Infographic: Geographic distribution of South Africa’s races

The distribution of South Africa’s population groups reveals the country’s history.

Map showing the distribution of South Africa's population, as well as the population distribution of black, coloured, Indian and white South Africans.

These maps are based on the 2011 census of the population.

Read more: South Africa’s population

According to census figures, Black South Africans are the majority at 79% of the population, and live both in the cities and across the poorer rural areas.

Indian South Africans, by contrast, are South Africa’s smallest minority – just 2.5% of the population. They are concentrated in the city of Durban, and to a lesser extent in Cape Towns and the urban areas of Gauteng. The first Indians were brought to Cape Town as slaves in 1684, during the Dutch colonial era. But today’s South African Indians are mainly descended from indentured labourers and free “passenger” immigrants who arrived in Durban from 1860 to 1914.

Coloured and white South Africans both make up around 9% of the population, according to the 2011 census. That whites live almost exclusively in the cities and coloureds in both the cities and the rural areas is a legacy of apartheid. White South Africans have enjoyed far greater educational and economic opportunities, as well as greater mobility, and live where the higher-paying jobs are.

Coloured people are descended from the Khoi and San, from slaves brought to the Cape Colony from 1658 onwards, and from a mixture of all the people of the Cape – African, European and more – before racial classification was a thing. Today most coloured people live in the Western Cape, as well as in the Northern Cape and the eastern regions of the Eastern Cape.

All of South African population groups also concentrate in Gauteng, the economic heart of South Africa. Over a quarter of the country’s people live in this small province.

Written by Mary Alexander
Updated 27 February 2018


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