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Country Profiles: South Africa


Flag, map and facts courtesy of CIA World Factbook 2002

Background After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments, but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902). The resulting Union of South Africa operated under a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races. The 1990s brought an end to apartheid politically and ushered in black majority rule.
Location
Map of South Africa
Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa
Area total: 1,219,912 sq km
land: 1,219,912 sq km
note: includes Prince Edward Islands (Marion Island and Prince Edward Island)
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative slightly less than twice the size of Texas
Climate mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights
Terrain vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain
Elevation extremes lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Njesuthi 3,408 m
Natural resources gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas
Land use arable land: 12%
permanent crops: 1%
other: 87% (1998 est.)
Natural hazards prolonged droughts
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; soil erosion; desertification
Geography - note South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland
Population 43,647,658
note: South Africa took a census October 1996 that showed a population of 40,583,611 (after an official adjustment for a 6.8% underenumeration based on a postenumeration survey); 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 and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 0-14 years: 31.6% (male 6,943,761; female 6,849,745)
15-64 years: 63.4% (male 13,377,011; female 14,300,850)
65 years and over: 5% (male 816,222; female 1,360,069) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 0.02% (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 61.78 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth total population: 45.43 years
female: 45.68 years (2002 est.)
male: 45.19 years
Ethnic groups black 75.2%, white 13.6%, Colored 8.6%, Indian 2.6%
Religions Christian 68% (includes most whites and Coloreds, about 60% of blacks and about 40% of Indians), Muslim 2%, Hindu 1.5% (60% of Indians), indigenous beliefs and animist 28.5%
Languages 11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu
Literacy definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 85% male: 86%
female: 85% (2000 est.)
Government type republic
Capital Pretoria
note - Cape Town is the legislative center and Bloemfontein the judicial center
Independence 31 May 1910 (from UK)
Legal system based on Roman-Dutch law and English common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
Suffrage 18 years of age; universal
Flag description two equal width horizontal bands of red (top) and blue separated by a central green band which 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
note: prior to 26 April 1994, the flag was actually four flags in one - three miniature flags reproduced in the center of the white band of the former flag of the Netherlands, which had three equal horizontal bands of orange (top), white, and blue; the miniature flags were a vertically hanging flag of the old Orange Free State with a horizontal flag of the UK adjoining on the hoist side and a horizontal flag of the old Transvaal Republic adjoining on the other side

Flag of South Africa
Economy - overview South Africa is a middle-income, developing country with an abundant supply of resources, well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, a stock exchange that ranks among the 10 largest in the world, and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. However, growth has not been strong enough to cut into high unemployment, and daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era, especially the problems of poverty and lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups. Other problems are crime, corruption, and HIV/AIDS. At the start of 2000, President Mbeki vowed to promote economic growth and foreign investment, and to reduce poverty by relaxing restrictive labor laws, stepping up the pace of privatization, and cutting unneeded governmental spending. The economy slowed in 2001, largely the result of the slowing of the international economy.
GDP - per capita purchasing power parity - $9,400 (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line 50% (2000 est.)
Labor force 17 million economically active (2000)
Unemployment rate 37% (2001 est.)
Industries mining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textile, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs
Agriculture - products corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool, dairy products
Exports - commodities gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment
Imports - commodities machinery, foodstuffs and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments

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