Country Information: South Africa

  • Capital: Pretoria
  • Area total: 1 223 201 km²
  • Population: 54 mio inhabitants
  • Density: 42 inhabitants/km² (2014)
  • Religion: Christians, tribe religions, Muslims
  • Language: 11 official languages
  • Government: Parliamentary democracy
  • Climate: subtropical / Mediterranean
  • Currency: South African Rand (ZAR)

Dimensions of the country

South Africa is situated in the very south of the African continent. It has a long coastline across two oceans (the Atlantic and the Indian). South Africa is as big as Colombia and the highest peak is Njesuthi in the Drakensberg at 3408m. It borders to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland. Within the country there is also the kingdom of Lesotho located.


In South Africa there are over 47 million people of diverse origins, cultures, languages and beliefs. Statistics provide four racial categories by which people are classified: 

  • Black African (79,3%)
  • White (9,2%)
  • Coloured (8,8%)
  • Indian or Asian (2,7%)

Most of the inhabitants consider themselves as black. But apart from the color of their skin the black population is culturally or linguistically not homogeneous at all.

Major ethnic groups include the Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho, Bapedi, Venda, Tswana, Tsonga, Swazi and Ndebele. The white population descends largely from colonial immigrants. Their origins are for example the Netherlands, Germany, France or Great Britain. People of mixed races are generally known as “Coloured”. The majority of the Asian population is Indian in origin. Indians were brought in during the nineteenth century to work on the sugar plantations.

Culturally and linguistically there are two major groups in South Africa. On the one hand there are Afrikaners, who speak Afrikaans. On the other hand there is the English-speaking group.


Approx. 2/3 of the population are Christians. Additionally, there are believers in tribal religions, Muslims and Hindu.

Official languages

There are 11 official languages in South Africa:

  • Zulu (22,9%)
  • isi Xhosa (17,9%)
  • Afrikaans (14,4%)
  • sePedi (9,2%)
  • English (8,6%)
  • seTswana (8,2%)
  • seSotho (7,7%)
  • xiTsonga (4,4%)
  • siSwati (2,5%)
  • tshiVenda (2,2%)
  • isiNdebele (1,5%)
  • other (0,6%)


On the whole the South African climate is sub tropical, sunny and dry. But it is not equal in every part of the country. At the west coast it is warm and dry, while at the east coast the weather is more hot and humid. The temperatures range all year round between 20 and 35 degree Celsius.


15th century

With European navigators passing South Africa on the East Indies trade routes, the written history of South Africa started. Bartolomeu Dias was the first European navigator who circumnavigated the Cape in 1488.

When he returned to Portugal he called the Cape “Cabo das Tormentas” (Cape of storms). For his sponsor Dias gave the Cape a different name. Due to the fact of promising a sea route to the riches of India Dias called it “Cape of Good Hope”. In the end of the 15th century a few small fishing settlements were made along the coast by Portuguese sailors.

17th century

In 1652 a station which supplied passing ships was founded at the Cape of Good Hope. It was established by Jan van Riebeeck on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. So in the beginning the settlement was Dutch possession. Between the Dutch and the Xhosa people that where already living there for ages, a series of wars ensued. Reasons were conflicting land as well as livestock interests.  

Cause of labor shortages slaves were brought to the Cape from Indonesia, Madagascar and India. Moreover the Dutch send troublesome leaders from their colonies to South Africa. Descendants of these slaves became known as “Cape Malays”. The European settlers allocated them a higher social status as they allocated the other groups of slaves. Over the years a large number of them became quite wealthy. But as Apartheid started developing many of them were expropriated.

18th century

Great Britain started to use Cape Town as a stop on the route to Australia and India.

19th century

When the Dutch East Indian Company declared bankruptcy, the British annexed the Cape Colony. The discovery of diamonds and gold let the economy and immigration increase.

20th century

With electing the National Party to power in 1948, the implementing of harsh segregationist laws began. On the whole it became known as apartheid. During the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s there was a rapid industrialization in South Africa. While the few White enjoyed a greatly high standard of living, most of the blacks remained disadvantaged by almost every standard. Over the years Apartheid became more and more controversial abroad as well as within South Africa. A long period of suppression by the government, strikes, protests, marches and sabotage, by several anti-apartheid movements, followed. In 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from prison after twenty-seven-year incarceration. From then Apartheid legislation was step by step removed from the statute books. In 1994 the first multi-racial elections were held. There was a win of the ANC (African National Congress). This party is in power ever since.

Economy and Problems

South Africa is a middle-income country with one of the highest rates of income inequalities in the world.

On the one hand you have developed cities like Johannesburg/Pretoria, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. But apart from that, the country is only marginal developed and poverty is still a big problem. So are unemployment and corruption.


  • Poverty
  • Effects of Apartheid
  • Corruption
  • HIV
  • Migration into cities
  • Crime
  • Incompetent administration caused by lack of knowledge