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The Guide for Living and Working in South Africa

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Political Status Geographical situation
Economy & statistics


Other sectors
Weights, measures and voltages
Main towns


Working in South Africa
Entry formalities:
Health & medicine


Connections with France
Time differences
Car rental
Hotels & restaurants
Your suitcase
Your car
Schools & schooling
Cost of Living
in Johannesburg :

Go to South Africa

6 - Other sectors

Other sectors of activity are :
- transport material 17%,
- foodstuff 16%,
- textiles 8%. 

The tertiary sector is very active.

The two mobile telephone operators, Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN) and Vodacom, have had excellent results wherever they operate, in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Mauritius.
The electrical company Eskom is a leading company in Africa. It has already won a contract for the installation of 2000 kms of optic fibre in Nigeria and has submitted its candidacy for the rehabilitation of two big Nigerian power stations.

The trade marks of big South African distributors, hotel groups and restaurant chains are multiplying in the neighbouring African countries.

Johannesburg is an important financial market place with its own stock exchange, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, which is open to the public.

Tourism : 
In 1997 a total of 5.7 million tourists visited SA. The revenue from tourism in 1998 was 2.738 billion dollars.
A lot of hotels have been built, but the rise in criminal violence has lowered the occupancy.
The most significant growth potential in the country is ecotourism. There are 300 game parks which stretch along the coastline,offering a wide variety of animals like elephants, lions, leopards, buffaloes, rhino...

7 - Population

The population numbers 41 402 392, making a population density of 34 inhabitants per km².

0-14 year olds : 33.38%
15-64 year olds : 61.84%
65 years and over : 4.78%
life expectancy : 63.36 years
urban population : 52.90%
Ethnic composition : blacks 75.2%, whites 13.6%, halfcasts 8.6%, Indians 2.6%

demographic growth 1997-2015 (%) : +1.1
infant mortality (%) : 4.8
energy consumption per capita TOE : 2.48
population without drinking water (% pop) : 13
population without sanitary installations (% pop) : 13
n° of doctors per 1000 inhabitants : 0.6
telephone lines per 1000 inhabitants : 107
mobile telephones per 1000 inhabitants : 37
private cars per 1000 inhabitants : 102
n° of computers per 1000 inhabitants : 41.6
adult illiteracy (%) : 16
secondary schooling/age class (%) : 84
graduates/age class (%) : 19

Half of the population in South Africa live under the poverty threshold, in spite of the improvements to the living conditions promised by the ANC governments since 1994.

8 - Language

There are 11 official languages.
English, Afrikaans and the principle languages of the black peoples are all official languages (the language is indicated between brackets) : Zoulou (isizoulou), Xhosa (isixhosa), Swati, (siswati), Ndebele (isindebele),  Northern Sotho (northern sotho), Tswana (setswana), Southern Sotho (sesotho), Venda (tshivenda) and Tsonga-Shangaan (xitsonga).
English remains the language which is the most used both socially and in the business world.

Division of the population by language
Afrikaans : 14.4% of the population
English : 8.6 %
Isizoulou : 22.9%
Isixhosa : 17.9%
Northern Sotho : 9.2%
Sesotho : 7.7%
Setswana : 8.2%
Siswati : 2.5%
Tshivenda : 2.2%
Xitsonga : 4.4%
Isindebele : 1.5%

What is spoken where :
Province : Language

Kwazulu-Natal : isizoulou
Mpumalanga : isizoulou, isiswati,xitsonga, isindebele
Northern province : northern sotho, tshivenda, xitsonga
Free State : sesotho
North west : setswana
Eastern Cape : isixhosa
Western Cape : isixhosa
Northern Cape : isixhosa, setswana
Gauteng : all the languages are spoken

9 - Religion

Freedom of worship is practised.

68% of the population are Christians. The Dutch Reformed Church (Calvinism) has a lot of followers but most of the Christians are Roman Catholics.
Most of the whites and the halfcasts are Christian as well as 60% of the blacks and 40% of the Indians.
There are 2% Muslims, 1.5% Hindus and 28.5% of the population have traditional and/or animistic beliefs. There is a small minority of Jews in Johannesburg.

10 - Weights, measures and voltages

The electrical current is 220/230 volts at 50Hz.
The plugs used are three-pronged, you can find adapters there.

11 - Money

The currency is the Rand (ZAR).
1 Rand = 0.8857 French Francs
I euro = 7.4061 rand (18/01/01)

The notes are R5, R10, R20, R50 and the new notes R100 and R200
Coins are 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c and R1

The exchange rate for the rand is flexible. The central bank tries to orient its evolution by intervening on the monetary market and operating on the international exchange market. It was not able however to avoid a major drop in the rand's value against other currencies.
Exchange controls are still restrictive. They are mainly concerned with the conversion of rand into foreign currency and the transfer of capital outside the country, particularly investment capital. This control has actually been considerably relaxed over the last two years : SA has moved from a situation in which that which was not explicitly allowed was implicitly forbidden, to one where that which is not formally forbidden is implicitly allowed.

12 - Main towns

Alexander Bay
Cape Town
Cape Agulhas
Cape St. Lucia
East London
George Hoedspruit
Gough Island
Marion Island
Louis Trichardt Margate Mmabatho
Port Elizabeth
Port Nolloth

The main towns are :
Pretoria (about 50 kms to the north of Johannesburg) is the capital and the government seat and has a population of about 2.3 million. Temperatures vary between 5° in June-July and 30° in January-February. The town has ultra-modern shopping malls, museums, art galleries and lots of different kinds of restaurants. There are four universities and scientific institutes (of which the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute which are very well known).
Surrounded by hills, the town of Pretoria is reputed for its magnificent trees and wonderful gardens. The town has grown up around Church Square and this area has kept its historical character. The Voortrekkers monument symbolizes the courage of the pioneers.
To see and do :
- visit the Presidential Palace and the huge university
- visit the Voortrekkers monument

Johannesburg is today the biggest metropole in southern Africa. There are about 8 and a half million inhabitants, it has the second biggest urban population on the African continent after Cairo.
You can discover and appreciate its prestigious restaurants, hotels and shopping centres which are a reminder of its wealthy past, closely linked to the gold which marked its birth and developement. Johannesburg, since it was founded in 1886 has lived through the whole range of human passions, from the most noble to the most despicable.
The city today is the window on the new South Africa, the centre of town is seething with activity, the black population - previously confined by the regime to townships like Soweto - have crowded back to the the centre of town. (Johannesburg holds the sad record of being the most dangerous town in the world.) The business district which used to be around the Carlton Center in the centre of town has emigrated to the northern suburbs of Sandton and Rosebank.
At an altitude of 1,700m, Johannesburg has one of the healthiest climates on the planet with a blue sky all through winter and temperatures which vary between 0° in June-July to 35° in January-February.
To see and do :
- the Africana museum and the Natural History museum
- Gold Reef City : an old gold mining town where you can go down in a mine
- Cullinan : visit to a diamond mine

Cape Town has a population of about 2,500,000.
At the southernmost tip of South Africa where the warm waters of the Indian Ocean join up with the cold water of the Atlantic, a 1000m high mountain drops into the sea. At the foot of this mountain there is just enough place for the town.
Cape Town is undeniably one of the most beautiful towns in the world : on one side the suburbs look over the sun setting on the ocean, on the other side, vineyards and lush forests conceal fine old residences with Dutch frontons. It is the most European of all the towns in South Africa. History is omnipresent and the town is the cultural capital of the country. The streets overflow with creators' workshops.
If the town centre is fairly small, the town itself is huge and spreads on both sides of Table Mountain.
The majority of the population are halfcasts and speak Afrikaans, some road signs (old ones) are still in Afrikaans, like the one for the airport Lughawe.
The temperature varies between 5° in June-July and 35° in January-February.
To see and do :
- visit the Castle of Good Hope and the Koopmans de Wet house
- the Green Market Square market
- go up Table Mountain by cable car
- visit the botanical garden of Kirstenbosch at the Cape of Good Hope
- visit the Constantia vineyards
- window shop on the Waterfront

Bloemfontein gets its name from a spring which is near the town.
It is the judiciary capital of the province. Sky scrapers and historical monuments contend for space in the town. Known for its flowers, Bloemfontain organizes a 'Festival of the Rose' every year in October.
To see and do :
- the national monument to women
- the botanical gardens
- the River Vaal (in the north)
- the theatre
- the town of Owa Owa is famous for its handwoven carpets.

Durban is the biggest African port and has 3,200,000 inhabitants. The town is built along wide beaches where the breakers in a warm sea make for a surfer's paradise.
Durban attracts a lot of white pensionners who come to enjoy the tropical climate. A chair-lift has even been installed along the seafront so that you can do the promenade without getting tired!
The biggest Indian community in South Africa lives in Durban. In the 1860s 800,000 Indians arrived to work in the sugar plantations, and stayed on working in all kinds of commerces. The Indian market (Victoria Market) with its 180 shops, the Juma mosque and the Alayam Hindu temple testify to the vitality of this community.
Near the Indian district, particularly near Berea station, another community, the Zulus, form a veritable township within the town. Zulus are the biggest ethnic group in South Africa, with nearly 7 million people and have given their name to Durban's province, Kwazulu-Natal.
A real festive town, with its international restaurants and its night clubs, Durban has managed to keep a certain cultural standing with concerts, theatres and art galleries. It is a mixture of East, West and Africa, where you can find Zulus, rickshaws and cruise ships.
The climate is tropical, very hot and humid from November to February and with some 230 days of sun per year.
To see and do :
- the flower market
- the snake park
- the Oliver Shock col
- the Victorian House

Port Elizabeth is situated on Algoa Bay. It is the fifth biggest town in the country and a major coastal town (between Durban and Cape Town). It is a modern city with big shopping malls, industries and universities.

13 - Climate

The country often suffers from droughts, especially during these last years.
In the Transvaal and part of the Orange Free State, the climate is healthy, temperate and hot.
It is very hot on the northern borders of the country but the climate varies a lot from one region to another. The summers are very hot and winter is never very cold.
The country is in the southern hemisphere and the seasons are the opposite from ours in Europe.

14 - Insects & Animals

Watch out for mosquitoes (especially at night) which are busy all the year round particularly in the north (Transvaal, Kruger Park the the Natal coast).
Don't swim without knowing it is a safe zone (there are lots of sharks in the Indian Ocean).

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