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South Africa Overview

SOUTH-AFRICA

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The southern gateway to Africa, South Africa is a spectacular country. The country has a diversity of geographical extremities from the semidesert of the Karoo, the peaks of the Drakensberg, the subtropical coast of Kwa Zulu-Natal to the lush valleys of the Western Cape. World-class attractions include the Kruger National Park with possibly the finest wildlife viewing and Cape Town, a city nestled between the famous Table Mountain and very cold Atlantic Ocean. The country’s road infrastructure is excellent and getting around is relatively easy, the only drawback perhaps are the distances which need to be covered, so time would be essential in exploring this country. The diversity of cultures in the country lends itself to the self proclaimed slogan of a ‘rainbow nation’. South Africa is currently celebrating 10 years of democracy and after winning the bid for the Soccer World Cup in 2010, the country is preparing for international exposure.

The economy in South Africa is a mix of First and Third World incomes, standard of living, lifestyle, education and work opportunities. Johannesburg and it’s surrounds, in the north, is the economic powerhouse of South Africa. Since the discovery of diamonds in Kimberley and gold in the Witwatersrand, the economy was exclusively reliant on agriculture. Mining accounts for more than 70% of exports and 13% of GDP. Inflation and unemployment remain a problem and the government is attempting to address this issue by encouraging corporations to assist the previously disadvantaged work force in restoring the balance. The process is slow and complicated, but there is progress in their aim to restore the country.

As previously mentioned, South Africa has a variety of attractions and activities to keep you busy for at least a month. The main attractions for a quick visit to the country include the Kruger National Park and Cape Town. Other destinations which could take up more time include the beautiful Garden Route, which from Cape Town takes you up to Port Elizabeth. Towns along the Garden Route include Mossel Bay, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay and the Tsitsikamma Forest, where the ocean meets the ‘forest’.

South Africa Quick Facts
 
Location: Southern Africa, at the southern tip of the continent of Africa
Area: 1,219,912 sq km
Border countries: Botswana 1,840 km, Lesotho 909 km, Mozambique 491 km, Namibia 967 km, Swaziland 430 km, Zimbabwe 225 km
Population: 42,7 million
People: black 75.2%, white 13.6%, Coloured 8.6%, Indian 2.6%
Language: 11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu
Religion: 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%
Independence: 31 May 1910 (from UK); note - South Africa became a republic in 1961 following an October 1960 referendum
Head of State: President Thabo MBEKI
Capital: Pretoria; note - Cape Town is the legislative center and Bloemfontein the judicial center
   
Currency: rand (ZAR) - Exchange Rate(link popup window)
Export Commodities: gold, diamonds, platinum, other metals and minerals, machinery and equipment (1998 est.)
Agriculture - products: corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool, dairy products
GDP growth: 1.9 % (2003 est.)
GDP per capita: $10,700 (2003 est.)
 
 
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