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South Africa country facts

Republic of South Africa Africa Pretoria (administrative capital) 48,375,645 inhabitants 1,219,090 sq km 39.68 inhabitants/sq km rand (ZAR) population evolution



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 (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 Second Anglo Boer War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, as the Boers became known, 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 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 brought an end to apartheid and ushered in majority rule under an ANC-led government. South Africa since then has struggled to address apartheid-era imbalances in decent housing, education, and health care. ANC infighting, which has grown in recent years, came to a head in September 2008 when President Thabo MBEKI resigned, and Kgalema MOTLANTHE, the party's General-Secretary, succeeded him as interim president. Jacob ZUMA became president after the ANC won general elections in April 2009. National presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 2014.



Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa

Geographic coordinates

29 00 S, 24 00 E

Area (sq km)

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)

Area - comparative (sq km)

slightly less than twice the size of Texas

Land boundaries (km)

total: 4,862 km
border countries: Botswana 1,840 km, Lesotho 909 km, Mozambique 491 km, Namibia 967 km, Swaziland 430 km, Zimbabwe 225 km

Coastline (km)

2,798 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to edge of the continental margin


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


vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain

Elevation extremes (m)

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Njesuthi 3,408 m

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 (%)

arable land: 9.87%
permanent crops: 0.34%
other: 89.79% (2011)

Irrigated land (sq km)

16,700 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources (cu km)

51.4 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural) ()

total: 12.5 cu km/yr (36%/7%/57%)
per capita: 271.7 cu m/yr (2005)

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; soil erosion; desertification

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 Swaziland

People and Society


noun: South African(s)
adjective: South African

Ethnic groups (%)

black African 79.2%, white 8.9%, colored 8.9%, Indian/Asian 2.5%, other 0.5% (2011 est.)

Languages (%)

IsiZulu (official) 22.7%, IsiXhosa (official) 16%, Afrikaans (official) 13.5%, English (official) 9.6%, Sepedi (official) 9.1%, Setswana (official) 8%, Sesotho (official) 7.6%, Xitsonga (official) 4.5%, siSwati (official) 2.5%, Tshivenda (official) 2.4%, isiNdebele (official) 2.1%, sign language 0.5%, other 1.6% (2011 est.)

Religions (%)

Protestant 36.6% (Zionist Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal/Charismatic 8.2%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%), Catholic 7.1%, Muslim 1.5%, other Christian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1% (2001 census)


note: Statistics South Africa (the national statistical agency of South Africa) estimates the country's mid-year 2013 total population to be 52,981,991, which takes into account the findings of South Africa's 2011 census; 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 (July 2014 est.)   evolution and prospects (1950-2100)

Age structure (%)

0-14 years: 28.3% (male 6,859,518/female 6,815,185)
15-24 years: 20.2% (male 4,914,394/female 4,866,121)
25-54 years: 38.2% (male 9,543,746/female 8,923,605)
55-64 years: 7.1% (male 1,470,282/female 1,950,499)
65 years and over: 6.1% (male 1,205,657/female 1,826,638) (2014 est.)

Age structure in South Africa

Median age (years)

total: 25.7 years
male: 25.4 years
female: 26 years (2014 est.)

Population growth rate (%)

-0.48% (2014 est.)

Birth rate (births/1,000 population)

18.94 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)

Death rate (deaths/1,000 population)

17.49 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)

Net migration rate (migrant(s)/1,000 population)

-6.27 migrant(s)/1,000 population
note: there is an increasing flow of Zimbabweans into South Africa and Botswana in search of better economic opportunities (2014 est.)

Urbanization (%)

urban population: 62% of total population (2011)
rate of urbanization: 1.21% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

Johannesburg 3.844 million; Cape Town (legislative capital) 3.562 million; Ekurhuleni (East Rand) 3.357 million; Durban 3.012 million; PRETORIA (capital) 1.501 million; Vereeniging 1.2 million; Bloemfontein (judicial capital) 468,000 (2011)

Sex ratio (male(s)/female)

at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.67 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2014 est.)

Maternal mortality rate (deaths/100,000 live births)

300 deaths/100,000 live births (2010)

Infant mortality rate (deaths/1,000 live births)

total: 41.61 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 45.25 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 37.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)

Life expectancy at birth (years)

total population: 49.56 years
male: 50.52 years
female: 48.58 years (2014 est.)

Total fertility rate (children born/woman)

2.23 children born/woman (2014 est.)

Health expenditures (% of GDP)

8.5% of GDP (2011)

Physicians density (physicians/1,000 population)

0.76 physicians/1,000 population (2011)

Hospital bed density (beds/1,000 population)

2.8 beds/1,000 population (2005)

Drinking water source (% of population)

improved: urban: 99.2% of population
rural: 88.3% of population
total: 95.1% of population
unimproved: urban: 0.8% of population
rural: 11.7% of population
total: 4.9% of population (2012 est.)

Sanitation facility access (% of population)

improved: urban: 81.7% of population
rural: 62.4% of population
total: 74.4% of population
unimproved: urban: 18.3% of population
rural: 37.6% of population
total: 25.6% of population (2012 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate (%)

17.9% (2012 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

6,070,800 (2012 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

235,100 (2012 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2013)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate (%)

31.3% (2008)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight (%)

8.7% (2008)

Education expenditures (% of GDP)

6% of GDP (2010)

Literacy (%)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93%
male: 93.9%
female: 92.2% (2011 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 (%)

total: 51.5%
male: 47.1%
female: 56.9% (2012)


Country name

conventional long form: Republic of South Africa
conventional short form: South Africa
former: Union of South Africa
abbreviation: RSA

Government type



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


31 May 1910 (Union of South Africa formed from four British colonies: Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State); 31 May 1961 (republic declared); 27 April 1994 (majority rule)

National holiday

Freedom Day, 27 April (1994)


several previous; latest drafted 8 May 1996, approved 4 December 1997, effective 4 February 1997; amended many times, last in 2013 (2013)

Legal system

mixed legal system of Roman-Dutch civil law, English common law, and customary law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: President Jacob ZUMA (since 9 May 2009); Deputy President Matamela Cyril RAMAPHOSA (since 26 May 2014) note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Jacob ZUMA (since 9 May 2009); Deputy President Matamela Cyril RAMAPHOSA (since 26 May 2014)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 21 May 2014 (next to be held on May 2019)
election results: Jacob ZUMA re-elected president unopposed; he was sworn in on 24 May 2014

Legislative branch

bicameral Parliament consisting of the National Council of Provinces (90 seats; 10 members elected by each of the nine provincial legislatures for five-year terms; has special powers to protect regional interests, including the safeguarding of cultural and linguistic traditions among ethnic minorities) and the National Assembly (400 seats; members elected by popular vote under a system of proportional representation to serve five-year terms)
elections: National Assembly and National Council of Provinces - last held on 7 May 2014 (next to be held in May 2019)
election results: National Council of Provinces - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - ANC 62.2%, DA 22.2%, EFF 6.4%, IFP 2.4%, NFP 1.6%, other 5.2%; seats by party - ANC 249, DA 89, EFF 25, IFP 10, NFP 6, other 21

Judicial branch

highest court(s): 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 Joint Services Commission (JSC), a 22-member body of judicial and other government officials, and a law academics; other Supreme Court judges appointed by the national president on the advice of the JSC and hold office until discharged from active service in terms of 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 National Congress or ANC [Jacob ZUMA]
Congress of the People or COPE [Mosiuoa LEKOTA]
Democratic Alliance or DA [Helen ZILLE]
Economic Freedom Fighters or EFF [Julius MALEMA]
Freedom Front Plus or FF+ [Pieter MULDER]
Inkatha Freedom Party or IFP [Mangosuthu BUTHELEZI]
National Freedom Party or NFP [Zanele kaMAGWAZA-MSIBI]
Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania or PAC [Alton MPHETHI]
United Christian Democratic Party or UCDP [Isaac Sipho MFUNDISI]
United Democratic Movement or UDM [Bantu HOLOMISA]

Political pressure groups and leaders

Congress of South African Trade Unions or COSATU [Zwelinzima VAVI, general secretary]
South African Communist Party or SACP [Blade NZIMANDE, general secretary]
South African National Civics Organization or SANCO [Richard MDAKANE, national president]
note: COSATU and SACP are in a formal alliance with the ANC

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Ebrahim RASOOL (since 4 August 2010)
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 Patrick GASPARD (since 1 August 2013)
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 Sudan country facts" data-cl-code="SDS">South Sudan's

National symbol(s)

springbok antelope

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; the anthem is 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; the 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); the music incorporates the melody used in the Tanzanian and Zambian anthems


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 the 16th largest in the world. 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. The global financial crisis reduced commodity prices and world demand. GDP fell nearly 2% in 2009 but has recovered since then, albeit slowly with 2014 growth projected at about 2%. Unemployment, poverty, and inequality - among the highest in the world - remain a challenge. Official unemployment is at nearly 25% of the work force, and runs significantly higher among black youth. Eskom, the state-run power company, has built two new power stations and installed new power demand management programs to improve power grid reliability. Construction delays at two additional plants, however, mean South Africa is operating on a razor thin margin; economists judge that growth cannot exceed 3% until those plants come on line. South Africa's economic policy has focused on controlling inflation, however, the country has had significant budget deficits that restrict its ability to deal with pressing economic problems. The current government faces growing pressure from special interest groups to use state-owned enterprises to deliver basic services to low-income areas and to increase job growth.

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$595.7 billion (2013 est.)
$584 billion (2012 est.)
$569.5 billion (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$353.9 billion (2013 est.)

GDP - real growth rate (%)

2% (2013 est.)
2.5% (2012 est.)
3.5% (2011 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$11,500 (2013 est.)
$11,400 (2012 est.)
$11,300 (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars

GDP - composition, by sector of origin (%)

agriculture: 2.6%
industry: 29%
services: 68.4% (2013 est.)

Labor force

18.54 million (2013 est.)

Labor force - by occupation (%)

agriculture: 9%
industry: 26%
services: 65% (2007 est.)

Unemployment rate (%)

24.9% (2013 est.)
25.1% (2012 est.)

Population below poverty line (%)

31.3% (2009 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share (%)

lowest 10%: 1.2%
highest 10%: 51.7% (2009 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index

63.1 (2005)
59.3 (1994)


revenues: $88.53 billion
expenditures: $105.5 billion (2013 est.)

Taxes and other revenues (% of GDP)

25% of GDP (2013 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) (% of GDP)

-4.8% of GDP (2013 est.)

Public debt (% of GDP)

45.4% of GDP (2013 est.)
42.3% of GDP (2012 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices) (%)

5.8% (2013 est.)
5.7% (2012 est.)

Central bank discount rate (%)

5% (31 December 2012)
7% (31 December 2009)

Commercial bank prime lending rate (%)

8.5% (31 December 2013 est.)
8.75% (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of narrow money

$110.2 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$122 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of broad money

$198 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$220.1 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of domestic credit

$252.6 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$298.8 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares

$1.038 trillion (31 December 2012)
$855.7 billion (31 December 2011)
$1.013 trillion (31 December 2010)

Agriculture - products

corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool, dairy products


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 (%)

0.9% (2013 est.)

Current account balance

-$23.78 billion (2013 est.)
-$24.07 billion (2012 est.)


$91.05 billion (2013 est.)
$93.48 billion (2012 est.)

Exports - commodities (%)

gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment

Exports - partners (%)

China 11.8%, US 8.3%, Japan 6%, Germany 5.7%, India 4.2% (2012)


$99.55 billion (2013 est.)
$102.6 billion (2012 est.)

Imports - commodities (%)

machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, scientific instruments, foodstuffs

Imports - partners (%)

China 14.4%, Germany 10.1%, Saudi Arabia 7.7%, US 7.4%, Japan 4.6%, India 4.5% (2012)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$48.46 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$50.7 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

External debt ($)

$139 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$130.4 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home

$143.3 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$139 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad

$87.67 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
$82.82 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Exchange rates

Currency converter
rand (ZAR) per US dollar -
9.576 (2013 est.)
8.2031 (2012 est.)
7.3212 (2010 est.)
8.42 (2009)
7.9576 (2008)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March


Electricity - production (kWh)

257.9 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption (kWh)

234.2 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports (kWh)

15.04 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - imports (kWh)

11.89 billion kWh (2011 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity (kW)

44.26 million kW (2010 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels (% of total installed capacity)

90.8% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels (% of total installed capacity)

4.1% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants (% of total installed capacity)

1.5% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources (% of total installed capacity)

0.5% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)

Crude oil - production (bbl/day)

181,000 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - exports (bbl/day)

0 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Crude oil - imports (bbl/day)

385,100 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves (bbl)

15 million bbl (1 January 2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production (bbl/day)

437,600 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption (bbl/day)

590,900 bbl/day (2011 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports (bbl/day)

80,460 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports (bbl/day)

79,010 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Natural gas - production (cu m)

1.28 billion cu m (2011 est.)

Natural gas - consumption (cu m)

4.01 billion cu m (2010 est.)

Natural gas - exports (cu m)

0 cu m (2011 est.)

Natural gas - imports (cu m)

3.3 billion cu m (2011 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves (cu m)

16 billion cu m (1 January 2012 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy (Mt)

461.6 million Mt (2011 est.)


Telephones - main lines in use

4.03 million (2012)

Telephones - mobile cellular

68.4 million (2012)

Telephone system

general assessment: the system is the best developed and most modern in Africa
domestic: combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity is roughly 140 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
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) (2011)

Broadcast media

the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) operates 4 TV stations, 3 are free-to-air and 1 is pay 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


Internet hosts

4.761 million (2012)

Internet users

4.42 million (2009)



566 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 144
over 3,047 m: 11
2,438 to 3,047 m: 7
1,524 to 2,437 m: 52
914 to 1,523 m: 65
under 914 m: 9 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 422
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 31
914 to 1,523 m: 258
under 914 m: 132 (2013)


1 (2013)

Pipelines (km)

condensate 94 km; gas 1,293 km; oil 992 km; refined products 1,460 km (2013)

Railways (km)

total: 20,192 km
narrow gauge: 19,756 km 1.065-m gauge (8,271 km electrified); 122 km 0.750-m gauge; 314 km 0.610-m gauge (2008)

Roadways (km)

total: 364,131 km
paved: 62,995 km (includes 254 km of expressways)
unpaved: 301,136 km (2002)

Merchant marine

total: 3
by type: petroleum tanker 3
registered in other countries: 19 (Australia 1, Isle of Man 2, Mexico 1, NZ 1, Seychelles 1, Singapore 13) (2010)

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Richards Bay, Saldanha Bay
container port(s) (TEUs): Durban (2,712,975)


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 (years of age)

18 years of age for voluntary military service; women are eligible to serve in noncombat roles; 2-year service obligation (2012)

Manpower available for military service

males age 16-49: 13,439,781
females age 16-49: 12,473,641 (2010 est.)

Manpower fit for military service

males age 16-49: 7,617,063
females age 16-49: 6,476,264 (2010 est.)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually

male: 482,122
female: 485,017 (2010 est.)

Military expenditures (% of GDP)

1% of GDP (2013)
1.16% of GDP (2012)
1.14% of GDP (2011)
1.16% of GDP (2010)

Military - note

with the end of apartheid and the establishment of majority rule, former military, black homelands forces, and ex-opposition forces were integrated into the South African National Defense Force (SANDF); as of 2003 the integration process was considered complete

Transnational Issues

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 migration; the 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): 20,814 (Somalia); 14,374 (Democratic Republic of Congo); 7,578 (Ethiopia) (2013)

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

Largest cities of South Africa

These are the 50 largest cities of South Africa ordered based on their number of inhabitants.

# City Population
1 Cape Town 3,433,504
2 Durban 3,120,340
3 Johannesburg 2,026,466
4 Soweto 1,695,094
5 Pretoria 1,619,485
6 Port Elizabeth 967,722
7 Pietermaritzburg 750,864
8 Benoni 605,363
9 Tembisa 511,671
10 Vereeniging 474,680
11 Bloemfontein 463,084
12 Boksburg 445,182
13 Welkom 432,070
14 East London 421,562
15 Newcastle 404,849
16 Krugersdorp 378,833
17 Botshabelo 309,810
18 Brakpan 305,702
19 Witbank 262,514
20 Richards Bay 253,156
21 Vanderbijlpark 246,821
22 Verwoerdburg 233,394
23 Uitenhage 228,924
24 Alberton 202,503
25 Paarl 187,875
26 Springs 186,400
27 Somerset West 183,503
28 Klerksdorp 178,928
29 George 174,591
30 Midrand 173,009
31 Westonaria 156,831
32 Middelburg 154,720
33 Vryheid 150,079
34 Orkney 145,843
35 Kimberley 142,105
36 Nigel 140,649
37 Bisho 137,288
38 Randfontein 133,659
39 Worcester 127,604
40 Rustenburg 124,064
41 Pietersburg 123,754
42 Potchefstroom 123,674
43 Brits 122,576
44 Virginia 122,542
45 Nelspruit 110,170
46 Phalaborwa 109,468
47 Queenstown 105,315
48 Kroonstad 103,997
49 Bethal 101,986
50 Potgietersrus 101,090