For a full breakdown on key facts on South Africa as an investment destination click here
- Official name: Republic of South Africa
- Form of state: A federal state, comprising a national government and nine provincial governments.
- Legal system: Based on Roman-Dutch law and the 1996 Constitution.
- Population (mid-2011): 50.59-million
- Measures: metric system
- Currency: One rand (R) = 100 cents
- Time: Two hours ahead of GMT
- Internet domain: .za
- Area: 1 219 090 square kilometres
- Agriculture: 81.6% of total land area
- Arable land: 12.1% of total
- Irrigated land: 10.15% of arable land
- Pretoria (administrative)
- Cape Town (legislative)
- Bloemfontein (judicial)
- Eastern Cape
- Northern Cape
- North West
- Free State
- Western Cape
- Currency: Rand (R)
- Exchange rate: see “market indicators” above right
- Real GDP growth rate (1st quarter 2011): 4.8%
- Nominal GDP estimate (2010): R2 700-billion
- Ranking in terms of GDP size: 27th largest in the world
- Consumer inflation rate (May 2011): 4.6% y/y
- Producer inflation rate (May 2011): 6.9 y/y
- Prime bank overdraft lending rate (July 2011): 9%
- Labour force (2010): 17.32-million economically active
- Unemployment (fourth quarter 2010): 24%
- GDP composition by sector (2010): agriculture 3%, industry 31.2%, services 65.8%
Key industries: Mining (world’s largest producer of platinum, chromium), automobile assembly, metal-working, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilisers, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair.
Main trading partners (2009):Exports – China 10.34%, US 9.19%, Japan 7.59%, Germany 7.01%, UK 5.54%, Switzerland 4.72%. Imports – China 17.21%, Germany 11.24%, US 7.38%, Saudi Arabia 4.87%, Japan 4.67%, Iran 3.95%
National legislature: Bicameral Parliament elected every five years, comprising a 400-seat National Assembly and a 90-seat National Council of Provinces. Electoral system: List-system of proportional representation based on universal adult suffrage.
Elections: National elections were held in 1994, 1999, 2004 and 2009. The next national election will take place within 90 days of April 22, 2014.
Head of state: The President is elected by the National Assembly. Under the Constitution, the President is permitted to serve a maximum of two five-year terms. The current President is Jacob Zuma, who was sworn in on 9 May 2009.
South Africa is a vigorous multiparty democracy with an independent judiciary and a free and diverse press.
Until 1994, the country was known for apartheid – white-minority rule. South Africa’s remarkable ability to put centuries of racial hatred behind it in favour of reconciliation was widely considered a social miracle, inspiring similar peace efforts in Northern Ireland, Rwanda and elsewhere.
The highest law of the land is the new Constitution, which came into force on 4 February 1997, and is considered to be one of the most progressive in the world. The Constitution’s Bill of Rights protects equality, freedom of expression and association, property, housing, healthcare, education, access to information, and access to courts. Protecting those rights is the country’s independent judiciary, subject only to the Constitution and the law.
With 13 parties in Parliament, South Africa has a vibrant political system. The African National Congress is the governing party, and strongly in the majority, though the opposition parties are robust and vocal.
GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
South Africa is a medium-sized country, with a total land area of 1 219 090 square kilometres, or roughly equivalent in size to Niger, Angola, Mali or Colombia. It is one-eighth the size of the US, about a third the size of the European Union, twice the size of France and over three times the size of Germany. It measures some 1 600km from north to south, and roughly the same from east to west.
The country lies between 22º and 35º south, flanked on the west by the Atlantic Ocean and on the east by the Indian Ocean, whose waters meet at the country’s – and Africa’s – most southern tip, Cape Agulhas.
The coastline stretches 2 798 kilometres from a desert border in the northwest, down the icy Skeleton Coast to Cape Agulhas, then up along the green hills and wide beaches on the coast of the Indian Ocean, to a border with subtropical Mozambique in the northeast.
The low-lying coastal zone is narrow for much of that distance, soon giving way to a mountainous escarpment that separates it from the high inland plateau.
A subtropical location, moderated by ocean on three sides of the country and the altitude of the interior plateau, makes
South Africa a warm and sunny country. But it’s also dry, with an average annual rainfall of about 464mm. While the Western Cape gets most of its rainfall in winter, the rest of the country is mostly a summer-rainfall region.
South Africa’s National Qualifications Framework (NQF) recognises three broad bands of education:
- General Education and Training
- Further Education and Training
- Higher Education and Training
School life spans 13 years or grades, from grade 0, otherwise known as grade R or “reception year”, through to grade 12 or “matric” – the year of matriculation. General Education and Training runs from grade 0 to grade 9. Under the South African Schools Act of 1996, education is compulsory for all South Africans from the age of seven (grade 1) to age 15, or the completion of grade 9. General Education and Training also includes Adult Basic Education and Training.
According to the latest available statistics, in 2007 South Africa had 14 167 086 pupils and students enrolled in all sectors of the education system, attending 35 231 educational institutions and served by 452 971 teachers and lecturers.
The breakdown of schools includes 26 065 ordinary schools and 9 163 other education institutions – namely, special schools, early childhood development (ECD) sites, public adult basic education and training (ABET) centres, public further education and training (FET) institutions, and public higher education (HE) institutions.
Of the total enrolled pupils, 12 048 821 (85%) were in public schools and 352 396 (2.5%) were in independent schools. Of the pupils in other institutions, 761 087 (5.4%) were in public HE institutions, 320 679 (2.3%) were in public FET institutions, 292 734 (2.1%) were in public ABET centres, 289 312 (2%) were in ECD centres, and 102 057 (0.7%) were in special schools.
The total of 26 065 ordinary schools comprised 15 358 primary schools, with 6 316 064 pupils and 191 199 teachers; 5 670 secondary schools, with 3 831 937 pupils and 128 183 teachers; and 5 037 combined and intermediate schools, with 2 253 216 pupils and 74 843 teachers.
Other educational facilities included 2 278 ABET centres, 50 public FET institutions, 4 800 ECD centres and 21 HE institutions.
South Africa has a vibrant higher education sector, with close on a million students enrolled in the country’s 21 state-funded tertiary institutions: 11 universities, five universities of technology, and five comprehensive institutions.
At about 5.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 20% of total state expenditure, South Africa has one of the highest rates of public investment in education in the world.