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Geography—note: South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland

Area—comparative: slightly less than twice the size of Texas

Coastline: 2,798 km

Climate: mostly semiarid; subtropical along east coast; sunny days, cool nights

Terrain: vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged hills and narrow coastal plain

Natural resources: gold, chromium, antimony, coal, iron ore, manganese, nickel, phosphates, tin, uranium, gem diamonds, platinum, copper, vanadium, salt, natural gas

Environment—current issues: lack of important arterial rivers or lakes requires extensive water conservation and control measures; growth in water usage threatens to outpace supply; pollution of rivers from agricultural runoff and urban discharge; air pollution resulting in acid rain; soil erosion; desertification

Population: 42,834,520 (July 1998 est.)
note: South Africa took a census 10 October 1996 which showed a total of 37,859,000 (after a 6.8% adjustment for underenumeration based on a post-enumeration survey); this figure is still about 10% below projections from earlier censuses; since the full results of the census have not been released for analysis, the numbers shown for South Africa do not take into consideration the results of this 1996 census

Age structure:
0-14 years: 35% (male 7,502,396; female 7,366,144)
15-64 years: 61% (male 12,947,521; female 13,079,892)
65 years and over: 4% (male 778,767; female 1,159,800) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.42% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 26.43 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 12.28 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 52.04 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 55.65 years
male: 53.56 years
female: 57.8 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 3.16 children born/woman (1998 est.)

Ethnic groups: black 75.2%, white 13.6%, Colored 8.6%, Indian 2.6%

Religions: Christian 68% (includes most whites and Coloreds, about 60% of blacks and about 40% of Indians), Muslim 2%, Hindu 1.5% (60% of Indians), traditional and animistic 28.5%

Languages: 11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 81.8%
male: 81.9%
female: 81.7% (1995 est.)

National capital: Pretoria (administrative); Cape Town (legislative); Bloemfontein (judicial)

Independence: 31 May 1910 (from UK)

National holiday: Freedom Day, 27 April (1994)

Constitution: 10 December 1996; this new constitution was certified by the Constitutional Court on 4 December 1996, was signed by President MANDELA on 10 December 1996, and entered into effect on 3 February 1997; it is being implemented in phases

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Political parties and leaders: African Christian Democratic Party or ACDP [Kenneth MESHOE, president]; African National Congress or ANC [Thabo MBEKI, president]; Democratic Party or DP [Tony LEON, president]; Freedom Front or FF [Constand VILJOEN, president]; Inkatha Freedom Party or IFP [Mangosuthu BUTHELEZI, president]; National Party or NP [Marthinus VAN SCHALKWYK, executive director]; Pan-Africanist Congress or PAC [Stanley MOGOBA, president]; United Democratic Movement or UDM [Roelf MEYER and Bantu HOLOMISA, leaders]
note: 11 other parties won votes in the April 1994 elections but not enough to gain seats in the National Assembly; moreover, in September 1997, a substantial new party, the United Democratic Movement or UDM, was formed, with Roelf MEYER and Bantu HOLOMISA as leaders

Economy—overview: South Africa is a middle-income, developing country with an abundant supply of resources, well developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors, a stock exchange that ranks among the 10 largest in the world, and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. Growth has been positive since the historic election of President Nelson MANDELA in the country's first multi-racial elections in 1994, but not strong enough to cut into the substantial unemployment. Daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era, especially the problems of poverty and economic empowerment among the blacks. Other problems are crime and corruption. The new South African Government demonstrated its commitment to open markets, privatization, and a favorable investment climate with the release of its macroeconomic strategy in June 1996. Called "Growth, Employment and Redistribution," this policy framework includes the introduction of tax incentives to stimulate new investment in labor-intensive projects, expansion of basic infrastructure services, the restructuring and partial privatization of state assets, continued reduction of tariffs and subsidies to promote economic efficiency, improved services to the disadvantaged, and integration into the global economy.

GDP—real growth rate: 3% (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 5%
industry: 37%
services: 58% (1995 est.)

Agriculture—products: corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables; beef, poultry, mutton, wool, dairy products

total value: $31.3 billion (f.o.b., 1997)
commodities: gold 20%, other minerals and metals 20%-25%, food 5%, chemicals 3% (1997)
partners: Italy, Japan, US, Germany, UK, other EU countries, Hong Kong

total value: $28 billion (f.o.b., 1997)
commodities: machinery 32%, transport equipment 15%, chemicals 11%, petroleum products, textiles, scientific instruments (1994)
partners: Germany, US, Japan, UK, Italy

Debt—external: $23.5 billion (1997 est.)

Currency: 1 rand (R) = 100 cents

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 11,144,895 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 6,777,677 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $2.9 billion (FY95/96)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 2.2% (FY95/96

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