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.
The most striking difference is between Gauteng and the Northern Cape. Gauteng is a city region of just 18,178 square kilometres, 1.4% of South Africa’s land area, yet it’s home to over a quarter of the country’s people. The Northern Cape takes up almost a third of South Africa, but it is a region of arid wilderness and hardscrabble farmland in which only 2.1% of the population live.
Then there’s KwaZulu-Natal, home to almost a fifth of the population, and the Free State, home to only 5%.
In 2017 South Africa’s provincial populations, and their share of the total, were:
- Eastern Cape: 6,497,100 (11.5%)
- Free State: 2,889,900 (5.1%)
- Gauteng: 14,273,800 (25.3%)
- KwaZulu-Natal: 11,067,500 (19.6%)
- Limpopo: 5,774,600 (10.2%)
- Mpumalanga: 4,442,500 (7.9%)
- Northern Cape: 1,213,500 (2.1%)
- North West: 3,854,400 (6.8%)
- Western Cape: 6,508,700 (11.5%)
Read more: South Africa’s population
Written and designed by Mary Alexander.
Updated 27 February 2018.