Facts about South Africa

Here are some interesting facts about South Africa for kids which were chosen and researched by kids especially for kids.

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35 Fun Facts about South Africa

Facts about South Africa
Geography

1. South Africa is the southernmost country on the African continent. The country is surrounded by two oceans: the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. The most southern point of South Africa is Cape Agulhas. Off the coast, this is where they say the waters of the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet.

Cape Agulhas - southernmost point of the African continentCape Agulhas - southernmost point of the African continent

2. South Africa shares borders with six neighbouring countries: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Eswatini and Lesotho.

One country is completely landlocked and surrounded within South Africa: The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. Read more about Lesotho here.

3. South Africa is the ninth largest country in Africa and about as big as France and Spain combined or slightly smaller in size than twice the area of the state of Texas/ USA.

4. The coastline of South Africa runs over 3,000 km/ 1,864 miles from the northeast to the southwest. The country has the third longest coastline in Africa - only the coastlines of Madagascar and Somalia are longer!

South African coastline near Gordons Bay

 Facts about South Africa | Geography Superlatives

5. The country does not have only one capital city but three: Pretoria, Cape Town and Bloemfontein.

The South African parliament is located in Cape Town, the country's second largest city. Bloemfontein is the seat of the Supreme Court of Appeal and legislative centre of the country. The ultimate capital is Pretoria, where there are the government buildings called 'Union Buildings' and the official residence of the South African president.

Union Buildings in Pretoria - which is one of South Africa's capital citiesPretoria's Union Buildings

6. More than 60 million people live in South Africa. The country has nine provinces: Northern Cape, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West Province and Gauteng.

7. The largest but most sparsely populated province is called 'Northern Cape', only about 1.2 million people live here. The smallest province is Gauteng with 15 million people, but this is where most of the population lives. 

8. Durban, the third largest city of the country, is home to the largest container port in sub-saharan Africa and the fourth largest port in the Southern Hemisphere (while Saldana in the Western Cape is the deepest and largest natural port in the Southern Hemisphere!) Durban is located in KwaZulu-Natal province which is still home to the Zulu kings.

9. The largest and most populous city of South Africa is Johannesburg. The city is located on a high plateau at about 1,700 m/ 5,577 ft above sea level. Over 5 million people alone live in the buzzing metropolitan area of Johannesburg.

Johannesburg Skyline - image by Greg Da Silva/shutterstock.comSkyline of Johannesburg

10. The northern parts of South Africa are bordering the massive and dry Kalahari Desert, which also covers large parts of Botswana and Namibia. Droughts are a major challenge to the country, where many regions especially in the Eastern Cape have not had significant rains for more than five years.

11. The longest river of South Africa is the Orange River which in part forms the border to neighbouring Namibia. The river is 2,200 km/ 1,400 miles long.

12. All the South African rivers and tributaries put end to end, their combined length would measure over 163,000 km/ 101,000 miles which is four times the circumference of our planet! 

Tugela River in the Drakensberg in South AfricaTugela River in the Drakensberg

13. The highest mountain peak of South Africa is called Mafadi Peak and is located in the Drakensberg mountains. The mountain is 3,450 metres/ 11,320 ft high.

14. The oldest mountains in the world are in South Africa. With 3.2 billion years, the oldest rocks found in the Makhonjwa or Barberton Mountains in Mpumalanga are older than the those from the Himalayas or the Alps.

15. Kimberley in the Northern Cape is home to the largest hand-dug hole in the world: The Big Hole. In 1871, when the gold rush started in South Africa, diamonds were discovered and mined by hand at the site in Kimberley.

The Big Hole in Kimberley South AfricaThe Big Hole in Kimberley

16. The world's largest diamond with 3,106 carats and weighing over 621 g was found in Cullinan in 1905. Cullinan is a small town about 30 km/ 19 miles to the east of Pretoria.

Facts about South Africa
People

17. About 60 million people live in South Africa and the country is the fifth largest country in Africa by population.

Multicultural South Africa - hands of different skin colour in front of South African flagMulticultural South Africa

18. South Africa is often referred to as a 'Rainbow Nation' due to the many different cultures living peacefully together in the country since Apartheid officially ended in 1994. The name 'Rainbow Nation' was coined by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and was widely used also by Nelson Mandela, who is revered as the 'Father of the Nation'. South Africans also refer to their country as 'Mzansi'.

19. South Africa is also referred to as 'The Cradle of Humankind’ because the fossilised skull of the Taung child, that of Mrs Ples and other archaeological artefacts provide proof that the origins of humankind can be traced to South Africa.

Replica of fossilised skull of Mrs Ples - image by Danny Ye/shutterstock.comReplica of the fossilised skull of Mrs Ples - most complete skull of an Australopithecus africanus ever discovered.

20. The first human heart transplant was performed successfully in 1967 in Cape Town's Groote Schuur hospital by Dr Christian Barnard and his team.

21. Amongst the most famous South Africans are: South Africa's first democratically elected president Nelson Mandela, freedom fighter and activist Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Tesla inventor Elon Musk, Princess Charlene of Monaco and Athol Fugard, who is the most performed playwright after Shakespeare!

22. South Africa is known for many famous inventions such as the Pratley Putty, an adhesive that was taken on the moon with the Ranger mission in the 1960s and is used worldwide today, the Q20 lubricant that is used in many households around the world, the dolos which are huge concrete blocks used for harbour fortifications around the world.

Dolosse - image by Grant Duncan-Smith/shutterstock.comDolos in Cape Town harbour - image by Grant Duncan-Smith

Other fascinating South African inventions are the first CT scan or CAT scan by Allan MacLeod Cormack or the first digital laser instrument, which was invented by Dr Sandile Nqcobo in 2013 and is used for applications in health care and cosmetics.

Facts about South African Languages

23. In South Africa, there are 12 official languages: isiZulu, Afrikaans, English, isiXhosa, siSwati, Sesotho, Xitsonga, Sepedi, isiNdebele, Setswana, Tshivenda - and there is South African Sign Language. The South African Sign Language is currently under review to become recognised as the 12th official language. Sign Language is also used in news and official announcements on television.

24. South African English has its own slang words, including lecker, bakkie, koki, braai, gatsby and many more.

Read our special page about languages in South Africa here.

Facts about South Africa
Animals and Wildlife

25. South Africa houses about 10% of the world's plants and 15% of coastal marine species and 7% of the world's mammal, reptile and bird species, but only covers 2% of the planets land area. 

26. South Africa is a megadiverse country with extremely high biodiversity. South Africa is the only country on the planet to house an entire plant kingdom within its borders: The Cape Floral Kingdom. 

27. In South Africa you can experience the world’s fastest mammal (cheetah), the tallest mammal (giraffe), the largest fish (whaleshark), the largest bird (ostrich) and the largest land-mammal (the elephant). Read more about animals in South Africa here.

Elephants in South Africa's Addo Elephant National ParkElephants in South Africa's Addo Elephant National Park

28. The Great Limpopo Transfrontier park, which includes South Africa’s Kruger Park, is considered the world’s largest conservation area and is roughly the same size as the Netherlands.

29. Here are the famous South African 'Big Five'. The Big Five refer to five animals that were once deemed to be the most difficult to hunt: elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros, lion and leopard. 

South Africa's Big Five: elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion, leopardSouth Africa's Big Five

Facts about South Africa  Economy

30. South Africa’s colourful banknotes show a portrait of Nelson Mandela on the front and one of the Big Five animals on the reverse.

South African banknotes depict the Big FiveSouth African banknotes

31. The South African currency is called South African rand and is accepted as common tender also in Namibia, Lesotho and Eswatini.

32. The Johannesburg Stock exchange is the largest stock exchange on the African continent.

33. South Africa has the second strongest economy and largest GDP (gross domestic product) in Africa - after Nigeria. South Africa is rich in resources such as coal, diamonds, gold, iron ore, manganese, platinum and copper.

Palabora copper mine with Africa's widest man-made hole.

34. South Africa is the world's leading producer of titanium group metals. Titanium is a low-weight metal that is very strong. Titanium is used for example in aircrafts, in bicycle frames, in tennis rackets or glasses. 

35. South Africa also is the world's sixth largest gold producer. There are two of the world's eight largest gold mines in the country: South Deep gold mine and Mponeng gold mine.

Facts about South Africa
Do you know...?

South African national flower: the king proteaThe king protea is South Africa's national flower. The national cricket team is nicknamed 'Proteas'.

Bonus Facts about South Africa :)

... the many different South African national symbols:

  • the South African flag: The white 'y' symbolises the union between the African and European cultures in the country
  • the South African coat of arms shows the Khoisan motto ǃke e꞉ ǀxarra ǁke meaning 'diverse people unite' 
Siya Kolisi, former captain of the South African national rugby team 'The Springboks' - image by Danie Nel Photography/shutterstock.comSiya Kolisi, captain of the South African national 'Springbok' rugby team
  • the South African anthem, Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, is using verses from five languages in its hymn: isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sesotho, English and Afrikaans 
  • the blue crane is the national bird, 
  • the springbok is the national animal, 
  • the king protea is the national flower
  • the galjoen is the national fish
  • the Real Yellowwood tree is the national tree.

Read more about the South African symbols here.


Popular Pages

Resources 
Facts about South Africa

  • Central Intelligence Agency. "South Africa". The World Factbook. Updated 27 April 2021. Last accessed 6 May 2021
  • Statistics South Africa. "Four facts about our rivers you probably didn't know." StatsSA. Last accessed 6 May 2021
  • Government of South Africa. "Environment". Gov.za. Last accessed 6 May 2021
  • South Africa National Parks. "Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park". SANParks. Last accessed 6 May 2021
  • Department of Arts and Culture. "The National Symbols - pdf". Dac.gov.za. Last accessed 6 May 2021
  • Cradle of Humankind. "The age of Australopithecus." Maropeng. Last accessed 6 May 2021
  • Brand South Africa. "South African inventions." BrandSouthAfrica. 28 July 2017. Last accessed 6 May 2021

Images on Facts about South Africa: own images and shutterstock.com - special credits: Mrs Ples skull photo by Danny Ye; Siya Kolisi photo by Danie Nel Photography and dolosse photo by Grant Duncan-Smith - all from shutterstock.com


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