South Africa Country Facts

By | February 21, 2024
South Africa
Capital city Pretoria
Surface 1,221,037 km²
Population 60,143,000
Road network length 158,124 km
Length of highway network 2,160 km
First highway ~1968
Motorway name freeway
Traffic drives Left
License plate code SA

South Africa (English: South Africa, Afrikaans: Suid-Afrika), formally the Republic of South Africa, is a country in Africa, located on the southern side of the continent. It is one of the larger countries with an area of ​​1.2 million km² (about 35 times the Netherlands) and has 60 million inhabitants. The capital is Pretoria, the largest city is Johannesburg, but the parliament is located in Cape Town (Cape Town).


South Africa occupies the southernmost part of the African continent and is located on both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The country is bordered to the north by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. The country of Lesotho is an enclave in South Africa. South Africa is a large country, it measures a maximum of 1,500 kilometers from west to east and 1,000 kilometers from north to south, although the maximum distance is larger diagonally, about 1,800 kilometers. It has a coastline of more than 2,500 kilometers. With an area of ​​1.2 million km², South Africa is about twice the size of France.

A large part of South Africa consists of highlands, the Highveld. This is bordered by the Great Escarpment, where the plateau slopes down to the lower coastal regions. The plateau is largely located at approximately 1,100 meters above sea level and has few major differences in height. The greatest elevation changes can be found around the Great Escarpment, with steep ridges along its south side. The highest point in South Africa is the 3,450 meter high Mafadi on the border with Lesotho. South Africa has no large coastal plains, the coastal region is lower but often hilly to slightly mountainous. The most spectacular mountain areas can be found in the southwest of the country, around Cape Town.

South Africa’s longest river is the Orange River (Afrikaans: Oranjerivier) which flows west across the highlands and forms part of the border with Namibia. The Limpopo River forms the border with Zimbabwe. Other rivers are short. There are few natural lakes in South Africa, the largest lakes are reservoirs around the major cities.

South Africa has a predominantly dry continental climate, with deserts in the northwest, a dry Mediterranean climate around Cape Town and a somewhat wetter subtropical climate in the east. The south coast has a more temperate climate and is greener than the plateau’s steppe and desert. The country has relatively many climatic zones. Because a large part of the country is elevated, temperatures in summer are not extremely high, the average maximum temperature in Johannesburg is 26 °C in summer and 16 °C in winter. Cape Town has slightly warmer winters. Precipitation in South Africa averages about 450 mm, but varies greatly by region. Precipitation decreases from east to west. Snow falls on the higher mountains in winter and skiing is possible in some areas.

South Africa is divided into 9 provinces. By far the largest province in terms of area is Northern Cape, the largest province in terms of inhabitants is Gauteng.


City Population (city) Population (metro)
soweto 1,272,000 4,435,000
Johannesburg 957,000 4,435,000
Pretoria 742,000 2,921,000
Durban 595,000 3,442,000
Cape Town 434,000 3,740,000
Randburg 337,000 4,435,000
Roodepoort 326,000 4,435,000
Port Elizabeth 312,000 1,152,000
East London 267,000 755,000
Germiston 256,000 3,178,000
Flower fountain 256,000 747,000

South Africa has a very diverse demographic, with many different ethnicities, languages ​​and religions. According to the 2011 census, 79% of South Africans are Black African, 9% White, 9% Colored and 3% Asian. However, the ethnic composition varies greatly by region. This also applies to the languages. South Africa has 11 official languages. The three most widely spoken languages ​​are Zulu (23%), Xhosa (16%) and Afrikaans (14%). English is the lingua franca in South Africa and is spoken by most people as a second or third language. The distribution of the languages ​​is strongly regional.

In the western half of South Africa, Afrikaans is the dominant language. Afrikaans is very similar to Dutch with outdated and simplified elements. Afrikaans has traditionally been spoken by the European population, but is also spoken as a second or third language by many other residents of the country. Afrikaans has the greatest geographic distribution of all languages ​​in South Africa, but is only the third language in number of speakers due to the sparsely populated western part of South Africa.

Zulu is mainly spoken in the far east of South Africa, especially in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, but also in the neighboring province of Mpumalanga. Xhosa is mainly spoken in the Eastern Cape province. Xhosa has the largest geographical distribution of all African languages ​​in South Africa, but is the second language in number of speakers. In the highlands of the central and northeastern part of South Africa, several African languages ​​are spoken, with greater distributions of Tswana, Sotho and Ndebele. English is spoken as the dominant first language only in the far northeast of South Africa. There is a great diversity of languages ​​in the Gauteng province, with English being dominant in Johannesburg and Afrikaans in Pretoria.

South Africa has had three types of municipalities since 2000. The first layer is the metropolitan municipalities, which are comparable to agglomerations. The largest of these are Johannesburg and Cape Town. The metropolitan municipalities in several cases have names that are little known abroad. Thus, the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality encompasses the well-known city of Durban. In places where there are no metropolitan municipalities, there are district municipalities. These are extensive in area and often include several small towns. The third layer consists of the local municipalities, similar to those in Europe and North America. These are the actual municipalities.

For example, the city of Johannesburg (957,000 inhabitants) is part of the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality (4,435,000 inhabitants). However, the urban area of ​​the Johannesburg region extends beyond the boundaries of the City of Johannesburg.


South Africa has the second largest economy in Africa, with a relatively high per capita income compared to most countries in southern Africa. The country is quite well developed in terms of infrastructure, education and government. The proportion of South Africans working in the informal economy is one of the lowest in Africa. There is great income inequality, some South Africans live in prosperity, but some also live in poverty. The country has many raw materials, it is one of the largest producers of gold, platinum and diamonds. It also exports coal and ore. There is also some manufacturing industry. Agriculture also plays a fairly large role, the country is considered one of the more fertile and cultivated countries in Africa.

However, unemployment is constantly high, about 25-35% of the population is unemployed and lives in poverty. There is a big difference in incomes between whites and blacks. However, there is a significant brain drain, many white South Africans are leaving the country due to the unstable political situation and extreme crime.


The provinces of South Africa.

The first Europeans in what is now South Africa were the Portuguese in 1487. Traders sailed with ships from Western Europe to the East Indies via the Cape of Good Hope, a name the then Portuguese king gave the cape: Cabo da Boa Esperança. In the early 17th century, the Dutch became more powerful in international trade and in 1652 a harbor was built at the Cape of Good Hope, later to become Cape Town or Cape Town. Cape Town’s population grew steadily and farmers gradually moved further east, leading to conflict with the Xhosa tribes who were moving southwest at the time.

Britain occupied Cape Town in 1795 to prevent it from falling under French control. At the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, Cape Town became a permanent part of the British Empire. From the 1820s, more British people moved to the region. During the same period, Zulu tribes fought bloody wars in the interior of South Africa, which almost depopulated the highlands. Between 1 and 2 million people were killed. From the early 19th century, many Dutch farmers moved east to escape British rule. They founded autonomous republics in the interior of South Africa, which led to two wars with the British, the so-called ‘Boer Wars’. In the second half of the 19th century, raw materials such as diamonds and gold were discovered in the interior of South Africa,

In 1909 South Africa was promised independence and in 1910 the Union of South Africa was founded. From then on, apartheid started to emerge informally, mainly through the distribution of land ownership. In 1948 the National Party came to power and apartheid became legal policy. The white minority, who then constituted about 20% of the population, dominated the policy resulting in racial segregation. South Africa became internationally isolated as a result. In the 1970s, South Africa developed nuclear weapons. The white population had a high standard of living, comparable to that of other western countries. In 1994, the first all-citizen election was held, which was won by the African National Congress (ANC). Since then, the black population has dominated politics and apartheid came to an end. However, the economic situation in South Africa did not improve much. Although more blacks moved into the middle class, the country fell on the United Nations Human Development Index and high unemployment and crime remain an ongoing problem in the country.


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