ECOLOGICAL CONDITION OF SOUTH AFRICA
Population and GDP
South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; a stock exchange that is the 18th largest in the world; and modern infrastructure supporting a relatively efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. At the end of 2007, South Africa began to experience an electricity crisis. State power supplier Eskom encountered problems with aged plants, necessitating "load-shedding" cuts to residents and businesses in the major cities. Growth was robust from 2004 to 2007 as South ...view middle of the document...
The low-lying coastal zone is narrow for much of that distance, soon giving way to a mountainous escarpment that separates it from the high inland plateau. In some places, notably the province of KwaZulu-Natal in the east, a greater distance separates the coast from the escarpment.
Size and provinces
South Africa is a medium-sized country, with a total land area of slightly more than 1.2-million square kilometres, making it roughly the same size as Niger, Angola, Mali and Colombia.
It is one-eighth the size of the US, twice the size of France and over three times the size of Germany. South Africa measures some 1 600km from north to south, and roughly the same from east to west.
The country has nine provinces, which vary considerably in size. The smallest is tiny and crowded Gauteng, a highly urbanised region, and the largest the vast, arid and empty Northern Cape, which takes up almost a third of South Africa's total land area.
Figure 1. South Africa, showing the position of its neighbours, enclaves, the boundaries of its nine provinces and the location of some important cities.
South Africa's population was estimated at 40.6 million in 1996 (Stats SA 1996), of which approximately 46% was rural and 54% urban (according to the World factbook the July 2006 population estimate was 44,187,637 with a minus 0.4% growth rate). Agriculture accounts for 3.2% of GDP and 7% of exports (R14.57 billion in 2000; R1.00=US$0.12 in August 2001) and supports, directly or indirectly, 15% of the population (Department of Agriculture and Land Affairs 2001).
South Africa is a multi-cultural nation, with many ethnic groups and colonial nations represented in its populations. It is this wide variation in the origin of its people which make understanding the management of its natural resources so interesting. The remaining San people of the southern Kalahari represent the oldest traditional users of natural vegetation for survival. San people are still able to subsist as hunter gatherers in the most arid regions of the country, providing some evidence of how it is possible to sustain small human populations in this region. San exhibit a strong understanding of resource limitations and probably follow the principles embodied in the dis-equilibrium theory (Ellis & Swift 1988) the closest of all southern African people. The San were also able to remain in the mountainous regions of the Drakensberg and along the Great Escarpment. The evidence of their history is found in the numerous rock paintings and other artefacts which occur in caves along the Great Escarpment.
The Nguni people of the eastern seaboard are graziers with a long (10000 year) history of maintaining domestic livestock. These people comprise the Seswati, AmaZulu and AmaXhosa nations, and occupy the leasehold lands in Gazankulu, KwaZulu Natal, Transkei and Ciskei. The society is organized around a village, comprising dwelling units, cultivated lands and grazing lands. The early...