South Africa is situated at the southernmost tip of the African continent and borders Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia. The country occupies 4% of the continent's total landmass and is 5 times larger than Great Britain and 3 times the size of Texas.
From 1672 to 1810, the country was ruled by Holland and then by two British colonies plus several independent republics until 1901. The country then became a self governing member of the British Commonwealth from 1910 to 1961 and finally became an independent republic in 1961.
The country has the continent's biggest economy, but went into recession in May 2009 following a sharp slowdown in the manufacturing and mining sectors. On the other hand, ahead of the 2010 World Cup the country’s construction industry benefited from a huge programme of government investment.
South Africa are a member of the BRICS club of emerging world economic powerhouses along with China, India, Russia and Brazil. Though many South Africans still remain poor and the country has a high unemployment rate. The country also has the second highest number of HIV/Aids patients in the world where around 1 in 7 of its citizens are infected with HIV.
The country also has an ongoing issue about land redistribution as most farmland is still white owned. Officials have so far acquired land from a "willing buyer, willing seller" basis and have indicated that large scale expropriations will happen. The government is aiming to transfer 30% of farmland back to black South Africans by 2014.
Facts About South Africa
Full name: Republic of South Africa
Population: 50.5 million
Area: 1.22 million sq km (470,693 sq miles)
Capitals: Pretoria (executive capital); Cape Town (legislative capital); Bloemfontein (judicial capital)
Largest city: Johannesburg
Major languages: 11 official languages including English, Afrikaans, Zulu, Sesotho, Setswana and Xhosa
Major religion: Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs
Life expectancy: 53 years (men), 54 years (women)
Main exports: Diamonds, gold, cars, machinery, metals and minerals
International dialling code: +27