Country Focus Data: South Africa
July 01, 1997
by Mindy Dake
On the southern tip of Africa, the Republic of South Africa's administrative capital is Pretoria, legislative capital is Cape Town.
Demography: Population 41.7 million (July 1996 estimate), 1.76% growth rate, 60% urban; 11 official languages, including English, Afrikaans; Christian, Hindu and Muslim religions.
Geography: Interior plateau rimmed by hills, narrow coastal plain; mostly semi-arid climate, subtropical on east coast.
Government: Republic. Chief of state and head of government is President Nelson Mandela.
Official agricultural agencies: Ministry of Agriculture and Land Affairs.
Economy: The end of apartheid brought fresh economic opportunities, as international trade and investment embargoes were lifted. Today, South Africa's economic policies focus on expanding exports to create growth and to cut soaring unemployment, estimated in 1996 at 32.6%. South Africa also is liberalizing markets and privatizing many sectors. The country, rich in mineral resources, is the world's largest producer of platinum and gold. Agriculture employs about 30% of the labor force.
G.D.P. per capita: U.S.$4,800; growth rate 3.3% (both 1995 estimates).
Currency: Rand. June 13, 1997 exchange rate: 4.5 rand per U.S. dollar.
Exports: U.S.$27.9 billion (f.o.b. 1995), minerals, metals and chemicals.
Imports: U.S.$27 billion (f.o.b. 1995), machinery, equipment, chemicals.
Major agricultural crops/products: Maize, wheat, sugarcane.
Coarse grains: Maize, a food staple, is the dominant grain produced, and some 50% to 60% is consumed as food. Average annual 1992-96 production was 9.3 million tonnes, with use in the period averaging 7.6 million. Production is dependent on rain, and in wet years, surplus maize is exported, while imports are necessary in dry years.
Wheat: Production in 1992-96 averaged about 2 million tonnes a year, with consumption averaging 2.5 million and imports averaging 700,000. Since the early 1990s, virtually all wheat consumed has been for food.
Transportation: Railroads, 21,431 km, mostly 1.067-m gauge; 182,329 km of highways, with 55,428 km paved; major ports are Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth.