Size and Growth
The first census of the Union of South Africa was taken in 1911, one year after its formation. Several enumerations occurred after that, but the black African population was not accurately counted in any of them. In 1950, when apartheid legislation officially restricted black peoples to approximately 13 percent of the land, the government declared that a national census would be taken at the beginning of each decade. After that, Africans were gradually assigned to live in these homelands, then called Bantustans. As the first four homelands were granted nominal independence in the 1970s and the early 1980s, their residents and others assigned to live there were excluded from the official census of South Africa.
Another problem with census measurements was that many black South Africans lived in informal settlements, or "squatter camps," close to cities where they worked or hoped to work, and squatters were often omitted from census counts. In addition, although all citizens were legally required to register births, deaths, marriages, and divorces, many people--especially urban blacks--avoided doing so, in part because of the stringency and complexity of the laws governing legal residency.
The 1980 census count was nearly 23.8 million; another 4.6 million were added to compensate for acknowledged undercounting, resulting in a nationwide population of 28.4 million. The figures excluded those living in the three homelands that were nominally independent in 1980--an estimated 2.7 million in Transkei, 1 million in Bophuthatswana, and about 350,000 in Venda. A fourth homeland, Ciskei, with a population of 678,000, became "independent" in 1981.
The next census, in 1991, took place amid unprecedented political violence. For the first time, the government used aerial photography and sample surveys to enumerate residents in eighty-eight "unrest" areas, which were otherwise inaccessible to government officials. After being adjusted for underenumeration, the 1991 census yielded a count of 30,986,920 citizens, excluding the four "independent" homelands. Residents of the other six non-independent ("self-governing") homelands--10,746,504 people--were included in the nationwide count.
In 1992 the United States Bureau of the Census estimated that 48 percent of all black South Africans, and about 1 percent of all other racial groups, lived in the ten homelands--which made up only about one-seventh of the total land area of the country. On this basis, the bureau estimated the total population of South Africa at 40.6 million.
In 1994 the South African government estimated the total nationwide population at 40.4 million, after all ten homelands had been reincorporated into South Africa. In that year, the United States Bureau of the Census estimated the total population of South Africa at 43.9 million. Relying on the South African government's enumeration and legal categories, the South African Institute of Race Relations estimated that the population was 76.4 percent black, 12.6 percent white, 8.5 percent coloured, and 2.5 percent Asian.
Population growth rates declined from about 2.9 percent per year in the early 1980s to 2.4 percent in 1995, according to the Development Bank of Southern Africa, a South African economic research and lending organization. Again, racial groups varied; population growth was about 2.6 percent per year for blacks, 2.2 percent for coloureds, 1.9 percent for Asians, and 1.0 percent for whites. The government estimated that the population would double by the year 2025.
Life expectancy at birth was 62.7 years for males and 68.3 years for females in 1996, placing South Africa just below the global median. These figures, too, varied considerably by race; for black males, life expectancy was about nine years less than for white males. About 50.5 percent of the population is female and 49.5 percent is male, according to the South African Central Statistical Service. In some rural areas and the former homelands, labor policies that draw men into urban areas have resulted in strongly skewed gender ratios. For example, in the early 1990s, the population of QwaQwa was estimated to be 56 percent female; in KwaZulu, 54 percent female.
In 1995 overall fertility was 4.1 births per adult female, down from 5.6 a decade earlier. The crude birth rate was 27.1 births per 1,000 people, according to official estimates. Twelve percent of all births in the early 1990s were to women aged nineteen or younger. Infant mortality was estimated at 45.8 deaths within the first year, per 1,000 live births. The average annual death rate for the entire population was 7.6 per 1,000. Until 1994, these statistics had been reported by racial group, and both birth and death rates were higher among blacks than among whites.
The median age was 19.2 years in 1995, according to official estimates. Roughly 37 percent of all South Africans were fifteen years of age or younger. Nearly 13 percent were above the age of fifty. Racial disparities in age composition were large, however; for example, 52 percent of blacks and only 31 percent of whites were under age nineteen.
The age dependency ratio, or the ratio of the combined population of children and the aged (those less than fifteen years of age and those more than sixty-four years of age) compared to the number between age fifteen and sixty-four, was 70.6 percent in 1995. This measurement is often used to estimate the burden of "economic dependence" on the economically active population. Variations among provinces are great, in part because of the uneven job concentration across the country. For example, in the Northern Province, the age dependency ratio is more than 100; while in Gauteng, the age dependency ratio is less than 50.0, according to the Central Statistical Service.
Population density averaged 34.4 persons per square kilometer in 1995, although distribution is uneven nationwide. The eastern half of the country is more densely populated than the western half, primarily because of the aridity of much of the west and the concentration of minerals in the east. The most densely populated areas of the country until 1994 were the homelands--where average densities sometimes exceeded 300 people per square kilometer--and Gauteng, which includes Pretoria, Johannesburg, and the mining region of Witwatersrand. More than 7 million people, nearly 17 percent of the population, live in Gauteng, which constitutes less than 2 percent of the land area of South Africa. The population of Gauteng is expected to double by the year 2010.
Population distribution by racial group is also uneven. In 1995 black South Africans formed a majority in all provinces except the Western Cape, where they made up only 20 percent of the population. Cities were predominantly white, and the townships and squatter areas that ringed the cities were overwhelmingly black. The racial composition of cities and of formerly white neighborhoods began to change in the early 1990s as apartheid-related laws were rescinded or ignored, and the pace of change accelerated in the mid-1990s.
The Johannesburg-based Urban Foundation and other researchers have estimated that the urban population was approximately 57 percent of the total in 1995. Rates of urbanization varied widely by province. The most highly urbanized provinces were Gauteng (nearly 96 percent), Western Cape (86 percent), and Northern Cape (73 percent). The population of Northern Province, in contrast, was only about 9 percent urban, according to the Development Bank of Southern Africa.
Ethnic Groups and Language
For more recent population estimates, see Facts about South Africa.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress
FAQsWhat is the current population of South Africa 2022? ›
The population of South Africa is estimated to be 60,6 million by the end of June 2022.How much of South Africa is white? ›
|White pop. (2016)||4,516,691|
|% province (2001)||9.6|
|% province (2011)||8.9|
|% province (2016)||8.1|
Black South Africans are in the majority, with a population of 45.7-million – 80.8% of the total. The rest is made up of 5-million coloured South Africans (8.7%), 1.4-million Indian or Asian South Africans (2.6%) and 4.5-million white South Africans (7.9%).Is South Africa overpopulated? ›
In sum, Africa is not overpopulated, but it does have high population growth rates in comparison to other continents, and that growth is straining urban infrastructures and producing environmental problems that are compounded by climate change.Why is South Africa overpopulated? ›
One cause of overpopulation is actually positive for Africa as a whole. One of the major causes for population increase is actually increased quality of life. More children surviving into adulthood and healthier adults have lowered the death rate in several African countries.What is the death rate in South Africa 2022? ›
In 2022, the estimated number of deaths in South Africa reached 663,075. This was lower compared to the previous year when the deaths in the country reached the highest level since 2002, at 701,360. From 2006 onwards (except in 2015), the number of fatalities dropped annually until 2017.Is South Africa poor or rich? ›
The Economy of South Africa is the third largest in Africa and the most industrialized, technologically advanced, and diversified economy in Africa overall. South Africa is an upper-middle-income economy, one of only eight such countries in Africa.Is South Africa a third world country? ›
The truth is that South Africa is neither a First World nor a Third World country, or rather that it is both. South Africa's rich whites make up 17 percent of the population and account for 70 percent of the wealth, and those figures make it an exact microcosm of the world at large.What is the whitest town in South Africa? ›
Largest population centres.
Black South Africans. The majority population of South Africa are those that classify themselves Black or indigenous South Africans, Africans or Black people of South Africa, but they are not culturally or linguistically homogeneous.Is South African poor? ›
As of 2022, around 18.2 million people in South Africa lived in extreme poverty, with the poverty threshold at 1.90 U.S. dollars a day.How much of South Africa is black? ›
The other trend the Economist's graphic makes clear is how much faster South Africa's black population is growing relative to other racial groups. Blacks made up 79.2% of the country's 51.8 million people, according to the 2011 census, up from 77.4% in 1996; whites were 8.9% of the population, down from 11% in 1996.Which country is a richest in Africa? ›
- Seychelles - $12,720.
- Mauritius - $10,230.
- Gabon - $6,970.
- Botswana - $6,640.
- Equatorial Guinea - $5,810.
- South Africa - $5,410.
- Libya - $4,850.
- Namibia - $4,520.
The world's largest ethnic group is Han Chinese, with Mandarin being the world's most spoken language in terms of native speakers.What is South Africa known for? ›
South Africa, the southernmost country on the African continent, renowned for its varied topography, great natural beauty, and cultural diversity, all of which have made the country a favoured destination for travelers since the legal ending of apartheid (Afrikaans: “apartness,” or racial separation) in 1994.Why is South Africa 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 the most overpopulated country? ›
Countries with almost half of the global population
China has the world's largest population (1.426 billion), but India (1.417 billion) is expected to claim this title next year.
Continents by population (historical and projection)
|Growth rate (%) against 2021||1950||36.12|
Population change rates in 2022
3,468 live births average per day (144.49 in an hour) 2,057 deaths average per day (85.72 in an hour) 373 immigrants average per day (15.54 in an hour)
South Africa Birth Rate 1950-2022.
|Similar Countries Ranked by Birth Rate|
|Country Name||2022 Birth Rate|
South Africa is rich in a variety of minerals. In addition to diamonds and gold, the country also contains reserves of iron ore, platinum, manganese, chromium, copper, uranium, silver, beryllium, and titanium.Who is the richest person in South Africa? ›
South Africa's billionaires as of 2022 (net worth in billion U.S. dollars)
|Characteristic||Net worth in billion U.S. dollars|
|Nicky Oppenheimer & family||8.6|
|Johann Rupert & family||7.6|
Living in South Africa has many perks- it's a stunning country, filled with unbeatable natural splendour, vibrant cultures, mouth-watering cuisine and activities to tickle any fancy as well as a warm wamkelekile (welcome) that permeates its people, businesses and towns.How safe is visiting South Africa? ›
South Africa has a high rate of crime including carjacking, house robberies, rape and murder. The risk of violent crime to visitors travelling to the main tourist destinations is generally low, but all visitors should remain vigilant. Most violent crimes tend to occur in townships and isolated areas.Can you drink the water in South Africa? ›
DDrinking water in South Africa is safe to drink and cook with when taken from taps in urban areas. Not all tap water in rural areas is safe for consumption, so it is advised you take precautions if necessary.What is the 1st world country? ›
The modern definition of “first world” is used to classify countries that are highly industrialized and with advanced economies. First-world countries include the United States, Canada, Japan, and Western European countries.What is the best city to live in South Africa? ›
Cape Town. Cape Town is one of the most popular destination for expats moving to South Africa, because it is proven to provide the best quality of life. Many expats choose to move here as the city has a good mix between traditional and modern life.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.Who colonized South Africa? ›
The two European countries who occupied the land were the Netherlands (1652-1795 and 1803-1806) and Great Britain (1795-1803 and 1806-1961). Although South Africa became a Union with its own white people government in 1910, the country was still regarded as a colony of Britain till 1961.
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.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.How many Chinese are in South Africa? ›
Immigration from Taiwan.
|Number of Chinese granted permanent residence in South Africa 1985–1995|
Although South Africa is subjected to various types of corruption, three notable forms are wasteful expenditure, state capture, and corruption related to or using Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) legislation.What is the poorest city in South Africa? ›
Table 3. Poverty income by household size (R per month)
Data made available by CNN presented that white South Africans earn nearly three times the average wage made by black South Africans, who take up the overwhelming majority of the workforce population. Data shows that the widening and intergenerational gap is disproportionately affecting the black South Africans.How many whites are left in South Africa? ›
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. Stats SA pointed to emigration as a key factor in this declining trend.What percentage is white in Africa? ›
Black Africans comprise about seventy-five percent of the population and are divided into a number of different ethnic groups including those from Angola and Mozambique who are descendants of refugees who have settled South Africa. Whites comprise about thirteen percent of the population.What is the Coloured population of South Africa? ›
Today, the number of coloured South Africans amounts to 4.2 million, i.e. 8.9 percent of the country's total population.Is South Africa richer than Nigeria? ›
Total private wealth in Africa as of 2021, by country (in billion U.S. dollars)
|Characteristic||Wealth in billion U.S. dollars|
North America has the highest continental gdp per capita by both GDP Nominal and PPP in the world. With $46,160 in nominal terms, the per capita gdp of North America is 376% of the world GDP per capita.Which race is the smallest in the world? ›
With a population that hovers around 2,000, the Toto are today considered one of the world's smallest ethnic groups, and, like their fellow Indigenous peoples from the Amazon to Australia, are experiencing the consequences of extractive industries.What is the biggest race in America? ›
As of 2020, White Americans are the racial and ethnic majority, with non-Hispanic whites representing 57.8% of the population. Hispanic and Latino Americans are the largest ethnic minority, comprising 18.7% of the population, while Black or African Americans are the second largest racial minority, making up 12.1%.What are the 3 biggest races in the world? ›
The world population can be divided into 4 major races, namely white/Caucasian, Mongoloid/Asian, Negroid/Black, and Australoid.How do u say hello in South Africa? ›
1. Howzit – A traditional South African greeting that translates roughly as “How are you?” or simply “Hello”. 2. Heita – An urban and rural greeting used by South Africans.What is the real name of South Africa? ›
South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa.Which country has the highest population in Africa 2022? ›
Nigeria is by far the largest country in terms of population, with more than 211 million people as of 2021. Ethiopia follows with almost 118 million, while Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, South Africa, and Kenya all have populations ranging from 92 million to 54 million.What number is South Africa ranked in the world? ›
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 is the male to female ratio in 2022? ›
The Global sex ratio is 1.018. It means that we have slightly more men then women.How many Coloured people are there in South Africa in 2022? ›
Total population of South Africa in 2022, by ethnic groups (in 1,000s)
|Characteristic||Total population in thousands|
The world's largest ethnic group is Han Chinese, with Mandarin being the world's most spoken language in terms of native speakers.Which country is growing fast in Africa? ›
Ethiopia and Rwanda, for example, saw some of the fastest expansions in the world—an average of more than 7.5 percent per year over the past two decades.What is South Africa best known for? ›
South Africa, the southernmost country on the African continent, renowned for its varied topography, great natural beauty, and cultural diversity, all of which have made the country a favoured destination for travelers since the legal ending of apartheid (Afrikaans: “apartness,” or racial separation) in 1994.What is the richest country in Africa? ›
Richest African Countries by GNI per Capita (Atlas method, current US$ — World Bank 2021) Once again, Seychelles ranks first, with Mauritius close behind and countries including Botswana, Libya, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon slotting in underneath.Is South Africa a good country to live in? ›
Living in South Africa has many perks- it's a stunning country, filled with unbeatable natural splendour, vibrant cultures, mouth-watering cuisine and activities to tickle any fancy as well as a warm wamkelekile (welcome) that permeates its people, businesses and towns.What country has the most females? ›
China is the top country by female population in the world. As of 2021, female population in China was 688 million persons that accounts for 17.79% of the world's female population.Which country has more female than male? ›
List of countries male and female population. Out of 201 countries/regions estimated by United Nations, females outnumber males in 125 countries/regions. In absolute terms, Russian Federation has 10.6 mn more females than males, followed by Brazil (3.79 mn), the United States of America (3.46 mn), and Ukraine (3.18 mn) ...What country has the most males? ›
Based on a comparison of 174 countries in 2021, Qatar ranked the highest in male population as a percentage of total population with 75.0% followed by United Arab Emirates and Oman. On the other end of the scale was Hong Kong with 45.8%, Nepal with 46.1% and Latvia with 46.1%.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.