South Africa

South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is located at the southern tip of Africa. It borders Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Lesotho. The country’s capital is Pretoria. South Africa has an area of 1,219,912 km². It’s population amounts to rougly 50 million people, resulting in a population density of 40 inhabitants per km².

South Africa has eleven official languages. Including English, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans and Sepedi.

The country gained its independence from Britain in 1961. In 1948, the National Party began the policy of apartheid, instituting a series of laws to separate Blacks and Whites across the country. Apartheid ended in 1994 and a Government of National Unity was formed by the African National Congress, the National Party and the Inkatha Freedom Party to assist in the transition from aparthieid to democracy.

In April 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected as the first Black president of the country. He governed South Africa in its first years of democracy. The new Constitution of South Africa came into effect on in February 1997. It provides the legal foundation for the country and define the government’s basis for the state-building It established a presidential democracy with federal elements. The Constitution has been noted worldwide for its emphasis on human rights.

South Africa has the largest economy in Africa. In the 1960's and 1970's, the country was transformed from a developing country to a wealthy industrial state. The country is very rich in mineral resources. Large deposits of gold, diamonds, coal, platinum, chrome, iron ore and palladium that spread across the country have strengthened the economic situation over the past decades. Mining products are still the country’s main export. In the last several years, wine has also become a large export. International tourism has also strengthened the economy in recent years.

The spread and impact of HIV/AIDS is one of the biggest health problems in South Africa. Approximately 5.5 million people across the country are infected with HIV. This accounts for about 12 percent of the population. South Africa has one of the highest AIDS/HIV infection rates in the world. The impact of the spread of the disease has resulted in a declining life expectancy which currently stands at only 48 years. The birth rate is 20 births per 1,000 inhabitants.

The South African government sees education as a priority and is focusing on school improvement to eliminate the legacy of inequality. During apartheid, schools were segregated along racial lines and Black and White students received radically unequal levels of schooling. It became a symbol of the racism and oppression of the apartheid system. Since 1994, government schools are accessible to all children, irregardless of race with compulsory attendance until 9th grade.

The illiteracy rate is slightly more than 10 percent.

The country lies on the southern edge of the African continent and has a coastline that stretches more than 2500 km. It is bordered by both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The Drakensberg Mountains cross the country from the northeast to the southeast through the country of Lesotho, where they reach their highest point at 3,482 meters. Most of South Africa's rivers have their source in the Drakensberg and flow eastwards towards the Indian Ocean. The longest is the Orange River, which stretches 1,860 kilometres. The river flows west and empties into the Atlantic Ocean.

The diverse wildlife reside in many wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, of which Kruger National Park is the largest. Moreover, there are about 170 000 wild African penguins living in South Africa, which are under strict protection.

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