South Africa lies at the southern end of the African continent, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans come together. For a long time in the past centuries South Africa was governed by whites, although about 80 % of the population are blacks. In the 1990s the election of the first black president , Nelson Mandela opened a new chapter of South African history.
Size and Geography
South Africa has an area of about 1.2 million square kilometres. Its neighbours to the north are Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland. Lesotho is a small country that is completely surrounded by South Africa. On the other three sides South Africa is surrounded by oceans.
Most of the country lies on a plateau. The central part known as the Highveld lies between 1,200 and 1,800 metres above sea level . Large farms and ranches and fields dominate the countryside. The Great Escarpment separates the higher regions of the inner country from the low areas along the coast. The highest part of this mountain range is the Drakensberg which reaches a height of 3,350 metres. In western South Africa the Kalahari and Namib deserts spread over a great part of the country. The biggest river is the Orange. It begins in the Drakenberg Mountains and flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
South Africa has a moderate climate with mild temperatures. In some areas there is not enough rain for farming and droughts are common .
Population of South Africa
About 44 million people live in South Africa. Blacks make up almost 80 % of the population. They belong to different ethnic groups and speak different languages. The largest tribes , the Zulu and Xhosa, have lived in South Africa for the longest time. About half of them live in cities and the other half on small farms in the countryside. Many blacks still work for white people in gold and diamond mines but many are poor and have no jobs.
South Africa has three minorities . The Whites make up about 10% of the population. Apart from the English speaking population there are also the descendants Dutch, German and French settlers , who are called Afrikaners . Almost all whites live in the big cities. Many Afrikaners control the farms in the countryside.
9% of the population are Coloreds , people of mixed race . Many work as servants and hold jobs in factories . Asians, which make up about 2% of the population, are the fourth largest group. Most of them are descendants of settlers who came from India to work on large farms and plantations in the last part of the 19th century .
95 percent of all South Africans live in the eastern half of the country and along the southern coast. The northern and western part of the country is very sparsely populated because it is too dry.
The majority of the population are Protestants or Roman Catholics, but there are also Hindus and Muslims in the country and some of the tribes in the countryside follow traditional religions.
Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest city. It was founded in 1886 as a gold mining town. Today it is the centre of the country’s industry and trade . Near it you can still see the yellow mounds of the gold mines that brought wealth and prosperity to southern Africa.
Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest and second largest city. Founded as a Dutch trading station it was the biggest town until gold was found. Cape Town is known for its famous landmarks . Durban, on the east coast, is South Africa’s main port and a major industrial centre. Most of the country’s Asian people live here.
South Africa has three capitals. Laws are made in Cape Town where Parliament gets together . The government and the Prime Minster meet in Pretoria and the country’s highest court is in Bloemfontein.
Economy of South Africa
South Africa is the richest country in Africa. Although it has only 4 % of Africa’s area it produces about 25% of the continents goods and services . However it is mostly the white population that has built up most of the country’s wealth . They owned the major companies for a long time. Today, years after the end of apartheid, Whites still control most of the economy but Blacks are getting better jobs and earning more than some years ago.
South Africa’s economy is based on mining and industry. It is the world’s biggest gold producer. Centre of production is the Witwatersrand in the north of the country. About 40% of all the gold that has ever been mined on earth comes from this region. Diamonds, coal and copper are other valuable raw materials . Factories in South Africa produce cars, chemicals, iron and steel and machines.
Although South Africa does not have so much good farming land the country can export many products, including corn, wheat , sugar cane , citrus fruits. Great wines are produced in the southern regions which have a Mediterranean climate. Farmers raise sheep, cattle and pigs for meat and other products.
The Portuguese navigator Bartholomeu Dias was the first European to see the Cape of Good Hope in 1488. Years later the Dutch set up a colony there as a stopping place on their way to Asia.
As time went on the Dutch started to move into the interior parts of the country. At the same time Bantu tribes came southwards from central Africa. As a result there was a lot of fighting between the African tribes and the Dutch over farming lands.
In 1815 the British took over the colony from the Dutch . As more and more British settlers went to the Cape the Dutch Boers moved to the north in what they called the Great Trek. They founded new settlements in Transvaal and the Orange Free State.
Towards the end of the 19th century two major discoveries changed South Africa. In 1867 diamonds were discovered near Kimberley and in 1886 large gold deposits were found in the Transvaal. Because of this even more British settlers came to the Cape colony. They tried to take control of the Dutch areas, where these discoveries were made. This led to a war between the British and the Dutch Boers. The Boers were defeated in 1902 and the leaders of the British and the Dutch colonies decided to form a single state which they called the Union of South Africa.
From the beginning, the government of the newly formed country was controlled by the Whites, even though the majority of the people who lived there were Blacks. They passed laws to keep people from different races apart. This series of laws became known as Apartheid , which means being “separate” in the Afrikaans language.
The black people started to organize themselves in their battle against the Whites. In 1912 the African National Congress was founded . Its aim was to put the Blacks in power in South Africa. Some ANC leaders were arrested and put into prison , the most famous of them being Nelson Mandela.
The apartheid system was criticized by many countries around the world. They stopped trading with South Africa and tried to isolate it. As the country was becoming economically weaker a new president Frederik de Klerk announced that apartheid was going to end. He made the ANC legal again and released its leader Nelson Mandela from prison , where he was kept for over twenty years. In the first democratic elections , in which all races could take part, the ANC won and Nelson Mandela became the country’s first black President in 1994. Mandela retired in 1999 and since then South Africa has been trying to give freedom and equality to people of all races .
South Africa’s problems
Like many other African nations, South Africa’s population has serious health problems. In the last two decades AIDS has begun to spread rapidly throughout the country. Today 5 million people are infected with HIV, more than any other country the world.
Corruption and crime are also big issues in South Africa. According to the United Nations it is among the most dangerous countries in the world. As a result rich people are putting up fences and walls and have been hiring security companies to protect them from crime.
Unemployment is very high in the country. About one third of the population do not have a job. As in many African countries educated and skilled people are leaving South Africa and moving on to Europe or the United States.
The world will be looking towards South Africa in the upcoming years. In 2010 the nation will be the first African country to stage the football World Cup, the biggest event ever to take in the region.
Downloadable PDF Text- and Worksheets
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- South Africa - Multiple Choice Exercise
- South Africa - Vocabulary Matching
- South Africa - True or False?
- South Africa - Crossword
- South Africa - Fill in the missing word
- African National Congress Celebrates One Hundredth Birthday
- Winnie Mandela - South Africa's Mother of the Nation
- The Changing Face of South Africa's Townships
- Brutal Police in South Africa
- Nelson Mandela – South Africa’s First Black President
- according to = as said or reported by someone
- Afrikaans = language spoken by Dutch settlers in South Africa
- Afrikaner = a white South African who is related to the Dutch people who came to the country in the 1600s
- aim = goal, wish
- although =while
- announce = to say officially
- apart from =except for
- Apartheid = the political and social system in South Africa, in which only white people had rights: other races had to live separately
- area =size
- arrest = to take to a person to a police station because they may have done something wrong
- as a result =something happens because of something else
- based on =here: is the most important part of ...
- battle = fight
- Boer = a white South African with Dutch roots
- Cape of Good Hope = at the southwestern end of South Africa; where the Atlantic Oceans meets the Indian Ocean
- cattle = cows and bulls on a farm
- century = a hundred years
- chapter = section, period, phase
- common = something happens very often
- copper = a soft reddish brown metal that lets electricity pass through easily; it is used in wires and pipes
- corruption = bad behavior from someone who has power
- court =place where a trial is held . A judge and a jury decide if someone is guilty or not
- decade = ten years
- decide =choose to do something
- defeat = to win against in a war
- deposit = a layer of rock in the earth that has important minerals in it
- descendant = a person of someone’s family who lived a long time ago
- discovery = to find something for the first time
- dominate = overlook, stand out
- drought = a long phase of dry weather, when plants and animals do not get enough water
- Dutch = a person from the Netherlands
- earn = to get money when you work
- economy =financial system of a country; how goods are bought and sold
- educate = to go to school and learn things
- election =when people choose someone for an official position
- equality = being the same
- escarpment =a steep slope between two levels on a hill or mountain
- ethnic group = people that belong to a certain tribe, race or country and have their own traditions and language
- fence = something made of wood or metal that is around a house
- flow =runs into
- found –founded = start, create, set up
- goods = products
- govern = rule
- government = the people who rule a country
- height =how high or tall something is
- hire = to pay someone to work for you
- however =but
- including = together with
- iron = a hard metal with which you can make steel
- issue = topic , subject
- landmark = famous sight
- law = the system of rules that a country has
- legal = to be officially allowed
- major = important
- majority = the largest group of people in a country, opposite of minority
- Mediterranean = the area between Europe and Africa
- mine = deep hole in the ground where people dig important minerals like coal
- minority = a small group of people in a country
- moderate = not too hot and not too cold
- mountain range = a group of mountains usually in one line
- navigator = a person on a ship who tells you which way to go
- own = have, possess
- pass a law =when parliament makes a law
- populated =many people live in an area
- population = the people who live in an area
- port = harbor
- prison = a building or room where people are kept if they have done something wrong
- protect =defend, guard
- race = group of people who have the same skin colour
- rapid = quick, fast
- raw materials =natural resources that exist in nature and can be used by people , like coal, oil, trees etc..
- reach =get to
- release = to set free
- retire = to stop working because you are old
- sea level =the average height of the sea; it is used to measure other things, like the height of mountains etc..
- security company = a company that you pay to install machines in your house that protect you or keep you safe
- separate = divide
- serious = important
- servant = someone who gets paid to help in the household
- services = work that you do for someone else and get paid for it
- settlement = new village, town
- settler = a person who goes to and lives in a place where not very many people have gone to before
- single =one
- skilled = someone who has the training to do something well
- southward = to move south
- sparse = thin
- spread = stretch, expand; or to move from one place to another
- stage = host ,present
- steel = a strong metal that you can form easily ; made from iron
- sugar cane = a subtropical or tropical plant from which you can make sugar
- surround = to be around something
- take over = to take control of
- throughout = in all of
- towards =just before
- trade = to buy and sell things
- tribe = same as ethnic group
- unemployment = to be without a job
- upcoming = the next
- valuable = worth a lot, expensive
- weak = not strong
- wealth = being rich
- wheat = a plant that you make white bread from
|Characteristic||Total population in thousands|
Thus, for example, apartheid labor market policies, such as job reservation and influx control, created a migrant labor system that resulted in severe shortages of both skilled and unskilled labor in the manufacturing sector, high costs of training and turnover of labor, and wasteful misallocations of scarce skills due ...How was South Africa before the race classification? ›
From 1950 South Africans were classified on the basis of their 'race'. People were classified into one of four groups: 'native', 'coloured', 'Asian' or 'white'. By 1966, 11 million people had been classified under the Population Registration Act of 1950.Which race made up the majority of the population of South Africa? ›
Black South Africans make up around 81% of the total, coloured people 9%, whites 8% and Indians 3%. The country has the fourth-largest population in Africa – after Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt – and the 25th-largest in the world.Why is the white population of South Africa decreasing? ›
In recent decades, there has been a steady proportional decline in South Africa's white community, due to higher birthrates among other South African ethnic groups, as well as a high rate of emigration. In 1977, there were 4.3 million whites, constituting 16.4% of the population at the time.What were the 4 racial categories in South Africa? ›
The Population Registration Act of 1950 classified South Africans into 1 of 4 groups: White, Black, Coloured, and Indian.What is South Africa's biggest economic problem? ›
High Unemployment Rate
High unemployment remains the key challenge for South Africa and the country struggles to generate sufficient jobs. From the beginning of the 20th century, unemployment was articulated as an alarming issue in the world.
After the end of apartheid, with the economy expanding at a rate of about 5% a year, the government largess was sustainable, and national debt was kept in check.When was South African economy at its strongest? ›
South Africa is an upper-middle-income economy, one of only eight such countries in Africa. Following 1996, at the end of over twelve years of international sanctions, South Africa's Gross Domestic Product (nominal) almost tripled to a peak of US$416 billion in 2011.What race was first in South Africa? ›
The Khoisan were the first inhabitants of southern Africa and one of the earliest distinct groups of Homo sapiens, enduring centuries of gradual dispossession at the hands of every new wave of settlers, including the Bantu, whose descendants make up most of South Africa's black population today.
Notably, while South Africa's white population still maintains its proportionate make-up of the overall population, at 7.8%, this has steadily declined over the years, from 7.9% in 2019, 8.1% in 2016, and 9.0% in 2011.Which are the three major races in South Africa? ›
This Act divided the South African population into three main racial groups: Whites, Natives (Blacks), Indians and Coloured people (people of mixed race).Are there more white or black people in South Africa? ›
|Ethnic groups in South Africa|
Afrikaner whites tend to be gathered in and around Pretoria (with around 450,000 Afrikaners), the East and West Rand, and in many other cities and towns in Gauteng. English-speaking white South Africans are mostly found in central Gauteng: Johannesburg and the East Rand.Who were called black in South Africa? ›
The Population Registration Act of 1950 classified South Africans as Bantu (black Africans), Coloured (those of mixed race), or white; an Asian (Indian and Pakistani) category was later added.What percentage of South Africa was white 1960? ›
It is remarkable that the results of the 1960 census were mostly published on the basis of the four race groups, with comparatively few pages (5.0 per cent) of tables covering the entire population, compared with 39.9 per cent exclusively for the White population, 21.6 per cent for the Coloured population, 17.4 per ...Who was the first white person in South Africa? ›
The first white settlement in South Africa occurred on the Cape under the control of the Dutch East India company. The foothold established by Jan van Riebeck following his arrival with three ships on 6th April 1652 was usually taken in Afrikaner accounts to be the start of the 'history' of South Africa.Why are people leaving South Africa? ›
What are the main Push Factors for people leaving South Africa? Crime and personal security. The crime rate in South Africa is one of the highest in the world. People need to protect themselves and their possessions and this comes at a cost too.What are the 5 races? ›
OMB requires five minimum categories: White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.What was the name of the racial system used in South Africa? ›
Apartheid, the Afrikaans name given by the white-ruled South Africa's Nationalist Party in 1948 to the country's harsh, institutionalized system of racial segregation, came to an end in the early 1990s in a series of steps that led to the formation of a democratic government in 1994.
Black African South Africans, trace their origins to the Great Lakes region of Africa. Whites in South Africa, descendants of later European migrations, regard themselves as products of South Africa no less than their fellow citizens, as do South Africa's Coloureds, Indians, Asians and Jews.What are 3 problems South Africa faces today? ›
In South Africa, public opinion surveys have repeatedly shown that South Africans rank unemployment, crime and corruption as the three most important issues facing the country. Others include housing and water.What is the biggest problem South Africa faces today? ›
The quality of school education for most black people is sub standard. Poorly located and inadequate infrastructure limits social inclusion and faster economic growth. Spatial challenges continue to marginalise the poor. South Africa's growth path is highly resource intensive and hence unsustainable.Is South Africa's economy struggling? ›
South Africa's economy is likely in a technical recession as intensified power cuts and heightened uncertainty caused by Russia's war with Ukraine rippled through global financial markets.What are two impacts of apartheid? ›
Apartheid has negatively affected the lives of all South African children but its effects have been particularly devastating for black children. The consequences of poverty, racism and violence have resulted in psychological disorders, and a generation of maladjusted children may be the result.What affects the economy of South Africa? ›
Trade. Because of its dependence on foreign trade, South Africa's economy is sensitive to global economic conditions. Precious metals and base metals have been leading exports; agricultural goods and military equipment also play an important role.Did the apartheid economy fail '? ›
The country's comparative output-growth record was poor, and its record in terms of the growth of manufactured exports and total factor productivity verged on the disastrous. Taking these indicators together, the conclusion is that the apartheid economy failed to achieve its growth potential. Notes, ref., sum.Why is South Africa's economy not growing? ›
South Africa has performed poorly compared to peer countries. The main reason is that firms have been unable to grow. The electricity supply constraint explains much of the problem.Where is South Africa ranked in the world economy? ›
Switzerland returns to the top spot in the overall 2022 Best Countries ranking, ahead of Germany and Canada – while South Africa moves down a spot to 42nd overall.What drives the economy of South Africa? ›
Among the key sectors that keep South Africa's economic engine running are manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, financial services, transport, mining, agriculture and tourism.
A new genomic study has revealed that Aboriginal Australians are the oldest known civilization on Earth, with ancestries stretching back roughly 75,000 years.When did black people arrived in South Africa? ›
The Bantu migration reached the area now South Africa around the first decade of the 3rd century, over 1800 years ago. Early Bantu kingdoms were established by the 11th century.When did slavery in South Africa start? ›
Slavery in South Africa existed from 1653 in the Dutch Cape Colony until the abolition of slavery in the British Cape Colony on 1 January 1834. This followed the British banning the trade of slaves between colonies in 1807, with their emancipation by 1834.What's the largest race in the world? ›
The world's largest ethnic group is Han Chinese, with Mandarin being the world's most spoken language in terms of native speakers.What percentage of South Africa is Coloured? ›
Every area of life was separated, and sexual relations and marriages beyond the defined limits were taboo. Moreover, the coloureds lost the right to vote in 1956. Today, the number of coloured South Africans amounts to 4.2 million, i.e. 8.9 percent of the country's total population.What percentage of South Africa was white during apartheid? ›
It is pointed out that apartheid interfered with data collection and quality, demographic dynamics, and population activities and research. The percentage of Black population increased from 68.6% to 76% during 1946-90. The percentage of White population declined from 20% to 13%.What are the 7 different races? ›
The Census Bureau defines race as a person's self-identification with one or more social groups. An individual can report as White, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian and Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, or some other race. Survey respondents may report multiple races.What are the 6 human races? ›
The main human races are Caucasoid, Mongoloids (including Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and American Indians, etc.), and Negroid. Khoisanoids or Capoids (Bushmen and Hottentots) and Pacific races (Australian aborigines, Polynesians, Melanesians, and Indonesians) may also be distinguished.Are there a lot of white South Africans? ›
The whites of South Africa (roughly 5.5 million people out of a total population of 40 million) are only now getting used to being a minority.What is the primary race in Africa? ›
The African population by race is predominantly Black African. Some countries, due to the legacy of European colonialism, have significant numbers of people with white European heritage, such as South Africa.
The apartheid government created four official racial categories: black, Coloured, white and Asian/Indian. Modern South Africa is a multiracial democratic society, which officially embraces its diversity.Are Boers white? ›
The term Afrikaners or Afrikaans people is generally used in modern-day South Africa for the white Afrikaans-speaking population of South Africa (the largest group of White South Africans) encompassing the Boers and the other descendants of the Cape Dutch who did not embark on the Great Trek.Are Afrikaners Dutch or German? ›
Afrikaners predominantly stem from Dutch, French and German immigrants who settled in the Cape, in South Africa, during the second half of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th. Although later European immigrants were also absorbed into the population, their genetic contribution was comparatively small.Where do most Coloureds live in South Africa? ›
Although Coloureds form a minority group within South Africa, they are the predominant population group in the Western Cape.What is South Africa's true name? ›
South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa.What race is the majority in South Africa? ›
As of 2022, South Africa's population increased and counted approximately 60.6 million inhabitants in total, of which the majority (roughly 49.1 million) were Black Africans. Individuals with an Indian or Asian background formed the smallest population group, counting approximately 1.56 million people overall.What do you call a white South African? ›
The term "Afrikaner" (formerly sometimes in the forms Afrikaander or Afrikaaner, from the Dutch Africaander) presently denotes the politically, culturally and socially dominant and majority group among white South Africans, or the Afrikaans-speaking population of Dutch origin.What were the effects of apartheid in South Africa? ›
Apartheid has negatively affected the lives of all South African children but its effects have been particularly devastating for black children. The consequences of poverty, racism and violence have resulted in psychological disorders, and a generation of maladjusted children may be the result.How did the apartheid affect South Africa? ›
Pass laws and apartheid policies prohibited Black people from entering urban areas without immediately finding a job. It was illegal for a Black person not to carry a passbook. Black people could not marry white people. They could not set up businesses in white areas.What is apartheid How did it affect the progress of South Africa? ›
Apartheid literally means “apartness” and was a system of government implemented in South Africa between 1948 and 1994 that separated people according to race in every aspect of daily life, entrenching white minority rule and discriminating against non-white population groups.
Much of the poverty in the country is a direct result of apartheid policies that denied equal access to education, employment, services, and resources to the black population of the country. As a result, poverty has a very strong racial dimension with poverty concentrated among the African population.How did apartheid cause inequality in South Africa? ›
Under apartheid, inequality in the distribution of incomes in South Africa remained acute despite economic growth. At the top end of the income scale, some South Africans lived lives of luxury, with swimming pools, holiday homes, and imported sports cars in the garage. At the bottom end, many lived in deep poverty.What factors gave rise to apartheid in South Africa? ›
The Great Depression and World War II brought increasing economic woes to South Africa, and convinced the government to strengthen its policies of racial segregation. In 1948, the Afrikaner National Party won the general election under the slogan “apartheid” (literally “apartness”).How did colonialism impact South Africa? ›
With colonialism, which began in South Africa in 1652, came the Slavery and Forced Labour Model. This was the original model of colonialism brought by the Dutch in 1652, and subsequently exported from the Western Cape to the Afrikaner Republics of the Orange Free State and the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek.Who started apartheid in South Africa? ›
Apartheid legislation. Racial segregation, sanctioned by law, was widely practiced in South Africa before 1948. But when the National Party, led by Daniel F. Malan, gained office that year, it extended the policy and gave it the name apartheid.What impact did colonization have on South Africa? ›
African colonies produced raw materials which were expropriated by the colonialists (centre nations). Furthermore, colonialism introduced a dual economic structure within the African economy. It also brought about disarticulation of African economy, education, trade, market, transport and currency institution.What is South Africa struggling with? ›
Poorly located and inadequate infrastructure limits social inclusion and faster economic growth. Spatial challenges continue to marginalise the poor. South Africa's growth path is highly resource intensive and hence unsustainable. The ailing public health system confronts a massive disease burden.What are the weaknesses of South African economy? ›
South Africa Weaknesses: Skyrocketing unemployment rates, natural diseases, and regional wars plaguing the area. Expensive cost of living despite an all-time high unemployment rate.How did apartheid affect world history? ›
Apartheid sparked significant international and domestic opposition, resulting in some of the most influential global social movements of the 20th century. It was the target of frequent condemnation in the United Nations and brought about extensive arms and trade embargoes on South Africa.What problems might South Africa face in 100 years? ›
Poverty, conflict, disease and access to education are all issues African governments will continue to face, having to build states that can support ever-increasing amounts of people. Can Africa translate its huge population growth into economic development and improved quality of life?