Africa :: South Africa
  • Introduction :: South Africa
  • Background:

    South Africa is home to some of the world’s oldest human fossils, and during the modern era the region was settled by Khoisan and Bantu peoples. Dutch traders landed at the southern tip of modern day South Africa in 1652 and established a stopover point on the spice route between the Netherlands and the Far East, founding the city of Cape Town. After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (Afrikaners, called "Boers" (farmers) by the British) trekked north to found their own republics, Transvaal and Orange Free State. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Afrikaners resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Second South African War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, ruled together beginning in 1910 under the Union of South Africa, which became a republic in 1961 after a whites-only referendum. In 1948, the Afrikaner-dominated National Party was voted into power and instituted a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races - which favored the white minority at the expense of the black majority. The African National Congress (ANC) led the opposition to apartheid and many top ANC leaders, such as Nelson MANDELA, spent decades in South Africa's prisons. Internal protests and insurgency, as well as boycotts by some Western nations and institutions, led to the regime's eventual willingness to negotiate a peaceful transition to majority rule.

    The first multi-racial elections in 1994 following the end of apartheid ushered in majority rule under an ANC-led government. South Africa has since struggled to address apartheid-era imbalances in decent housing, education, and health care. Jacob ZUMA became president in 2009 and was reelected in 2014, but was forced to resign in February 2018 after numerous corruption scandals and gains by opposition parties in municipal elections in 2016. His successor, Cyril RAMAPHOSA, has pledged to crack down on corruption and shore up state-owned enterprises, and is the ANC’s likely candidate for May 2019 national elections.

  • Geography :: South Africa
  • 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: 1,219,090 sq km
    land: 1,214,470 sq km
    water: 4,620 sq km

    note: includes Prince Edward Islands (Marion Island and Prince Edward Island)

    country comparison to the world: 26
    Area - comparative:
    slightly less than twice the size of Texas
    Land boundaries:
    total: 5,244 km
    border countries (6): Botswana 1969 km, Lesotho 1106 km, Mozambique 496 km, Namibia 1005 km, Eswatini 438 km, Zimbabwe 230 km
    Coastline:
    2,798 km
    Maritime claims:
    territorial sea: 12 nm
    exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
    contiguous zone: 24 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:
    mean elevation: 1,034 m
    elevation extremes: 0 m lowest point: Atlantic Ocean
    3408 highest point: Njesuthi
    Natural resources:
    gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, rare earth elements, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas
    Land use:
    agricultural land: 79.4% (2011 est.)
    arable land: 9.9% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 0.3% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 69.2% (2011 est.)
    forest: 7.6% (2011 est.)
    other: 13% (2011 est.)
    Irrigated land:
    16,700 sq km (2012)
    Population distribution:
    the population concentrated along the southern and southeastern coast, and inland around Pretoria; the eastern half of the country is more densly populated than the west
    Natural hazards:

    prolonged droughts

    volcanism: the volcano forming Marion Island in the Prince Edward Islands, which last erupted in 2004, is South Africa's only active volcano

    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; deforestation; soil erosion; land degradation; desertification; solid waste pollution
    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 Eswatini
  • People and Society :: South Africa
  • Population:
    55,380,210 (July 2018 est.)

    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, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected

    country comparison to the world: 26
    Nationality:
    noun: South African(s)
    adjective: South African
    Ethnic groups:
    black African 80.9%, colored 8.8%, white 7.8%, Indian/Asian 2.5% (2018 est.)

    note: colored is a term used in South Africa, including on the national census, for persons of mixed race ancestry

    Languages:
    isiZulu (official) 24.7%, isiXhosa (official) 15.6%, Afrikaans (official) 12.1%, Sepedi (official) 9.8%, Setswana (official) 8.9%, English (official) 8.4%, Sesotho (official) 8%, Xitsonga (official) 4%, siSwati (official) 2.6%, Tshivenda (official) 2.5%, isiNdebele (official) 1.6%, other (includes Khoi, Nama, and San languages) 1.9% (2017 est.)
    note: data represent language spoken most often at home
    Religions:
    Christian 86%, ancestral, tribal, animist, or other traditional African religions 5.4%, Muslim 1.9%, other 1.5%, nothing in particular 5.2% (2015 est.)
    Demographic profile:

    South Africa’s youthful population is gradually aging, as the country’s total fertility rate (TFR) has declined dramatically from about 6 children per woman in the 1960s to roughly 2.2 in 2014. This pattern is similar to fertility trends in South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, and sets South Africa apart from the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, where the average TFR remains higher than other regions of the world. Today, South Africa’s decreasing number of reproductive age women is having fewer children, as women increase their educational attainment, workforce participation, and use of family planning methods; delay marriage; and opt for smaller families.

    As the proportion of working-age South Africans has grown relative to children and the elderly, South Africa has been unable to achieve a demographic dividend because persistent high unemployment and the prevalence of HIV/AIDs have created a larger-than-normal dependent population. HIV/AIDS was also responsible for South Africa’s average life expectancy plunging to less than 43 years in 2008; it has rebounded to 63 years as of 2017. HIV/AIDS continues to be a serious public health threat, although awareness-raising campaigns and the wider availability of anti-retroviral drugs is stabilizing the number of new cases, enabling infected individuals to live longer, healthier lives, and reducing mother-child transmissions.

    Migration to South Africa began in the second half of the 17th century when traders from the Dutch East India Company settled in the Cape and started using slaves from South and southeast Asia (mainly from India but also from present-day Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia) and southeast Africa (Madagascar and Mozambique) as farm laborers and, to a lesser extent, as domestic servants. The Indian subcontinent remained the Cape Colony’s main source of slaves in the early 18th century, while slaves were increasingly obtained from southeast Africa in the latter part of the 18th century and into the 19th century under British rule.

    After slavery was completely abolished in the British Empire in 1838, South Africa’s colonists turned to temporary African migrants and indentured labor through agreements with India and later China, countries that were anxious to export workers to alleviate domestic poverty and overpopulation. Of the more than 150,000 indentured Indian laborers hired to work in Natal’s sugar plantations between 1860 and 1911, most exercised the right as British subjects to remain permanently (a small number of Indian immigrants came freely as merchants). Because of growing resentment toward Indian workers, the 63,000 indentured Chinese workers who mined gold in Transvaal between 1904 and 1911 were under more restrictive contracts and generally were forced to return to their homeland.

    In the late 19th century and nearly the entire 20th century, South Africa’s then British colonies’ and Dutch states’ enforced selective immigration policies that welcomed "assimilable" white Europeans as permanent residents but excluded or restricted other immigrants. Following the Union of South Africa’s passage of a law in 1913 prohibiting Asian and other non-white immigrants and its elimination of the indenture system in 1917, temporary African contract laborers from neighboring countries became the dominant source of labor in the burgeoning mining industries. Others worked in agriculture and smaller numbers in manufacturing, domestic service, transportation, and construction. Throughout the 20th century, at least 40% of South Africa’s miners were foreigners; the numbers peaked at over 80% in the late 1960s. Mozambique, Lesotho, Botswana, and Eswatini were the primary sources of miners, and Malawi and Zimbabwe were periodic suppliers.

    Under apartheid, a "two gates" migration policy focused on policing and deporting illegal migrants rather than on managing migration to meet South Africa’s development needs. The exclusionary 1991 Aliens Control Act limited labor recruitment to the highly skilled as defined by the ruling white minority, while bilateral labor agreements provided exemptions that enabled the influential mining industry and, to a lesser extent, commercial farms, to hire temporary, low-paid workers from neighboring states. Illegal African migrants were often tacitly allowed to work for low pay in other sectors but were always under threat of deportation.

    The abolishment of apartheid in 1994 led to the development of a new inclusive national identity and the strengthening of the country’s restrictive immigration policy. Despite South Africa’s protectionist approach to immigration, the downsizing and closing of mines, and rising unemployment, migrants from across the continent believed that the country held work opportunities. Fewer African labor migrants were issued temporary work permits and, instead, increasingly entered South Africa with visitors’ permits or came illegally, which drove growth in cross-border trade and the informal job market. A new wave of Asian immigrants has also arrived over the last two decades, many operating small retail businesses.

    In the post-apartheid period, increasing numbers of highly skilled white workers emigrated, citing dissatisfaction with the political situation, crime, poor services, and a reduced quality of life. The 2002 Immigration Act and later amendments were intended to facilitate the temporary migration of skilled foreign labor to fill labor shortages, but instead the legislation continues to create regulatory obstacles. Although the education system has improved and brain drain has slowed in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, South Africa continues to face skills shortages in several key sectors, such as health care and technology.

    South Africa’s stability and economic growth has acted as a magnet for refugees and asylum seekers from nearby countries, despite the prevalence of discrimination and xenophobic violence. Refugees have included an estimated 350,000 Mozambicans during its 1980s civil war and, more recently, several thousand Somalis, Congolese, and Ethiopians. Nearly all of the tens of thousands of Zimbabweans who have applied for asylum in South Africa have been categorized as economic migrants and denied refuge.

    Age structure:
    0-14 years: 28.18% (male 7,815,651 /female 7,793,261)
    15-24 years: 17.24% (male 4,711,480 /female 4,837,897)
    25-54 years: 42.05% (male 11,782,848 /female 11,503,831)
    55-64 years: 6.71% (male 1,725,034 /female 1,992,035)
    65 years and over: 5.81% (male 1,351,991 /female 1,866,182) (2018 est.)
    population pyramid: population pyramid
    Dependency ratios:
    total dependency ratio: 52.5 (2015 est.)
    youth dependency ratio: 44.8 (2015 est.)
    elderly dependency ratio: 7.7 (2015 est.)
    potential support ratio: 12.9 (2015 est.)
    Median age:
    total: 27.4 years
    male: 27.2 years
    female: 27.6 years (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 144
    Population growth rate:
    0.97% (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 114
    Birth rate:
    19.9 births/1,000 population (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 78
    Death rate:
    9.3 deaths/1,000 population (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 57
    Net migration rate:
    -0.9 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 136
    Population distribution:
    the population concentrated along the southern and southeastern coast, and inland around Pretoria; the eastern half of the country is more densly populated than the west
    Urbanization:
    urban population: 66.4% of total population (2018)
    rate of urbanization: 1.97% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
    Major urban areas - population:
    9.227 million Johannesburg (includes Ekurhuleni), 4.43 million Cape Town (legislative capital), 3.134 million Durban, 2.378 million PRETORIA (capital), 1.231 million Port Elizabeth, 765,000 Vereeniging (2018)
    Sex ratio:
    at birth: 1.01 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    15-24 years: 0.98 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    55-64 years: 0.87 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    65 years and over: 0.73 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
    Maternal mortality rate:
    138 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 63
    Infant mortality rate:
    total: 29.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
    male: 33.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
    female: 26.5 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 62
    Life expectancy at birth:
    total population: 64.1 years (2018 est.)
    male: 62.7 years (2018 est.)
    female: 65.6 years (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 190
    Total fertility rate:
    2.26 children born/woman (2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 91
    Contraceptive prevalence rate:
    54.6% (2016)
    Health expenditures:
    8.8% of GDP (2014)
    country comparison to the world: 44
    Physicians density:
    0.82 physicians/1,000 population (2016)
    Drinking water source:
    improved: urban: 99.6% of population (2015 est.)
    rural: 81.4% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 93.2% of population (2015 est.)
    unimproved: urban: 0.4% of population (2015 est.)
    rural: 18.6% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 6.8% of population (2015 est.)
    Sanitation facility access:
    improved: urban: 69.6% of population (2015 est.)
    rural: 60.5% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 66.4% of population (2015 est.)
    unimproved: urban: 30.4% of population (2015 est.)
    rural: 39.5% of population (2015 est.)
    total: 33.6% of population (2015 est.)
    HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
    18.8% (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 4
    HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
    7.2 million (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 1
    HIV/AIDS - deaths:
    110,000 (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 2
    Major infectious diseases:
    degree of risk: intermediate (2016)
    food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever (2016)
    water contact diseases: schistosomiasis (2016)
    Obesity - adult prevalence rate:
    28.3% (2016)
    country comparison to the world: 31
    Children under the age of 5 years underweight:
    5.9% (2016)
    country comparison to the world: 76
    Education expenditures:
    5.9% of GDP (2016)
    country comparison to the world: 40
    Literacy:
    definition: age 15 and over can read and write (2015 est.)
    total population: 94.4% (2015 est.)
    male: 95.4% (2015 est.)
    female: 93.4% (2015 est.)
    School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
    total: 13 years (2012)
    male: 12 years (2012)
    female: 13 years (2012)
    Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:
    total: 53.5% (2017 est.)
    male: 49.3% (2017 est.)
    female: 58.7% (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 4
  • Government :: South Africa
  • Country name:
    conventional long form: Republic of South Africa
    conventional short form: South Africa
    former: Union of South Africa
    abbreviation: RSA
    etymology: self-descriptive name from the country's location on the continent; "Africa" is derived from the Roman designation of the area corresponding to present-day Tunisia "Africa terra," which meant "Land of the Afri" (the tribe resident in that area), but which eventually came to mean the entire continent
    Government type:
    parliamentary republic
    Capital:
    name: Pretoria (administrative capital); Cape Town (legislative capital); Bloemfontein (judicial capital)
    geographic coordinates: 25 42 S, 28 13 E
    time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
    Administrative divisions:
    9 provinces; Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West, Western Cape
    Independence:
    31 May 1910 (Union of South Africa formed from four British colonies: Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State);22 August 1934 (Status of the Union Act);31 May 1961 (republic declared);27 April 1994 (majority rule)
    National holiday:
    Freedom Day, 27 April (1994)
    Constitution:
    history: several previous; latest drafted 8 May 1996, approved by Constitutional Court 4 December 1996, effective 4 February 1997 (2017)
    amendments: proposed by the National Assembly of Parliament; passage of amendments affecting constitutional sections on human rights and freedoms, non-racism and non-sexism, supremacy of the constitution, suffrage, the multi-party system of democratic government, and amendment procedures requires at least 75% majority vote of the Assembly, approval by at least six of the nine provinces represented in the National Council of Provinces, and assent by the president of the republic; passage of amendments affecting the Bill of Rights, and those related to provincial boundaries, powers, and authorities requires at least two-thirds majority vote of the Assembly, approval by at least six of the nine provinces represented in the National Council, and assent by the president; amended many times, last in 2013 (2017)
    International law organization participation:
    has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
    Citizenship:
    citizenship by birth: no
    citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of South Africa
    dual citizenship recognized: yes, but requires prior permission of the government
    residency requirement for naturalization: 1 year
    Suffrage:
    18 years of age; universal
    Executive branch:
    chief of state: President Matamela Cyril RAMAPHOSA (since 15 February 2018); Deputy President David MABUZA (26 February 2018); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government; Jacob ZUMA resigned the presidency on 14 February 2018
    head of government: President Matamela Cyril RAMAPHOSA (since 15 February 2018); deputy president David MABUZA (26 February 2018)
    cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
    elections/appointments: president indirectly elected by the National Assembly for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 15 February 2018 to elect Cyril RAMAPHOSA as acting president to replace ZUMA for the remainder of his term (next to be held in May 2019)
    election results: Matamela Cyril RAMAPHOSA (ANC) elected president by the National Assembly unopposed
    Legislative branch:
    description: bicameral Parliament consists of:
    National Council of Provinces (90 seats; 10-member delegations appointed by each of the 9 provincial legislatures to serve 5-year terms; note - the Council has special powers to protect regional interests, including safeguarding cultural and linguistic traditions among ethnic minorities)
    National Assembly (400 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote to serve 5-year terms)
    elections:
    National Council of Provinces and National Assembly - last held on 7 May 2014 (next to be held in 2019)
    election results:
    National Council of Provinces - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - ANC 60, DA 20, EFF 7, IFP 1, NFP 1, UDM 1
    National Assembly - percent of vote by party - ANC 62.2%, DA 22.2%, EFF 6.4%, IFP 2.4%, NFP 1.6%, UDM 1%, other 4.2%; seats by party - ANC 249, DA 89, EFF 25, IFP 10, NFP 6, UDM 4, other 17
    Judicial branch:
    highest courts: Supreme Court of Appeals (consists of the court president, deputy president, and 21 judges); Constitutional Court (consists of the chief and deputy chief justices and 9 judges)
    judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court of Appeals president and vice president appointed by the national president after consultation with the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), a 23-member body chaired by the chief justice and includes other judges and judicial executives, members of parliament, practicing lawyers and advocates, a teacher of law, and several members designated by the national president; other Supreme Court judges appointed by the national president on the advice of the JSC and hold office until discharged from active service by an Act of Parliament; Constitutional Court chief and deputy chief justices appointed by the national president after consultation with the JSC and with heads of the National Assembly; other Constitutional Court judges appointed by the national president after consultation with the chief justice and leaders of the National Assembly; Constitutional Court judges appointed for 12-year non-renewable terms or until age 70
    subordinate courts: High Courts; Magistrates' Courts; labor courts; land claims courts
    Political parties and leaders:
    African Christian Democratic Party or ACDP [Kenneth MESHOE]
    African Independent Congress or AIC [Mandla GALO]
    African National Congress or ANC [Cyril RAMAPHOSA]
    African People's Convention or APC [Themba GODI]Agang SA [Mike TSHISHONGA]
    Congress of the People or COPE [Mosiuoa LEKOTA]
    Democratic Alliance or DA [Mmusi MAIMANE]
    Economic Freedom Fighters or EFF [Julius Sello MALEMA]
    Freedom Front Plus or FF+ [Pieter GROENEWALD]
    Inkatha Freedom Party or IFP [Mangosuthu BUTHELEZI]
    National Freedom Party or NFP [Zanele kaMAGWAZA-MSIBI]
    Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania or PAC [Luthanado MBINDA]
    United Christian Democratic Party or UCDP [Isaac Sipho MFUNDISI]
    United Democratic Movement or UDM [Bantu HOLOMISA]
    International organization participation:
    ACP, AfDB, AU, BIS, BRICS, C, CD, FAO, FATF, G-20, G-24, G-5, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MONUSCO, NAM, NSG, OECD (enhanced engagement), OPCW, Paris Club (associate), PCA, SACU, SADC, UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
    Diplomatic representation in the US:
    chief of mission: Ambassador Mninwa Johannes MAHLANGU (since 23 February 2015)
    chancery: 3051 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
    telephone: [1] (202) 232-4400
    FAX: [1] (202) 265-1607
    consulate(s) general: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York
    Diplomatic representation from the US:
    chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Jessica "Jessye" LAPENN (since 16 December 2016)
    embassy: 877 Pretorius Street, Arcadia, Pretoria
    mailing address: P.O. Box 9536, Pretoria 0001
    telephone: [27] (12) 431-4000
    FAX: [27] (12) 342-2299
    consulate(s) general: Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg
    Flag description:
    two equal width horizontal bands of red (top) and blue separated by a central green band that 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; the flag colors do not have any official symbolism, but the Y stands for the "convergence of diverse elements within South African society, taking the road ahead in unity"; black, yellow, and green are found on the flag of the African National Congress, while red, white, and blue are the colors in the flags of the Netherlands and the UK, whose settlers ruled South Africa during the colonial era

    note: the South African flag is one of only two national flags to display six colors as part of its primary design, the other is South Sudan's

    National symbol(s):
    springbok (antelope), king protea flower; national colors: red, green, blue, yellow, black, white
    National anthem:
    name: National Anthem of South Africa
    lyrics/music: Enoch SONTONGA and Cornelius Jacob LANGENHOVEN/Enoch SONTONGA and Marthinus LOURENS de Villiers

    note: adopted 1994; a combination of "N'kosi Sikelel' iAfrica" (God Bless Africa) and "Die Stem van Suid Afrika" (The Call of South Africa), which were respectively the anthems of the non-white and white communities under apartheid; official lyrics contain a mixture of Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans, and English (i.e., the five most widely spoken of South Africa's 11 official languages); music incorporates the melody used in the Tanzanian and Zambian anthems

  • Economy :: South Africa
  • 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; and a stock exchange that is Africa’s largest and among the top 20 in the world.

    Economic growth has decelerated in recent years, slowing to an estimated 0.7% in 2017. Unemployment, poverty, and inequality - among the highest in the world - remain a challenge. Official unemployment is roughly 27% of the workforce, and runs significantly higher among black youth. Even though the country's modern infrastructure supports a relatively efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region, unstable electricity supplies retard growth. Eskom, the state-run power company, is building three new power stations and is installing new power demand management programs to improve power grid reliability but has been plagued with accusations of mismanagement and corruption and faces an increasingly high debt burden.

    South Africa's economic policy has focused on controlling inflation while empowering a broader economic base; however, the country faces structural constraints that also limit economic growth, such as skills shortages, declining global competitiveness, and frequent work stoppages due to strike action. The government faces growing pressure from urban constituencies to improve the delivery of basic services to low-income areas, to increase job growth, and to provide university level-education at affordable prices. Political infighting among South Africa’s ruling party and the volatility of the rand risks economic growth. International investors are concerned about the country’s long-term economic stability; in late 2016, most major international credit ratings agencies downgraded South Africa’s international debt to junk bond status.

    GDP (purchasing power parity):
    $767.2 billion (2017 est.)
    $757.2 billion (2016 est.)
    $752.9 billion (2015 est.)

    note: data are in 2017 dollars

    country comparison to the world: 30
    GDP (official exchange rate):
    $349.3 billion (2017 est.) (2017 est.)
    GDP - real growth rate:
    1.3% (2017 est.)
    0.6% (2016 est.)
    1.3% (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 179
    GDP - per capita (PPP):
    $13,600 (2017 est.)
    $13,600 (2016 est.)
    $13,800 (2015 est.)

    note: data are in 2017 dollars

    country comparison to the world: 118
    Gross national saving:
    16.1% of GDP (2017 est.)
    16.6% of GDP (2016 est.)
    16.4% of GDP (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 128
    GDP - composition, by end use:
    household consumption: 59.4% (2017 est.)
    government consumption: 20.9% (2017 est.)
    investment in fixed capital: 18.7% (2017 est.)
    investment in inventories: -0.1% (2017 est.)
    exports of goods and services: 29.8% (2017 est.)
    imports of goods and services: -28.4% (2017 est.)
    GDP - composition, by sector of origin:
    agriculture: 2.8% (2017 est.)
    industry: 29.7% (2017 est.)
    services: 67.5% (2017 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, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair
    Industrial production growth rate:
    1.2% (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 151
    Labor force:
    22.19 million (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 29
    Labor force - by occupation:
    agriculture: 4.6%
    industry: 23.5%
    services: 71.9% (2014 est.)
    Unemployment rate:
    27.5% (2017 est.)
    26.7% (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 200
    Population below poverty line:
    16.6% (2016 est.)
    Household income or consumption by percentage share:
    lowest 10%: 51.3% (2011 est.)
    highest 10%: 51.3% (2011 est.)
    Distribution of family income - Gini index:
    62.5 (2013 est.)
    63.4 (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 2
    Budget:
    revenues: 92.86 billion (2017 est.)
    expenditures: 108.3 billion (2017 est.)
    Taxes and other revenues:
    26.6% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 107
    Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
    -4.4% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 163
    Public debt:
    53% of GDP (2017 est.)
    51.6% of GDP (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 92
    Fiscal year:
    1 April - 31 March
    Inflation rate (consumer prices):
    5.3% (2017 est.)
    6.3% (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 174
    Central bank discount rate:
    5.75% (31 December 2014)
    7% (31 December 2009)
    country comparison to the world: 72
    Commercial bank prime lending rate:
    10.38% (31 December 2017 est.)
    10.46% (31 December 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 83
    Stock of narrow money:
    $137.5 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
    $117.3 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 30
    Stock of broad money:
    $137.5 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
    $117.3 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 30
    Stock of domestic credit:
    $295.9 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
    $244.8 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 38
    Market value of publicly traded shares:
    $735.9 billion (31 December 2015 est.)
    $933.9 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
    $942.8 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 16
    Current account balance:
    -$8.584 billion (2017 est.)
    -$8.237 billion (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 189
    Exports:
    $94.93 billion (2017 est.)
    $75.16 billion (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 39
    Exports - partners:
    China 9.5%, US 7.7%, Germany 7.1%, Japan 4.7%, India 4.6%, Botswana 4.3%, Namibia 4.1% (2017)
    Exports - commodities:
    gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment
    Imports:
    $89.36 billion (2017 est.)
    $79.57 billion (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 40
    Imports - commodities:
    machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments, foodstuffs
    Imports - partners:
    China 18.3%, Germany 11.9%, US 6.6%, Saudi Arabia 4.7%, India 4.7% (2017)
    Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
    $50.72 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
    $47.23 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 39
    Debt - external:
    $156.3 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
    $144.6 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 41
    Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
    $156.8 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
    $136.8 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 38
    Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
    $270.3 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
    $172.8 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 24
    Exchange rates:
    rand (ZAR) per US dollar -
    13.67 (2017 est.)
    14.6924 (2016 est.)
    14.6924 (2015 est.)
    12.7581 (2014 est.)
    10.8469 (2013 est.)
  • Energy :: South Africa
  • Electricity access:
    population without electricity: 7.7 million (2013)
    electrification - total population: 85% (2013)
    electrification - urban areas: 90% (2013)
    electrification - rural areas: 77% (2013)
    Electricity - production:
    234.5 billion kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 21
    Electricity - consumption:
    207.1 billion kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 21
    Electricity - exports:
    16.55 billion kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 11
    Electricity - imports:
    10.56 billion kWh (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 24
    Electricity - installed generating capacity:
    50.02 million kW (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 21
    Electricity - from fossil fuels:
    85% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 73
    Electricity - from nuclear fuels:
    4% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 24
    Electricity - from hydroelectric plants:
    1% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 150
    Electricity - from other renewable sources:
    10% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 81
    Crude oil - production:
    2,000 bbl/day (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 89
    Crude oil - exports:
    0 bbl/day (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 197
    Crude oil - imports:
    404,000 bbl/day (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 22
    Crude oil - proved reserves:
    15 million bbl (1 January 2018 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 86
    Refined petroleum products - production:
    487,100 bbl/day (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 33
    Refined petroleum products - consumption:
    621,000 bbl/day (2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 32
    Refined petroleum products - exports:
    105,600 bbl/day (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 42
    Refined petroleum products - imports:
    195,200 bbl/day (2015 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 34
    Natural gas - production:
    906.1 million cu m (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 70
    Natural gas - consumption:
    5.069 billion cu m (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 60
    Natural gas - exports:
    0 cu m (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 187
    Natural gas - imports:
    4.162 billion cu m (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 39
    Natural gas - proved reserves:
    0 cu m (1 January 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 196
    Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy:
    572.3 million Mt (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 11
  • Communications :: South Africa
  • Telephones - fixed lines:
    total subscriptions: 3,629,141 (2017 est.)
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 7 (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 39
    Telephones - mobile cellular:
    total subscriptions: 91,878,275 (2017 est.)
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 168 (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 17
    Telephone system:
    general assessment: the system is the best-developed and most modern in Africa (2016)
    domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity exceeds 145 telephones per 100 persons; 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 (2016)
    international: country code - 27; the SAT-3/WASC and SAFE fiber-optic submarine cable systems connect South Africa to Europe and Asia; the EASSy fiber-optic cable system connects with Europe and North America; satellite earth stations - 3 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 2 Atlantic Ocean) (2016)
    Broadcast media:
    the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) operates 4 TV stations, 3 are free-to-air and 1 is pay TV; e.tv, a private station, is accessible to more than half the population; multiple subscription TV services provide a mix of local and international channels; well-developed mix of public and private radio stations at the national, regional, and local levels; the SABC radio network, state-owned and controlled but nominally independent, operates 18 stations, one for each of the 11 official languages, 4 community stations, and 3 commercial stations; more than 100 community-based stations extend coverage to rural areas (2007)
    Internet country code:
    .za
    Internet users:
    total: 29,322,380 (July 2016 est.)
    percent of population: 54% (July 2016 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 25
    Broadband - fixed subscriptions:
    total: 1,698,360 (2017 est.)
    subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 3 (2017 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 57
  • Transportation :: South Africa
  • National air transport system:
    number of registered air carriers: 23 (2015)
    inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 216 (2015)
    annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 17,188,887 (2015)
    annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 885,277,991 mt-km (2015)
    Civil aircraft registration country code prefix:
    ZS (2016)
    Airports:
    566 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 11
    Airports - with paved runways:
    total: 144 (2013)
    over 3,047 m: 11 (2013)
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 7 (2013)
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 52 (2013)
    914 to 1,523 m: 65 (2013)
    under 914 m: 9 (2013)
    Airports - with unpaved runways:
    total: 422 (2013)
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2013)
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 31 (2013)
    914 to 1,523 m: 258 (2013)
    under 914 m: 132 (2013)
    Heliports:
    1 (2013)
    Pipelines:
    94 km condensate, 1293 km gas, 992 km oil, 1460 km refined products (2013)
    Railways:
    total: 20,986 km (2014)
    standard gauge: 80 km 1.435-m gauge (80 km electrified) (2014)
    narrow gauge: 19,756 km 1.065-m gauge (8,271 km electrified) (2014)
    other: 1,150 km (passenger rail, gauge unspecified, 1,115.5 km electrified) (2014)
    country comparison to the world: 13
    Roadways:
    total: 747,014 km (2014)
    paved: 158,952 km (2014)
    unpaved: 588,062 km (2014)
    country comparison to the world: 10
    Merchant marine:
    total: 82 (2017)
    by type: bulk carrier 2, general cargo 1, oil tanker 5, other 74 (2017)
    country comparison to the world: 95
    Ports and terminals:
    major seaport(s): Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay
    container port(s) (TEUs): Durban (2,620,000) (2016)
    LNG terminal(s) (import): Mossel Bay
  • Military and Security :: South Africa
  • Military expenditures:
    1.07% of GDP (2016)
    1.09% of GDP (2015)
    1.11% of GDP (2014)
    country comparison to the world: 109
    Military branches:
    South African National Defense Force (SANDF): South African Army, South African Navy (SAN), South African Air Force (SAAF), South African Military Health Services (2013)
    Military service age and obligation:
    18 years of age for voluntary military service; women are eligible to serve in noncombat roles; 2-year service obligation (2012)
  • Transnational Issues :: South Africa
  • Disputes - international:
    South Africa has placed military units to assist police operations along the border of Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to control smuggling, poaching, and illegal migrationthe governments of South Africa and Namibia have not signed or ratified the text of the 1994 Surveyor's General agreement placing the boundary in the middle of the Orange River
    Refugees and internally displaced persons:
    refugees (country of origin): 28,695 (Somalia), 17,776 (Ethiopia), 5,394 (Republic of the Congo) (2016), 59,480 (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (refugees and asylum seekers) (2018)
    Illicit drugs:
    transshipment center for heroin, hashish, and cocaine, as well as a major cultivator of marijuana in its own right; cocaine and heroin consumption on the rise; world's largest market for illicit methaqualone, usually imported illegally from India through various east African countries, but increasingly producing its own synthetic drugs for domestic consumption; attractive venue for money launderers given the increasing level of organized criminal and narcotics activity in the region and the size of the South African economy