South Africa Overview

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South Africa is striving for a scientific leadership role in Africa and is pursuing the goal of making the change from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy. The state relies on excellent research and innovation in universities and companies. For Germany and the European Union, South Africa is a key partner for research collaborations on the African continent.

south africa population - fertility rate

Population / geography

Country name Republic of South AfricaRepublic of South Africa
Land area 1,219,090 kmĀ²(3.4 times the size of Germany)
Population 55.4 million (2018 estimate)
Life expectancy Men: 62.7 yearsWomen: 65.6 years

(2018 estimate)

Age structure 0-14 years: 28%15-64 years: 66%

over 65 years: 6%

(2018 estimate)

Growth of population 0.97% (2018 estimate)
Population groups
  • Black Africans 80.9%,
  • Colored 8.8%,
  • Whiteness 7.8%,
  • Indians and Asians 2.5%

(2018 estimate)

The term “colored” is officially used in South Africa to refer to people of mixed origins.

Languages 11 official national languages:

  • isiZulu (24.7%),
  • isiXhosa (15.6%),
  • Afrikaans (12.1%),
  • Sepedi (9.8%),
  • Setswana (8.9%),
  • English (8.4%),
  • Sesotho (8%),
  • Xitsonga (4%),
  • Siswati (2.6%),
  • Tshivenda (2.5%),
  • isiNdebele (1.6%).
  • other (including Khoi, Nama and San languages) 1.9%

(2017 estimate)

  • Christians 86%,
  • traditional African religions 5.4%,
  • Muslims 1.9%,
  • other 1.5%,
  • no exact details 5.2%

(2015 estimate)

National day April 27, 1994 (Freedom Day, day of the first free elections)
Time zone CET + 1 (UTC + 2);No summer / winter time changeover in South Africa.
Currency 1 South African Rand ZAR = 100 centsCurrent exchange rate at Currency Converter
Prefix +27



Living conditions

South Africa is a popular travel destination on the African continent, which is attracting growing numbers of visitors. The big cities are partly characterized by sharp contrasts. While the better residential areas are often generously laid out and noticeably maintained, the ” townships “, in which the majority of the non-white population groups still live, consist of very simple houses, barracks or slum-like huts.

In comparison to Germany, South Africa has high crime rates, especially in the big cities and their peripheral areas. This also includes crimes involving the use of physical violence ( see also travel and security advice for South Africa from the Federal Foreign Office ).

The supply is good in every respect, especially in the vicinity of the large cities, but it is not of the same high level in rural areas. Foreign media, especially German-language magazines and newspapers, are hardly available.

The Constitution of South Africa, passed in 1997, contains a comprehensive and modern catalog of human rights ( “Bill of Rights”, Chapter 2 of the Constitution of South Africa ).

Politics / Administration

Country name Republic of South AfricaRepublic of South Africa
Form of government Parliamentary democracy with a strong executive president and federal elements
  • Pretoria (administrative),
  • Cape Town (legislative),
  • Bloemfontein (judicial)
Head of state President Cyril Ramaphosa (ANC)(President of the Republic of South Africa)
Vice President David Mabuza (ANC)(Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa)
Head of government President and Vice-President are at the same time head of government or deputy. Head of government
Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu (ANC)(Minister for International Relations and Cooperation)
Minister of Education Matsie Angelina Motshekga (ANC)since 2009

(Minister of Basic Education)

Science Minister Dr. Bonginkosi Emmanuel “Blade” Nzimande (SACP)since 2019

(Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology)

Deputy Minister: Buti Manamela (ANC) since 2017 (Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training)

Houses of Parliament Bicameral system consisting of the National Assembly (400 seats) and the National Council of Provinces (90 seats). The members of the National Assembly are elected by direct election with proportional representation for 5 years. Ten members are elected for five years from each of the nine provincial parliaments.
Ruling parties
  • African National Congress (ANC),
  • South African Communist Party (SACP),
  • Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU),
  • Tripartite Alliance
Opposition parties
  • Democratic Alliance (DA),
  • Economic Freedom Fighters (EEF),
  • Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP),
  • National Freedom Party (NFP)

among others

Composition of the National Assembly
  • ANC – African National Congress: 249 seats
  • DA – Democratic Alliance Party: 89 seats
  • EFF – Economic Freedom Fighters: 25 seats
  • IFP – Inkatha Freedom Party: 10 seats
  • NFP – National Freedom Party: 6 seats
  • UDM – United Democratic Movement: 4 seats
  • FF + – Freedom Front Plus: 4 seats
  • ACDP – African Christian Democratic Party: 3 seats
  • COPE – Congress of the People: 3 seats,

among others

Administrative structure South Africa is administratively divided into 9 provinces:Western Cape, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo
Independence May 31, 1910 (Foundation of the South African Union)since May 31, 1961 Republic of South Africa

(first democratic elections April 27, 1994)

State building

The constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which came into force on February 4, 1997, forms the basis for the state structure. It establishes a presidential democracy with federal elements.

The President is elected by the National Assembly. He is endowed with far-reaching powers and powers, but these are restricted by a system of “checks and balances”.

The nine provinces have their own provincial parliaments and governments, but they are less independent than the German federal states in political and financial matters.

The constitution provides for a two-chamber parliamentary system. It includes the National Assembly (National Assembly – NA ), which is composed of 400 deputies and the National Council of Provinces (National Council of Provinces – NCOP) that 90 members; each of the nine provinces nominates ten members. Parliamentary sessions are public.

The NCOP has the right to initiate legislation and the right to object to such NA bills that affect the affairs of the provinces. A mediation committee is provided for in the event of a conflict.

In both chambers, laws are usually passed with a simple majority. If this is missing in one of the chambers, a joint majority of the votes of both chambers is required. Special procedures and quorums apply to NA bills on provincial boundaries and powers of provincial governments, and on finance, budget and tax laws.

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