South Africa has one of the continent’s biggest and most developed economies.
Up until 1994 it was ruled by a white minority government, which enforced a separation of races with its policy called apartheid.
The apartheid government eventually negotiated itself out of power after decades of international isolation, armed opposition and mass protests.
The democratically-elected leadership encouraged reconciliation and set about redressing social imbalances, but the economy has struggled.
- Republic of South Africa
- Capital: Pretoria
- Population 50.7 million
- Area 1.22 million sq km (470,693 sq miles)
- Major languages 11 official languages including English, Afrikaans, Sesotho, Setswana, Xhosa and Zulu
- Religions Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs
- Life expectancy 53 years (men), 54 years (women)
- Currency Rand