Africa is home to 55 countries, an ancient and complex history, modern cities, some 3,000 languages and over a billion people. From Algeria to Zimbabwe, here’s a snapshot of each country on a continent you need to know more about.
South Africa gateway
South Africa is a unique country. It has the most progressive Constitution in the world, with a Bill of Rights that not only guarantees its people basic human rights – to food, water, housing, social security – but also the rights to life, to gender identity, and to freedom of speech.
We’re not a rich country. We’re a deeply unequal country. But we don’t have the death penalty. We enacted marriage equality over a decade ago. Social grants are there for the old, the unemployed, the disabled, and children.
We have 11 different languages. We have a history that goes back to the beginnings of humanity. We are a society that has come through some of the worst abuses of colonialism and ignorant Western notions of race, and we’re fine.
It took one day for young South Africans to change the course of the country’s history. That day was 16 June 1976. Here is an hour-by-hour account of the events that sparked the 1976 Soweto students’ uprising.
They’ve been dismissed as mongrels, “township dogs”, and worse. But as a breed they are smart, tough, athletic, loyal – and ancient. They are the Africanis, the dog of Africa.
South Africans migrate to where the jobs are. They move from poorer provinces to the richer ones, and from rural areas to the cities.
South Africa’s story of HIV and Aids starts with tragic arrogance, in a new democracy suddenly threatened from an unexpected direction. Then came activism and tenacity by ordinary citizens. Today, the country has one of the world’s biggest public health programmes.
The home language of most people in KwaZulu-Natal is, unsurprisingly, isiZulu. In the Eastern Cape it’s isiXhosa. Around half the people of the Western Cape and Northern Cape speak Afrikaans. In Gauteng and Mpumalanga, no single language dominates.
South Africa has 11 official languages and a multilingual population fluent in at least two. IsiZulu and isiXhosa are the largest languages, while English is spoken at home by only one in 10 people – most of them not white.
South Africa has nine provinces, each with its own history, landscape, population, languages, economy, cities and government.
Mixed with over a dozen African languages for over two centuries, spiced by imports from British, Dutch and Portuguese colonies, South African English has its own rich, varied and sometimes weird flavour.
Creative Commons is a licensing system that frees creative works for others to publish and transform. The commons drives some of the best projects on the internet, including Wikipedia and South African History Online. Here’s a selection of free and open images of South Africa.
The population of each of South Africa’s nine provinces varies enormously. According to Statistics South Africa’s 2017 population estimates, the most populous provinces are Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, and the emptiest the Northern Cape and Free State.
There’s a lot of talk of South Africa’s population being dominated by the youth. But we’re less youthful than we have been for decades. The end of apartheid, better healthcare, widespread social welfare and greater economic opportunities all mean South Africans are now able to live longer lives.
From 1960 to the late 1980s, apartheid laws kept families and communities in poor rural areas. Young men alone were allowed to move to the cities, where their labour was valuable. After the end of apartheid, from the mid-1990s, urbanisation increased rapidly.
This is an animation to break your heart. In any unequal society, the privileged live long lives and everyone else much shorter lives.
Finance is the biggest industry in Gauteng and the Western Cape. Mining dominates in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and the Northern Cape. KwaZulu-Natal’s major industry is manufacturing. In the Eastern Cape and Free State, it’s government services.
Charting South Africans’ life expectancy is to track the country’s modern history. In 1960, when the state was grimly implementing apartheid laws, an average newborn child was expected to have a lifespan of only 52 years – 50 years for boys. In 2015, life expectancy was 62 years.
Explore Africa’s cities, rivers, coasts and wild places with views from above, in a selection of gorgeous astronaut and satellite photography of the continent.
In the West the peak of the Aids epidemic was in 1985. But HIV and Aids hit South Africa only in the 1990s, just as we were starting to build a new society out of the ruins of apartheid. Here, the epidemic peaked in 2006.
Gauteng, small but crowded, has an average of 785 people per square kilometre. The empty but enormous Northern Cape has a population density of only three people for each square kilometre.
Key facts on South Africa’s currency, time, geography, population, languages, provinces, government and education.
The distribution of South Africa’s population groups reveals the country’s history. Find out more with these maps of where black, coloured, Indian and white South Africans live today, according to the 2011 census.
South Africa is a climate patchwork of warm coastal subtropics, hot deserts, humid highlands, snow-topped mountains and an enclave of Mediterranean weather in the southwest.
In the Eastern Cape you’ll find the Wild Coast, the Valley of Desolation, the coastal cities of Port Elizabeth and East London, the visionary art of the Owl House of Nieu-Bethesda, Nelson Mandela’s birthplace in the Transkei, and more.
The Free State’s complicated history has played out across its varied landscape, which runs from the Maloti Mountains in the east through flat central farmlands to the Karoo desert regions in the west and south.
Before South Africa’s 1996 constitution, the country was divided into four provinces set aside for white people, and 10 “homelands”, tiny states designated for black people.
Each of South Africa’s 11 languages has a fascinating vocabulary, with some words and phrases influenced by other languages, and many unique to that language. Learn a little South African with these animations.
Where are South Africa’s poorest places? Two maps find the patterns of poverty: one shows the share of households living in poverty in each municipality, the other the number of poor people living there. And an animation tries to make sense of the maps.
Nelson Mandela’s mother was Nonqaphi Nosekeni, and his father Mphakanyiswa Mandela. He married for the third time at the age of 80. Only two of his six children survive.
A comprehensive timeline of the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – revolutionary, soldier, political prisoner, president of South Africa, statesman and global icon of social justice.
South Africa has 56.5-million people, according to 2017 estimates. The 2011 census puts it at 51.5-million. Black South Africans make up around 81% of the total, coloured people 9%, whites 8% and Indians 3%.
The South African Multidimensional Poverty Index looks at how poverty reveals itself in people’s health, their level of education, the dwelling they live in, how they cook their food, the water they drink …
South Africa is twice the size of France and five times as big as the UK. With an area of 1.2-million square kilometres, it dwarfs the nations of Europe – except Russia – but doesn’t stand up to the giants of Asia and the Americas.
Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo were friends for six decades, from student days through their law firm, then imprisonment and exile until the final victory over apartheid.
Nearly a third of black South Africans speak isiZulu as a first language, and 20% speak isiXhosa. Three-quarters of coloured people speak Afrikaans, and 86% of Indian South Africans speak English. Sixty percent of white people speak Afrikaans, and 30% speak English.
South Africa has held three official censuses in its recent democratic history: in 1996, 2001 and 2011. The censuses have revealed both a growing population – from 41 million to 52 million – and a significant shift in the country’s racial profile.
Robert Sobukwe was one of South Africa’s greatest but forgotten heroes of the struggle for human rights and nonracialism.
The Eastern Cape is South Africa’s poorest province, both in its percentage of poor households and the number of its people who live in poverty. The province with the smallest share of households in poverty is the Western Cape.
Black men have the shortest lives, and white women the longest. Find out more about the country’s population structure with this infographic charting the realities of age, race and sex in South Africa.
The death rate of children is the starkest indicator of the health of a country’s society and economy. In 1974 South Africa’s mortality rate – deaths per 1,000 live births – was 88.1 for infants under a year and 125.5 for under-fives. By 2016 it had dropped to 34.2 for infants and 43.3 for under-fives.
Local government in the city region of Gauteng is organised into five major municipalities. Three are metropolitan, and two are district municipalities. The districts are further divided into six local municipalities.
South Africa has nine provinces, which vary in size from the small city region of Gauteng – home to more than a quarter of the population – to the great Northern Cape, by far the largest province but with the smallest population.
Local government in the Western Cape is organised into six major municipalities. One is metropolitan, and five are district municipalities. The province also has 24 smaller local municipalities, each falling under one of the five districts.
In 2017 South Africa was home to 56.5-million people. Black South Africans were the majority at 45.7-million – 80.8% of the total. There were 5-million coloured people (8.7%), 4.5-million whites (7.9%) and 1.4-million Indian South Africans (2.6%).
Download South Africa Gateway’s detailed infographic of the family and descendants of Nelson Mandela – wives, children, great-grandchildren and (so far) one great-great grandchild – in a range of sizes and formats.
Local government in the Eastern Cape is organised into eight major municipalities. Two are metropolitan, and the other six are district municipalities. The districts are further divided into 31 local municipalities.
Local government in the Free State is organised into five major municipalities. One is metropolitan, and the other four district municipalities. The districts are further divided into 19 local municipalities.
Local government in KwaZulu-Natal is organised into eight major municipalities. One is metropolitan, and the other 10 are district municipalities. The districts are further divided into 43 local municipalities.
Local government in Limpopo is organised into five district municipalities. The province also has 22 smaller local municipalities, each falling under one of the five district municipalities.
Local government in Mpumalanga is organised into three district municipalities. The province also has 17 smaller local municipalities, each falling under one of the district municipalities.
Local government in the Northern Cape is organised into five district municipalities. The province also has 26 smaller local municipalities, each falling under one of the five district municipalities.
Local government in North West is organised into four district municipalities. The province also has 18 smaller local municipalities, each falling under one of the four district municipalities.
Life on earth needs oxygen, right? A South African scientist has discovered the remains of giant bacteria that flourished on our planet billions of years ago – breathing sulphur.