With its spectacular views, stunning wildlife, and unbeatable biodiversity, in contrast with its bustling modern cities and vibrant economy, South Africa is often described as “A world in one country.” The country has more than 290 conservation parks. It is home to almost 300 mammal species, about 860 bird species and 8 000 plant species. The annual sardine run is the biggest migration on the planet. There are eight world heritage sites and seven different biomes. It is considered the cradle of humankind and boasts 40% of all hominid finds on Earth.  

The warm Mozambique-Agulhas Current skirts the east and south coasts as far as Cape Agulhas, while the cold Benguela Current flows northwards along the west coast as far as southern Angola. The contrast in temperature between these two currents partly accounts for significant differences in climate and vegetation, as well as differences in marine life. Owing to the cold waters of the west coast being much richer in oxygen, nitrates, phosphates and plankton than those of the east coast, the South African fishing industry is centred on the west coast. Saldanha Bay on the west coast is the only ideal natural harbour. Saldanha Bay on the west coast is the only ideal natural harbour.


Threatened species      (2014):            528     

Forested area (% of land area)           2012    7.6      

Proportion of terrestrial and marine areas protected (%)      (2014):            10.2    

Population using improved drinking water sources (%)        (2012):            95.0    

Population using improved sanitation facilities (%)   (2012):            74.0    

CO2 emission estimates (000 metric tons and metric tons per capita)          (2011):            477242/9.2    

Energy supply per capita (Gigajoules)            (2012):            120.0  

Land use: agricultural land: 79.4% ; arable land 9.9%; permanent crops 0.3%; permanent pasture 69.2% ; forest: 7.6%; other: 13% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land: 16,700 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources: 51.4 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 12.5 cu km/yr (36%/7%/57%); per capita: 271.7 cu m/yr (2005)

Environment – international agreements: party to: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Social  indicators

Population growth rate (average annual %)         (2010-2015):      0.8       

Urban population growth rate (average annual %)            (2010-2015):      1.6       

Rural population growth rate (average annual %) (2010-2015):      -0.6      

Urban population (%)     (2014):  64.3


  1. South Africa Government 
  2. UN Data 
  3. United Nations Statistics Division