South Africa

Region Listing

The OLIVE LEAF Foundation has a long history of extending a helping hand to people struggling to make a better life in our country, facing daily multi-level challenges. It is this caring hand that stands as a hallmark of the OLIVE LEAF Foundation in the communities we work in affected and shows the world our true character.

The Republic of South Africa is a country located at the southernmost region of Africa, with a long coastline that stretches more than 2,798 kilometres and across two oceans (the Atlantic and the Indian). At 1,219,912 km², South Africa is the world's 25th-largest country, including the Prince Edward Islands in the South Atlantic.  To the north of South Africa lie Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland, while the Kingdom of Lesotho is an independent enclave surrounded by South African territory.

South Africa is the only country with three capital cities: Cape Town, is the legislative capital; Pretoria is the administrative capital; and Bloemfontein is the judicial capital. Principal cities are Johannesburg (3,888,180), Cape Town (3,497,097), Durban (3,468,086) and Pretoria (2,345,908). The country is devided into 9 provinces, Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North-West and the Western Cape. The OLIVE LEAF Foundation currently works in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal , Limpopo and the Western Cape.


South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; a stock exchange that is 17th largest in the world; and modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centres throughout the region. Growth has been robust since 2004, as South Africa has reaped the benefits of macroeconomic stability and a global commodities boom. The South African rand (ZAR) is the world's most actively-traded emerging market currency. South Africa’s GDP (PPP) as at the end of 2007 was $467, 95 billion ranking the country 20th in the world. The country suffers from large income gaps and a dual economy marking it as a developing country. South Africa has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world, reflected in per capita GDP of US$10 600 ranking it only 76th in the world.

Advanced development is significantly localised around major cities, beyond which development is marginal and poverty is endemic. Unemployment officially was 23% in 2007, but unofficial estimates place it closer to 40%. About half the population lives below the official poverty line. Since the mid-1990s, South Africa's ranking on the United Nations Human Development Index has fallen dramatically, while it was steadily rising before then. Much of this could be attributed to the AIDS pandemic and the government's failure to take steps to address it. 


South Africa is a nation of more than 47 million people of diverse origins, cultures, languages, and religions. Even though South Africa's population has increased in the past decade (primarily due to immigration), the country had an annual population growth rate of −0.501% in 2008 (CIA est.).

South Africa is ethnically diverse, with the largest Caucasian, Indian, and racially mixed communities in Africa. Although 79.6% of South Africa's population is Black, this category is neither culturally nor linguistically homogenous. Major ethnic groups include the Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho, Tswana, Tsonga, Swazi and Ndebele. The white population, constituting 9.2% of the total population, is on the decrease due to a low birth rate and emigration. It is not ethnically homogenous and descends from Dutch, Portuguese, German, French, English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh immigrants.

The term "Coloured" is still largely used for the people of mixed race descended from slaves brought in from East and Central Africa, the indigenous populations, Whites as well as an admixture of Javanese, Malay, Indian, and Malagasy stock. The majority speak Afrikaans. The major part of the Asian population is Indian in origin, many of them descended from indentured workers brought in the nineteenth century to work on the sugar plantations of the eastern coastal area. There are also significant groups of Chinese and Vietnamese South Africans

South Africa has eleven official languages: Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu. While each language is technically equal to every other, some languages are spoken more than others. According to the 2001 National Census, the three most spoken first home languages are Zulu (23.8%), Xhosa (17.6%) and Afrikaans (13.3%). English is the most commonly spoken language in official and commercial public life, however it is only the fifth most spoken home language.

HIV and AIDS is a major health concern in South Africa. Around 5.3 million people are thought to be living with the virus in South Africa, making it the country with the largest HIV positive population. There is an average of almost 1,000 deaths of AIDS a day; the ASSA2003 model estimates that 345,640 South Africans died of AIDS in 2006.

AIDS is affecting mainly those who are sexually active, which means the demographics of the country are slowly changing. Many deaths are people who are their family's primary wage earners. This is resulting in many 'AIDS orphans' who in many cases depend on the state for care and financial support. It is estimated that there were 1,200,000 AIDS orphans in South Africa in 2005. Traditional orphan support systems are being overwhelmed by the large numbers of orphans, placing increased strain on carers, including elders.


South Africa has a generally temperate climate, due in part to it being surrounded by the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on three sides, by its location in the climatically milder southern hemisphere and due to the average elevation rising steadily towards the north (towards the equator) and further inland. Due to this varied topography and oceanic influence, a great variety of climatic zones exist.

South Africa is one of only 17 countries worldwide considered mega-diverse. It has more than 20,000 different plants, or about 10% of all the known species of plants on Earth, making it particularly rich in plant biodiversity. South Africa is the third most bio-diverse country in the world, after Brazil and Indonesia and has greater biodiversity than any country of equal or smaller size.

Climate change is expected to bring considerable warming and drying to much of this already semi-arid region, with greater frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat-waves, flooding and drought. According to climate models produced by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) (along with many of its partner institutions), parts of southern Africa will see an increase in temperature by about one degree Celsius along the coast to more than four degrees Celsius in the already hot hinterland such as the Northern Cape in late spring and summertime by 2050.

The Cape Floral Kingdom has been identified as one of the global biodiversity hotspots since it will be hit very hard by climate change. Drought, increased intensity and frequency of fire and climbing temperatures are expected to push many of these rare species towards extinction.

Region Listing

South Africa snapshot

  • Date of independence: 1910
  • Capital: Pretoria
  • Population: 44 million
  • GDP per person: $10600
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