South Africa

Country Summary

2022 population pyramid



By about A.D. 500, Bantu speaking groups settled into northeastern South Africa. Dutch traders landed at the southern tip of present-day South Africa in 1652. The British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806. British and Afrikaners (Dutch descendants) ruled jointly from 1910 in the Union of South Africa. The African National Congress (ANC) led the opposition to apartheid. The first multi-racial elections in 1994 followed the end of apartheid.



total: 1,219,090 sq km

land: 1,214,470 sq km

water: 4,620 sq km


mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights

Natural resources

gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, rare earth elements, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas

People and Society


57,516,665 (2022 est.)

Ethnic groups

Black African 80.9%, Colored 8.8%, White 7.8%, Indian/Asian 2.6% (2021 est.)


isiZulu (official) 25.3%, isiXhosa (official) 14.8%, Afrikaans (official) 12.2%, Sepedi (official) 10.1%, Setswana (official) 9.1%, English (official) 8.1%, Sesotho (official) 7.9%, Xitsonga (official) 3.6%, siSwati (official) 2.8%, Tshivenda (official) 2.5%, isiNdebele (official) 1.6%, other (includes Khoi, Nama, and San languages) 2%; note - data represent language spoken most often at home (2018 est.)


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.)

Population growth rate

0.93% (2022 est.)


Government type

parliamentary republic


name: Pretoria (administrative capital); Cape Town (legislative capital); Bloemfontein (judicial capital)

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; note- Jacob ZUMA resigned on 14 February 2018

head of government: President Matamela Cyril RAMAPHOSA (since 15 February 2018); deputy president David MABUZA (26 February 2018

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament consists of:
National Council of Provinces (90 seats; nine 10-member delegations, each with 6 permanent delegates and 4 special delegates, 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; half the members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies and half in a single nationwide constituency, both by proportional representation popular vote; members serve 5-year terms)


Economic overview

upper middle-income South African economy; hard hit by COVID-19; poor utilities management; key rare earth goods exporter; high income inequality; hosts Africa’s largest stock exchange; rising unemployment, especially youth; land rights changes

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$680.04 billion (2020 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$11,500 (2020 est.)

Agricultural products

sugar cane, maize, milk, potatoes, grapes, poultry, oranges, wheat, soybeans, beef


mining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair


$93.01 billion (2020 est.)

Exports - partners

China 15%, United Kingdom 8%, Germany 7%, United States 6%, India 6% (2019)

Exports - commodities

gold, platinum, cars, iron products, coal, manganese, diamonds  (2019)


$77.86 billion (2020 est.)

Imports - partners

China 18%, Germany 11%, United States 6%, India 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

crude petroleum, refined petroleum, cars and vehicle parts, gold, broadcasting equipment (2019)

Exchange rates

rand (ZAR) per US dollar -

Page last updated: Friday, August 26, 2022