South Africa Demographics

What is the population of South Africa?

Population 56,463,617
Population - note note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected
Population Growth Rate -0.45%
Urban Population 62%
Population in Major Urban Areas Johannesburg 3.844 million; Cape Town (legislative capital) 3.562 million; Ekurhuleni (East Rand) 3.357 million; Durban 3.012 million; PRETORIA (capital) 1.501 million; Vereeniging 1.2 million; Bloemfontein (judicial capital) 468,000
Nationality Noun South African(s)
Nationality Adjective South African
Ethnic Groups black 75.2%, white 13.6%, Colored 8.6%, Indian 2.6%
Languages Spoken 11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu
Language Note The languages spoken in South Africa are as diverse as its ethnic groups. Africans is the native tongue of about two-thirds of all whites and most of coloreds (8.6%), and English is the original language of most the whites (13.6%) and the Indians (2.6%). The black’s (75.2%) native tongues include a variety of Bantu languages, which are roughly divided into four language families: Nguni, Sotho, Tsonga or Shangana and Venda.

South Africa Learning

What is school like in South Africa?


Rural, township, and peri-urban state schools are usually provisioned to meet the bare minimum many are cash-strapped and they lack the basics of sanitation and water supply, and are most often targets of vandalism and crime. Parents contribute to the schools in the form of school fees. Private schools provide paths of excellence and offer education that is religion-based due to their originations from mission schools. There are some state-aided schools that are on par with some private institutions.

The legislative process established the “Children’s Act” in 2008. The Children’s Act provides for the protection of children and a definition of basic human rights which include:

1. Children have rights to an equal, free, non-sexist, non-racial, and compulsory education that serves as a right and not as a privilege.

2. Children have the right to an education and to develop individual talents through informal and formal education. It is also a requirement that all teachers must be qualified and treat the children with respect, patience, and dignity.

3. Parent’s duties must include involvement in children's development and education and participation in children’s education at home and at school.

4. Children have rights to play sports that are free and adequate and to recreational facilities.

5. Children have the right to participate in the upgrading and evaluating of a curriculum that respects all cultures, traditions, and values of all children in South Africa.

6. Children have rights to education regarding issues of AIDS, sexuality, history, and background of South Africa and family life.      

7. Children have rights to educational facilities that are adequate and transport to facilities must be provided for children in violent or difficult situations.


School life ranges from 13 years. The first education year which is grade 0 or the reception year as well as the last 3 years (termed "matric”) grades ten, eleven, and twelve are not compulsory. Primary schools offer the preschool grade 0 year but this year can be completed at a Nursery school. The 1996 South African Schools Act states that education is compulsory for South Africans from the age of 7 (grade 1) to the age of 15 or completion to grade 9. There are 3 bands of education recognized by South Africa's National Qualifications Framework (NQF), general training and education, further training and education, and Higher training and education.

In 2006 Mathematics became compulsory. 2008 was the beginning of the National Senior Certificate examination, which offered seven subjects out of a choice of twenty-nine. Examinations are benchmarked against papers that are both international and national.

The national curriculum statement is available in all of the 11 official languages as well as Braille, the Constitution grants parity to the eleven languages.

In recent years there have been great advances towards new technology introductions in schools that were formerly disadvantaged. There are organizations that have worked towards the provision of computer access to state schools. An initiative has also been the creation of a program "FOCUS” in schools that specialize in particular curriculum areas such as (Engineering, Business & Commerce, and Arts and Culture)

In state public schools, the ratio of scholars "learners" to ("educators") is 32.6 to 1, and private schools have one teacher for 17.5 scholars.
The central government has a national school policy the provinces have to administer. Administrative responsibility lies with the provinces. Power is further devolved to the grassroots level via elected school governing bodies; it is not negotiable that no child can be excluded from a school on the basis of race or religion.

To School

Typically the location of schools is within walking distance, for those who live too far away to walk transportation is by public taxis and busses or in some cases trains. Some schools provide school buses.

South Africa Health Information

What are the health conditions in South Africa?

Contraceptive Prevalence Rate - female 15-49 59.9%
Death Rate - deaths/1,000 population 17.36
Drinking Water Source - percent of rural population improved 88.3%
Drinking Water Source - percent of total population unimproved 4.9%
Drinking Water Source - percent of urban population improved 99.2%
Food or Waterborne Disease (s) bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
Health Expenditures - percent of GDP 8.5%
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate 17.8%
HIV/Aids Deaths 235,100
Hospital Bed Density - beds/1,000 population 2.8
Infant Mortality Rate - female deaths/1,000 live births 38.33
Infant Mortality Rate - male deaths/1,000 live births 45.9
Infant Mortality Rate - total deaths/1,000 live births 42.15
Major Infectious Diseases - degree of risk intermediate
Maternal Mortality Rate - deaths/100,000 live births 300
Mean Age for Mother's First Birth 22.5
Obesity - adult prevalence rate 31.3%
People Living with HIV/AIDS 5,600,000
Physicians Density - physicians/1,000 population .76
Sanitation Facility Access - percent of total population unimproved 25.6%
Sanitation Facility Access - percent of urban population improved 81.7%
Sanitation Facility Access - percent of rural population improved 62.4%
Total Fertility Rate - children born/woman 2.25
Underweight - percent of children under five years 8.7%
Water contact disease (s) schistosomiasis

South Africa Life Expectancy

How long do people live in South Africa?

Life Expectancy at Birth 49 Years
Life Expectancy at Birth - female 48 Years
Life Expectancy at Birth - male 50 Years
Median Age 25 Years
Median Age - female 25 Years
Median Age - male 25 Years

South Africa Infant Mortality - per 1,000 live births

South Africa median age, birth rate and death rates

Birth Rate - births/1,000 population 19
Death Rate - deaths/1,000 population 17.36
Median Age 25 Years
Median Age - female 25 Years
Median Age - male 25 Years
Net Migration Rate - migrant(s)/1,000 population -6.24
Population Growth Rate -0.45%
Sex Ratio 0-14 Years - male/female 1.01
Sex Ratio 15-24 Years - male/female 1.01
Sex Ratio 25-54 Years - male/female 1.07
Sex Ratio 55-64 Years - male/female .98
Sex Ratio at Birth - male/female 1.02
Sex Ratio of Total Population - male/female .99
Sex Ratio Over 64 Years - male/female .67

South Africa Medical Information

What are the health conditions in South Africa?

Medical Facilities and Health Information

Private medical facilities are good in urban areas and in the vicinity of game parks, but they may be limited elsewhere. Pharmacies are well-stocked, and equivalents to most American medicines are available. However, travelers taking specific medications should bring an adequate supply for their entire stay and a prescription with them. Nearly all private South African hospitals are owned by one of the following three corporations:

Life Health Care (,

NetCare ( ), or

Mediclinic ( ).

Information about locating private hospitals can be obtained by accessing these companies’ websites.

While most of South Africa is malaria-free, malaria risk exists throughout the year in rural low-altitude areas of Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, including Kruger National Park and neighboring game reserves. Risk also exists in the coastal lowlands of KwaZulu-Natal north of the Tugela River (including in Zululand, but excluding urban areas of Richards Bay). Risk is much lower from June to September. Visitors should prepare accordingly and use malaria prophylaxis and mosquito repellent. For information on malaria, its prevention, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, please visit the CDC's malaria web page.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in South Africa.

South Africa Education

What is school like in South Africa?

Education Expenditures - percent of GDP 6%
Literacy - female 85.7%
Literacy - male 87%
Literacy - total population 86.4%
Literacy Definition age 15 and over can read and write

South Africa Literacy

Can people in South Africa read?

Literacy - female 85.7%
Literacy - male 87%
Literacy - total population 86.4%
Literacy Definition age 15 and over can read and write
Predominant Language 11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa, Zulu

South Africa Crime

Is South Africa a safe place to visit?

Crime Information

The vast majority of visitors complete their travels in South Africa without incident. However, visitors should be aware that criminal activity is prevalent throughout the country and can be violent. The South African government has in place a number of strong anti-crime initiatives, but violent crimes, such as armed robbery, carjacking, mugging, "smash-and-grab" attacks on vehicles, and other criminal acts are still common and do affect visitors and resident U.S. citizens.

Note: Visitors to the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria and U.S. Consulates General in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg should be aware of the risk of muggings, several of which have occurred near U.S. diplomatic facilities. While measures have been taken to address concerns about potential muggings, visitors approaching U.S. government facilities should be aware of their personal security and carry as little money and valuables as possible.

Visitors and residents are advised of ongoing criminal activity involving organized crime gangs targeting individuals and commercial businesses at shopping centers and other public places. Once a victim has been identified, he/she may be followed back to his/her residence or hotel and robbed. Robberies often involve weapons; the use of force is used from the moment of attack and generally escalates greatly for those offering some form of resistance.

These gangs target people of opportunity and not always appearing to be affluent. Crime affects all sectors of society to include those driving expensive cars, wearing eye-catching jewelry, flashing large amounts of cash, and/or making high-value purchases. Criminals also gravitate towards “soft” targets - people who appear preoccupied and do not pay attention to their immediate surroundings. Visitors who believe they are being followed should travel directly to a police station or other public location of safety.

Cash-in-transit (armored vehicles) robberies remain common; tourists should try to avoid traveling near these vehicles and personnel during a cash delivery or pick-up, particularly at shopping centers or other public locations. Crimes against property, such as carjacking, have often been accompanied by violent acts, including murder, when victims resist or are slow to respond to attackers’ demands.

South Africa also has the highest reported occurrence of rape in the world. Foreigners are not specifically targeted, but several have been the victims of rape. Victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical attention, including antiretroviral therapy against HIV/AIDS. Questions about how to receive such treatment should be directed to the nearest U.S. consulate.

Criminal activity, such as assault, armed robbery, and theft, is particularly high in areas surrounding certain hotels and public transportation centers, especially in major cities. Theft of passports and other valuables is most likely to occur at airports, bus terminals, and train stations. A number of U.S. citizens have been mugged or violently attacked on commuter and metro trains, especially between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

In the Western Cape, police resources have been strained by continuing gang conflicts and vigilante violence in the low-income areas and informal settlements around Cape Town. People who are unfamiliar with the Cape Flats/Khayelitsha area, surrounding townships, and squatter camps should not visit these areas. Additionally, travelers should be aware that muggings have occurred along popular hiking routes on Table Mountain. Visitors to Table Mountain should be vigilant, hike in groups, and not carry/display valuables.

Crime in Durban remains high. Visitors should avoid traveling in the city center after dark, as well as all travel to the surrounding townships. The suburbs north and west of the city are generally considered to be safer than the city center, but all visitors should remain vigilant and exercise situational awareness at all times.

If confronted by an armed individual, you should immediately comply, and avoid making sudden movements. Any hesitation on your part could be perceived as a threat and may result in unnecessary violence.

ATMs: Criminals often loiter near ATMs, targeting persons withdrawing cash. A common scheme is the “Good Samaritan” fraud, where a criminal attempts to “help out” with a particular ATM transaction. Often the ATM in these situations has been tampered with to record the card information, and the “Good Samaritan” will then take the information and use it to withdraw cash later. This is a prevalent crime, and both residents and visitors have been targeted. Do not accept “assistance” from anyone, or agree to assist others with ATM transactions. Travelers should also try to avoid using ATMs after business hours, on the street, or in remote locations.

Criminals have also used commercial explosives to blow up ATMs in South Africa. ATM bombings have taken place in the early hours of the morning in remote or isolated areas, although some attacks have taken place at gas stations and shopping complexes.

Based on these threats, the following security precautions are recommended:

Avoid using ATMs in dark, remote, or isolated areas.

Never allow someone to assist you at the ATM, and never assist anyone else at the ATM, either.

ATMs located inside shopping malls, hotels, and banks are preferred since they are normally high-traffic areas, and are monitored by security guards and cameras.

Avoid using an ATM with a cord or any foreign object attached to it. If you notice a suspicious device on or alteration to an ATM, immediately leave the area, take cover, and notify the police. Shrapnel and debris from an explosion can travel long distances and cause serious injury or death.

Before withdrawing money, scan the area for any suspicious persons or activity. Should anyone approach you while you are withdrawing money, immediately cancel the transaction, remove your card, and leave the area.

Incidents of credit card fraud, counterfeit U.S. currency, and various check-cashing scams have also been reported. When giving your credit card to a store or restaurant employee for processing, do not let the card out of your sight. Most South African restaurants and gas stations have portable credit card machines that can be brought to your table or car.

Hotel Security: Thefts from hotel rooms throughout the country remain a concern. Travelers are strongly encouraged to make use of hotel-provided room safes or lock-boxes at the front desk for all valuables.

Financial and Romance Scams: Visitors should also beware of telephone, internet, and e-mail fraud schemes, which attempt to win the confidence of unsuspecting persons who are persuaded to enter into a romantic relationship via email, or to provide financial assistance, or to travel to South Africa and assist in a supposedly lucrative business venture. Since 2008, there have been several cases of U.S. citizens losing thousands of dollars and putting themselves in danger by responding to either romantic or financial scams (also known as “419 scams”). “Lonely hearts” scams are a common and growing problem, with “engagements” via internet used to lure victims into sending money to assist with supposed education, health or job problems. Victims have lost tens-of-thousands of dollars on these scams. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a U.S. citizen you met on the internet or only know online asking you for financial assistance, instruct them to contact the nearest U.S. consulate. You should exercise extreme caution when sending funds to individuals overseas for any reason whether your relationship with them is of a business or personal nature. Some scam victims have traveled to South Africa only to lose more money, and in a few cases, to be physically attacked or kidnapped for ransom. Click to view the State Department’s financial scam web page. If you have lost money in a financial scam, please file a report with your local police and with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Victims can also report Internet fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online or by phone, toll-free, at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

To check on a business’s legitimacy while in the United States, contact the International Trade Administration, Room 3317, Department of Commerce, Washington, DC 20230, telephone: 1-800-USA-TRADE or 202-482-5149, fax: 202-482-5198. If you are abroad, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Car Thefts and Carjacking: Carjacking and thefts from cars remain serious problems. Doors should remain locked and windows rolled up at all times. Motorists are urged to hide bags, cell phones, and other valuables from view at all times and to be extremely cautious when approaching intersections. “Smash-and-grab” robberies are common throughout South Africa, particularly in urban areas, at traffic lights, and at highway off-ramps. A criminal, sometimes posing as a vendor or beggar, will walk between lines of vehicles waiting at an intersection, surveying the contents for valuables. Once an item of value is identified, the perpetrator will quickly smash the window and grab the item off the seat before fleeing, often before the driver can determine what happened. In another scenario, an individual (or two working in tandem) may indicate to a driver an apparent flat tire or other problem and wait for the driver to pull over or exit the car before grabbing exposed valuables.

If you see a car pulled over to the side of the road do not stop to offer assistance, but rather call the police to report the vehicle’s location so that authorities can render assistance. You should avoid carrying anything of value inside the car (e.g., briefcases, purses, laptops, etc.) that could attract potential assailants. When parking your vehicle, use parking lots that are well-lit and have a security presence, and physically check that the vehicle is locked before you walk away. Criminals have perfected the technique of blocking the wireless alarm remote signal and either stealing the vehicle or waiting inside the vehicle for the driver to return in order to rob them.

Criminals, working in groups, have placed debris on the road (rocks, bricks, shards of metal, etc.) in an effort to puncture a vehicle’s tires. Another less-frequently used tactic is for criminals to throw rocks, bricks, paint, or eggs from freeway overpasses onto moving vehicles to damage cars and disorient drivers, forcing them to pull over. Other criminals hide along the road and rob the driver once he has pulled over to inspect the damage.

Airport Safety: Although infrequent, travelers leaving the airport have been targeted by criminals for robbery while en route to their hotels or places of residence. As such, all travelers should be extremely vigilant when leaving the airport and ensure that a reliable mode of transportation is used (such as arranging pick-up directly with a hotel, or using airport-approved modes of transport, such as Gautrain or official metered taxis from the taxi rank).

Concerted efforts have been made to reduce luggage theft and pilferage at O.R. Tambo International Airport (Johannesburg), with noticeable results. However, travelers are encouraged to lock their suitcases when possible and avoid placing valuables in checked baggage. A good practice, regardless of destination, is to make an inventory of items and contact your air carrier immediately if you experience a loss.

Criminals are known to also target travelers at ATMs in airports. Travelers should refer to the above section, “ATM Scams,” for security precautions at ATMs.

Firearms: Travelers to South Africa may not import or take in-transit any firearms or ammunition without a temporary import or in-transit permit issued by the South African Police Service. Information on how to obtain a permit for firearms for personal protection and hunting can be found at the South African Police Service’s Firearms website.

South Africa Penalties for Crime

Criminal Penalties

While you are traveling in South Africa you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. If you violate South Africa’s laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in South Africa are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in trafficking or sexual conduct with children or using/disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if U.S. citizens are arrested in South Africa, they should request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the nearest U.S. consulate of the arrest, and to have communications forwarded to the nearest U.S. consulate. Notification by local authorities of U.S. citizens arrested in South Africa is rare. As such, U.S. citizens should request consular notification in the event that they are arrested.

South Africa Population Comparison

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