Welcome to South Africa

South Africa is called the ‘Rainbow Nation’. This is because of its multicultural diversity, after different groups came here in previous centuries. The country's more recent history of apartheid is better known. Now people can live anywhere if they have the right opportunities, such as a good education.

Development

‘People are the real wealth of a nation.’ This is the belief of the United Nations, whose Millenium Development Goals provide a framework for improving the lives of millions.

It helps when nations are peaceful, stable and growing economically. But where even the poorest countries focus on health, education and creating fairer societies, more Africans have the chance of a better life.

Agriculture & Famine

A quarter of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished and famines can impact whole regions.

Land is available to grow more food locally, but investment is needed in  technologies such as irrigation for land to be used effectively. Farmers must also adapt to climate change if they are to feed the continent's rising population.

Food & Daily life

Fish, meat and maize

With the warm climate and outdoor lifestyle, it’s no wonder South Africans love braai or barbecue. Along the Western coastal areas, grilled crayfish and snoek (a large oily fish) are popular. South Africans also love their meat and where affordable enjoy lamb, steak, chicken, sosaties (kebabs) and boerewors (sausages).

Games & Sport

Africa is home to arguably the oldest-recorded games and sports. While some are only known through archaeology, modern-day games and sports such as Mancala/Mankala and Nubian wrestling are very much alive today.

Of course, new sports have come along to claim the attention of Africans. You may have heard of one - it's called football.

Health

Africa has a high number of communicable diseases, which place a huge burden on healthcare systems. The vast majority of malaria cases and HIV/AIDS-related deaths occur in Africa; these two diseases currently represent the greatest threats.

With low investment in healthcare and a severe shortage of medical staff, many countries struggle to meet the health needs of their people.

History

The first humans are thought to have lived in Africa and powerful African empires formed from the medieval age onwards.

However, today's African nations were shaped by the European powers who colonised this vast continent. Having gained their independence, many African countries are still coming to terms with the legacy left by their colonisers.

Economy & Industry

Economy has strengthened

After experiencing difficult times during the sanctions and isolation of the apartheid era, South Africa’s economy has strengthened since 1994, posting average annual growth of around 3.5% over the past decade.

Geography & Wildlife

Deserts, rainforests, mountains…

South Africa’s varied geography has diverse habitats, including deserts, savannahs, rainforests, mangroves, wetlands and mountain regions.

Climate & Agriculture

Sunny South Africa

Lying halfway between the Equator and the Antarctic, much of South Africa enjoys a temperate climate. With its warm weather and long hours of sunshine, it’s sometimes referred to as ‘sunny South Africa’.

South Africa has a large agricultural sector with wine being the most profitable.

Facts & Figures

A huge divide

Average life expectancy in South Africa is 54, though there is a great divide in the standard of living and health among the country's 50 million people.

South Africa Map

Explore South Africa

Explore a map of South Africa. Find out more about the most important places in South Africa

The craft market

Beads galore

A bead lamp is just one of many expertly-crafted goods made and sold by street sellers in Soweto. Basetsana and Precious discover what else is on sale.

Tourism & Communications

Natural beauty

South Africa is renowned for its stunning landscapes. With ochre-coloured deserts and large savannahs, verdant rainforests and wetlands and long stretches of rugged coastline and beaches, visitors are drawn by the country’s natural beauty.

Welcome to South Africa

Hi, we're Basetsana and Precious!

Welcome to South Africa! Click on this image to find out what we’ve been up to around Johannesburg, such as learning more about South Africa's history, especially apartheid and our hero, Nelson Mandela.

We live in a brilliant country where there are many opportunities if you can get a good education.

Working in the community

A valuable skill

Mama Rosa makes shoes in one of the communities bordering the SOS Children’s Village. SOS Children paid for training to help Mama Rosa learn this skill.

Children's stories

'A place to call home' and 'The importance of family'

After a lesson on filming, some of the children at the SOS Children’s Village in South Africa spilt into two groups, and created their very own films.

Team A and team B created films on topics that have affected their lives, in one way or another.

Climate

Africa is a massive continent, with a range of climates. Some regions are hot and dry, like the Sahara, Kalahari and Namib deserts. Other parts are wet or covered in tropical rainforest. Conditions also vary by altitude, from the dry salt pans of the Danakil Depression (one of the lowest points on earth) to the snowcaps (at certain times) of the highest mountains. Weather-wise, Africa has it all!

Growing up

'The sky's the limit'

Two 22 year-old men talk about their future plans and aspirations. There are many opportunities available to young people growing up in South Africa, but there are also still many challenges and obstacles.

Apartheid

Painful history of Apartheid

They’d read about it in schoolbooks - the era when white men beat black schoolchildren with canes to discourage them from taking part in the riots against apartheid. But Basetsana (15) and Precious (14) had never seen film of it before.

Meeting the media

Tables turned on journalist

The Sunday Times’ foreign correspondent in South Africa is himself subjected to an interview by our two ‘reporters’, who find out what it’s like to be a journalist. They’re outside Nelson Mandela’s home in Johannesburg at a time when Mr Mandela has just returned from hospital treatment. Everyone is holding their breath that he will be ok.

Nelson Mandela square

Hero and role model

Among all the new sights and sounds of Johannesburg, the attention of two teenagers is drawn by the bronze statue of their hero and role model, Nelson Mandela.

Poverty

Across the rest of the world, absolute poverty has halved over recent decades, but in Africa it has barely fallen.

About two-fifths of the population of sub-Saharan Africa survive week by week on what someone in the UK earns from just one hour's work on the minimum wage.

People & Culture

‘Rainbow Nation’ of diversity

South Africa is often called the ‘Rainbow Nation’, a term which was coined by the former Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, and neatly describes the country’s multicultural diversity.

Children

Around one in six children born in sub-Saharan Africa don't live to see their fifth birthday and life can be tough for those who do.

What are the common challenges facing African children and how do their lives compare with those of children in the UK?

Foods

Africa has some of the most distinctive cuisines and flavours in the world. Food varies widely, but there are commonalities across regions. Depending on what's grown locally, dishes are also influenced by the traders, immigrants and rulers who settled across the continent. Arab, Asian and European elements blend in with traditional African cooking.

History & Politics

The anti-apartheid movement

Two teenagers visit a memorial in Soweto where a display photograph shows a father carrying his dead child in his arms. This picture became an emblem of the anti-apartheid movement.

Education & Jobs

Education marks the divide

South Africa is sometimes said to possess both first and third-world societies.

The well-educated are able to take advantage of the country’s growing economy. But for those with a low level of educational attainment, prospects are bleak.

Poverty & Healthcare

Free healthcare for all but…

Basic medical care is free in South Africa, which has a sophisticated public healthcare system in the major towns and cities. However, hospitals in poor areas tend to be overcrowded and services remain inferior in these and in rural locations.

Geography & Wildlife

With its varied geography and diverse habits, the African continent is home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Though famous for its 'big game' animals, Africa has huge numbers of fish, mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and insect species, as well as many tree, plant and flower species.

Women

A woman’s status varies by country and region across Africa. In many parts, women struggle against inequality in laws, education, pay and domestic responsibilities.

Women’s health is also at risk from traditional practices such as early marriage. But with better education, girls can make more informed choices, leading to the greater development of African nations.

South Africa topicsFacts & FiguresPoverty & HealthcareFood & Daily lifeWorking in the communityPeople & CultureGeography & WildlifeClimate & AgricultureGrowing upApartheidWelcome to South AfricaNelson Mandela squareEconomy & IndustryMeeting the mediaEducation & JobsChildren's storiesHistory & PoliticsThe craft marketSouth Africa MapTourism & Communications