South Africa facts on every entity in the world

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 (Afrikaners, called "Boers" (farmers) by the British) trekked north to found their own republics in lands taken from the indigenous black inhabitants. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Afrikaners resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Second South African War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, 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 Afrikaner-dominated 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 following the end of apartheid 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 came to a head in 2008 when President Thabo MBEKI was recalled by Parliament, and Deputy President Kgalema MOTLANTHE, succeeded him as interim president. Jacob ZUMA became president after the ANC won general elections in 2009; he was reelected in 2014.



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

Geographic coordinates

29.00° S, 24.00° E

Area 25/257

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

slightly less than twice the size of Texas

Land boundaries

total: 5,244 km

border countries (6): Botswana 1,969 km, Lesotho 1,106 km, Mozambique 496 km, Namibia 1,005 km, Swaziland 438 km, Zimbabwe 230 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


mean elevation:

elevation extremes:

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

agricultural land: 79.4%

arable land 9.9%; permanent crops 0.3%; permanent pasture 69.2%

forest: 7.6%

other: 13% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

16,700 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

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 80.2%, white 8.4%, colored 8.8%, Indian/Asian 2.5%

note: colored is a term used in South Africa, including on the national census, for persons of mixed race ancestry (2014 est.)


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.)


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)

Population 26/238


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 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 28.43% (male 7,660,173/female 7,598,013)

15-24 years: 18.52% (male 4,937,169/female 5,002,201)

25-54 years: 41.07% (male 11,120,423/female 10,923,422)

55-64 years: 6.53% (male 1,628,183/female 1,874,946)

65 years and over: 5.46% (male 1,231,627/female 1,699,406) (2015 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 52.1%

youth dependency ratio: 44.5%

elderly dependency ratio: 7.7%

potential support ratio: 13.1% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 26.5 years

male: 26.2 years

female: 26.7 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 90/233

1.33% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 79/224

20.75 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 46/225

9.91 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 42/222

2.42 migrant(s)/1,000 population

note: Zimbabweans are increasingly migrating into South Africa and Botswana in search of better economic opportunities (2015 est.)


urban population: 64.8% of total population (2015)

rate of urbanization: 1.59% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

Johannesburg (includes Ekurhuleni) 9.399 million; Cape Town (legislative capital) 3.66 million; Durban 2.901 million; PRETORIA (capital) 2.059 million; Port Elizabeth 1.179 million; Vereeniging 1.155 million (2015)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.87 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.73 male(s)/female

total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2015 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 38/184

138 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate 64/224

total: 32.99 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 36.62 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 29.27 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 191/224

total population: 62.34 years

male: 60.83 years

female: 63.87 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 88/224

2.33 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Health expenditures 42/191

8.9% of GDP (2013)

Physicians density

0.78 physicians/1,000 population (2013)

Hospital bed density

2.8 beds/1,000 population (2005)

Drinking water source


urban: 99.6% of population

rural: 81.4% of population

total: 93.2% of population


urban: 0.4% of population

rural: 18.6% of population

total: 6.8% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access


urban: 69.6% of population

rural: 60.5% of population

total: 66.4% of population


urban: 30.4% of population

rural: 39.5% of population

total: 33.6% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

18.92% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

6,836,500 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

138,400 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 24/191

25.6% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 72/138

8.7% (2008)

Education expenditures 42/173

6.2% of GDP (2013)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 14 years

male: 13 years

female: 14 years (2012)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 6/134

total: 51.4%

male: 48%

female: 55.5% (2013 est.)


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 (2015)

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


citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of South Africa

dual citizenship recognized: yes, but requires prior permission of the government

residency requirement for naturalization: 1 year


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/appointments: president indirectly elected by the National Assembly for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 21 May 2014 (next to be held in May 2019)

election results: Jacob ZUMA (ANC) reelected president by the National Assembly unopposed

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament consists of the National Council of Provinces (90 seats; 10-member delegations appointed by each of the 9 provincial legislatures to serve 5-year terms; note - this council has special powers to protect regional interests, including safeguarding cultural and linguistic traditions among ethnic minorities) and the National Assembly (400 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote to serve 5-year terms)

elections: National Assembly and National Council of Provinces - last held on 7 May 2014 (next to be held in 2019)

election results: National Council of Provinces - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - ANC 60, DA 20, EFF 7, IFP 1, NFP 1, UDM 1; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - ANC 62.2%, DA 22.2%, EFF 6.4%, IFP 2.4%, NFP 1.6%, UDM 1.0%, other 4.2%; seats by party - ANC 249, DA 89, EFF 25, IFP 10, NFP 6, UDM 4, 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 Judicial Services Commission (JSC), a 23-member body chaired by the chief justice and includes other judges and judicial executives, members of parliament, practicing lawyers and advocates, a teacher of law, and several members designated by the national president; other Supreme Court judges appointed by the national president on the advice of the JSC and hold office until discharged from active service by 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 Independent Congress or AIC [Mandla GALD]

African National Congress or ANC [Jacob ZUMA]

African People's Convention or APC [Themba GODI]

Agamg SA [Andries TLOUAMMA]

Congress of the People or COPE [Mosiuoa LEKOTA]

Democratic Alliance or DA [Mmusi MAIMANE]

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 Civic Organization or SANCO [Richard MDAKANE, national president]

note: COSATU and SACP are in a formal alliance with the African National Congress

International organization participation


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 South Sudan's

National symbol(s)

springbok (antelope), king protea flower; national colors: red, green, blue, yellow, black, white

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; 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; 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); 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 Africa’s largest and among the top 20 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. Economic growth has decelerated in recent years, slowing to just 1.5% in 2014. Unemployment, poverty, and inequality - among the highest in the world - remain a challenge. Official unemployment is roughly 25% of the work force, and runs significantly higher among black youth. Eskom, the state-run power company, is building three new power stations and is installing new power demand management programs to improve power grid reliability. Load shedding and resulting rolling blackouts gripped many parts of South Africa in late 2014 and early 2015 because of electricity supply constraints that resulted from technical problems at some generation units, unavoidable planned maintenance, and an accident at a power station in Mpumalanga province. The rolling black outs were the worst the country faced since 2008. Construction delays at two additional plants, however, mean South Africa will continue to operate on a razor thin margin; economists judge that growth cannot exceed 3% until electrical supply problems are resolved.

South Africa's economic policy has focused on controlling inflation; however, the country faces structural constraints that also limit economic growth, such as skills shortages, declining global competitiveness and frequent work stoppages due to strike action. The current government faces growing pressure from urban constituencies to improve the delivery of basic services to low-income areas and to increase job growth.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 31/230

$724 billion (2015 est.)

$714 billion (2014 est.)

$703.3 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$317.3 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 164/225

1.4% (2015 est.)

1.5% (2014 est.)

2.2% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 117/230

$13,400 (2015 est.)

$13,200 (2014 est.)

$13,000 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 114/179

15.6% of GDP (2015 est.)

14.9% of GDP (2014 est.)

14.4% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 59.6%

government consumption: 20%

investment in fixed capital: 22.2%

investment in inventories: -0.6%

exports of goods and services: 31.5%

imports of goods and services: -32.7%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 2.4%

industry: 30.3%

services: 67.4% (2015 est.)

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 125/202

1.7% (2015 est.)

Labor force 30/233

20.86 million (2015 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 4%

industry: 18%

services: 66% (2014 est.)

Unemployment rate 180/207

25.9% (2015 est.)

25.1% (2014 est.)

Population below poverty line

35.9% (2012 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1.2%

highest 10%: 51.7% (2009 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index 4/144

62.5 (2013 est.)

59.3 (1994)


revenues: $84.15 billion

expenditures: $98.26 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 111/219

26.5% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 157/220

-4.4% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 97/176

45.4% of GDP (2015 est.)

44.8% of GDP (2014 est.)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 172/226

4.8% (2015 est.)

6.1% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate 67/156

5.75% (31 December 2014)

7% (31 December 2009)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 87/184

9.5% (31 December 2015 est.)

9.13% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of narrow money 36/192

$97.33 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$107.5 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 46/193

$172.7 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$192.9 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 41/191

$218.5 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$245.5 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares 15/121

$1.007 trillion (31 December 2013)

$1.038 trillion (31 December 2012)

$855.7 billion (31 December 2011)

Current account balance 183/197

-$13.7 billion (2015 est.)

-$19.06 billion (2014 est.)

Exports 38/224

$85.14 billion (2015 est.)

$92.54 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

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

Exports - partners

China 9.5%, US 7.1%, Japan 5.3%, Botswana 5.3%, Germany 5%, Namibia 5%, India 4.1% (2014)

Imports 35/223

$86.81 billion (2015 est.)

$98.87 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

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

Imports - partners

China 15.5%, Germany 10.1%, Saudi Arabia 7.2%, US 6.7%, Nigeria 5.2%, India 4.6% (2014)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 42/170

$44.28 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$49.09 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 44/206

$145.1 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$137.1 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home 34/120

$164 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$157.9 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad 29/105

$143 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

$135.7 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Exchange rates

rand (ZAR) per US dollar -

12.63 (2015 est.)

10.85 (2014 est.)

10.85 (2013 est.)

8.2 (2012 est.)

7.26 (2011 est.)


Electricity - production 18/220

239 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 19/219

211.6 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 14/218

13.93 billion kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 24/219

9.428 billion kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 24/214

44.15 million kW (2013 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 74/214

90.4% of total installed capacity (2013 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 25/214

4.4% of total installed capacity (2013 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 128/214

4.5% of total installed capacity (2013 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 99/212

0.7% of total installed capacity (2013 est.)

Crude oil - production 87/214

3,000 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 185/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 22/214

414,000 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 87/215

15 million bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 36/214

456,500 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 32/212

612,000 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 50/214

81,660 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 40/213

137,900 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 63/216

1.17 billion cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 59/215

4.889 billion cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 176/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 36/214

3.771 billion cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 77/212

15.01 billion cu m (1 January 2012 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 14/212

473.2 million Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 40/219

total subscriptions: 4.3 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 8 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 19/217

total: 79.5 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 150 (2014 est.)

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)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 14, FM 347 (plus 243 repeaters), shortwave 1 (1998)

Television broadcast stations

556 (plus 144 network repeaters) (1997)

Internet country code


Internet hosts 23/232

4.761 million (2012)

Internet users 24/217

total: 24.8 million

percent of population: 46.9% (2014 est.)


Airports 11/236

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)


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

Railways 14/136

total: 20,986 km

standard gauge: 80 km 1.435-m gauge (80 km electrified)

narrow gauge: 19,756 km 1.065-m gauge (8,271 km electrified)

other: 1,150 km (passenger rail, gauge unspecified, 1,115.5 km electrified) (2014)

Roadways 10/223

total: 747,014 km

paved: 158,952 km

unpaved: 588,062 km (2014)

Merchant marine 136/156

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)

LNG terminal(s) (import): Mossel Bay

Military and Security

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

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

Military expenditures 100/132

1.2% of GDP (2014)

1% of GDP (2013)

1.16% of GDP (2012)

1.14% of GDP (2011)

1.16% of GDP (2010)

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): 40,133 (Somalia); 30,125 (Democratic Republic of the Congo); 18,830 (Ethiopia); 6,217 (Zimbabwe); 6,035 (Republic of the Congo) (2014)

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