cobalt, zircon and titanium. Important non-metallic minerals are asbestos (the areas around Barberton, Pietersburg and Letaba), magnesite (the Limpopo and Mpumalanga areas), mica (in Letaba), phosphates (in Phalaborwa, Glenover and Langebaan), fluorite (in Vergenoeg), kaolin (in Grahamstown and Riversdale). There are important salt-works at Port Elizabeth and at Brantford.
Energy and industry.
Most electricity produced is of thermal origin (coal); the main facilities are located in Mpumalanga province. The largest hydro-electrical complex operates in the Drakensberg, between Free State and KwaZulu-Natal. There is a nuclear power station with two reactors in Koeberg.
The steel-making industry has plants in Middelburg, Pretoria, Vereeniging (Vanderbijl Park), Newcastle, Witbank and Johannesburg; the metal-working industry is centred in Zaaiplaats, Potgietersrust and Springs. There are about twenty active cement factories. The chemical industry is focused on Modderfontein, Coalbrook, Somerset West, Sasolburg, Phalaborwa, Klipfontein and Potcherstroom. There are refineries in Cape Town, Durban, Mossel Bay, Sasolburg and Secunda (Mpumalanga). Rubber is processed in Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and East London. The mechanical industry is centred on Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, East London, Elsies River, Uitenhage, Durban, Johannesburg, Natalspruit, Kempton Park (aeroplanes) and Martindale. In particular, the car and spare-parts industry has grown significantly. The textile industry is centred on Worcester, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, Hammersdale, Mooi River and Uitenhage; the paper industry on Springs, Ngodwana, Tugela and Enstra.
|coal||248 339.3||1000 t||2020|
|coal, total||248 339.3||1000 t||2020|
|chromite||16 000||1000 t||2020|
|diamonds||4 000||1000 ct||2020|
|diamonds, gemstones and industrial||7 000||1000 ct||2020|
|- thermal||208 196.84||M kWh||2019|
|- nuclear||13 603||M kWh||2019|
|- thermal||42 596||1000 kW||2018|
|- other renew.||5 420||1000 kW||2019|
|total net generation||233 293.97||M kWh||2019|
|total installed capacity||53 368.77||1000 kW||2018|
|commercial vehicles||209 002||no.||2020|
|ovens||1 277 000||no.||2003|
|petrol||8 425.6||1000 t||2014|
|hydrochloric acid||206.7||1000 t||2008|
|carpets||18 414.7||1000 m²||2008|
|cotton fabrics||98.7||M m²||2008|
|footwear||24 731 100||pairs||2011|
|beer of barley||3 135||1000 t||2018|
|cottonseed oil||9.5||1000 t||2018|
|chemical pulp||754.9||1000 t||2019|
|chemi-mechanical pulp||1 141.076||1000 t||2019|
|cement||15 000||1000 t||2018|
|sheet glass||16 437.7||1000 m²||2008|
|chemicals production||3 028.996||M US$||2018|
|food, beverages and tobacco production||9 602.079||M US$||2018|
The country is part of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and of a customs union (SACU) with neighbouring Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia, and also part of the larger SADC.
Main exports (M US$ - 2017) iron and steel 7 297, vehicles and parts thereof 6 833, platinum 6 577, coal products 5 894, machinery 5 368, gold 4 984, iron ores 4 785, oil and petroleum products 3 929, fruit and vegetables 3 603, chemicals 3 149, cars 2 959, manganese 2 527, chromite 2 048, metal ores 1 946, diamonds 1 897
Finance and banking.
The country’s central bank is the South African Reserve Bank. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) is the most important exchange in Africa.
|manufactures||42.974||% of goods exports||2019|
|ores and metals||28.455||% of goods exports||2019|
|China||9 793||M US$||2020|
|United States||7 131||M US$||2020|
|China||14 309||M US$||2020|
|Germany||6 293||M US$||2020|
Tourism. The main tourist destinations are the great national parks, including the Kruger Park, which is part of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (shared with Mozambique and Zimbabwe), and the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (shared with Botswana).
|Expenditures||5 866||M US$||2019|
|Number of arrivals||10 228 000||units||2019|
|Civil aviation, km flown||194 400 000||km flown||2004|
|Civil aviation, passengers carried||25 650.2||1000 units||2019|
|Broadband subscribers||21.352||per 1000 pop.||2019|
|Computers||84.6||per 1000 pop.||2005|
Social and welfare
Education and research.
Education is compulsory and free from 6 to 16 years of age.
Social security and health.
The social security system provides benefits for the unemployed, those who have sustained injuries at work and the elderly. Basic healthcare is guaranteed to all, but the public health service is lacking.
|Expected years of schooling||13.535||years||2018|
|Students, primary level||7 568 387||units||2018|
|Students, secondary level||4 878 960||units||2018|
|Social protection spending||13.532||% of total expenses||2019|
|Hospital beds||2.2||per 1000 pop.||2014|
|Physicians||0.91||per 1000 pop.||2017|
|HIV||19$||% of adults||2019|
|Research and development spending||0.832||% of GDP||2017|
|Access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking||86.3||%||2019|
|Access to electricity||85$||%||2019|