South Africa

Howzit! An Introduction to South Africa!


When I choose South Africa as my area of study for this semester, I knew I would be delving into a rich culture and a dramatic history. To most of the world, South Africa is the poster child of success for Africa, leading the way in terms of civil peace, stable governments and a healthy economy. However, I know there is much more than meets the eye, and I am excited to learn! I even included my first little nugget of acquired knowledge in the title of this inaugural post, “Howzit,” which is the commonplace South African greeting, which is used as our American,”What’s up?” or, “How are you?” would be used.

I also thought it would be nice to see a few statistics on the basics of South Africa. Thanks to, they are handily found all on one webpage!

Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: National anthem of South Africa
Capital Pretoria (executive)
Bloemfontein (judicial)
Cape Town (legislative)
LARGEST Johannesburg (2006)[2]
Ethnic groups 79.2% Black African
8.9% Coloured
8.9% White
2.5% Indian / Asian
0.5% Other[4]:21
DEMONYM South African
GOVERNMENT Constitutionalparliamentary republic
 – President Jacob Zuma
 – Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe
 – NCOP Chairman M. J. Mahlangu
 – National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu
 – Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng
 – Upper house National Council of Provinces
 – Lower house National Assembly
 – Union 31 May 1910
 – Statute of Westminster 11 December 1931
 – Republic 31 May 1961
 – Total 1,221,037 km2 (25th)
471,443 sq mi
 – Water (%) Negligible
 – 2011 census 51,770,560[4]:18
 – Density 42.4/km2 (169th)
109.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2012 estimate
 – Total $578.640 billion[5]
 – Per capita $11,302[5] (105[6])
GDP (nominal) 2012 estimate
 – Total $390.919 billion[5]
 – Per capita $7,635[5]
Gini (2009) 63.1[7] (high / 2nd)
HDI (2011) 0.619 Increase (medium / 123rd)
CURRENCY South African rand (ZAR)

But these simple stats don’t really give us much of the personality that sets South Africa’s culture apart from the United States of America. Instead of making a large compare/contrast bore-fest, I found this really interesting story which demonstrates our differences perfectly.

Sixto Rodriguez was an American musician who just never struck it big in the United States. But little did he know, he had a huge cult following in South Africa during the Apartheid. His music was the soundtrack to South Africa’s journey to freedom. He found out 30 years later about his celebrity status and held a concert in Cape Town. His music didn’t strike a chord in America but the South African people and culture embraced it. Here is the full NPR story!

American Eyes on South Africa: The Economist

If you are a consumer of serious American media, The Economist is probably on your radar. In the recent past, as recent as October, the American magazine’s cover featured a headline that read, “Cry, the beloved country: South Africa’s sad decline,” accompanied by a photo of South Africans in a hazy mist, protesting with umbrellas, canes and sticks hoisted high in the air and forlorn looks on their faces.

Traditionally, and unfortunately, this is the portrayal of Africa that is so often presented in our American culture through our media outlets. A continent of war, unrest, poverty and instability. South Africa however, was the exception. With national heroes such as Nelson Mandela ending apartheid, a stable government, a healthy economy and even a hold in the global tourism industry, South Africa was the shining example of what all African countries could be. So why are we now seeing a negative picture painted in one of our country’s most popular magazines?

Because we have only been seeing what we wanted to see. The years of successful revolution passed long ago. Most Americans let South Africa’s story end happily in their minds, with thoughts of peace and Nelson Mandela. However, the story is far from over, whether we choose to read it or not. Following Mr. Mandela’s govern, Thabo Mbeki took office, and according to the article in The Economist on p. 12, he denied the link between HIV and AIDS, costing millions of lives, as well as letting racial struggles back into the country. Then he was proceeded by Kgalema Motlanthe, and then Jacob Zuma, who catered to corruption. The article states that he has allowed a rich black elitist population of squander economic competitiveness and is leading to a de facto one-party state.

So while South Africa may be in decline more than 20 years after the apartheid, many Americans would never know. They would also not know that Nigeria is on a fast incline. China is pouring money into modernizing Africa in return for natural resources, and the continent as a whole is on the way up. But not South Africa. It is imperative that our media becomes more globalized, and this Economist article proves it. We must be educated on the current states of countries around the world, and cannot expect for the world to only care about us.

  1. Giorgi says:

    E-mail me and I’ll send you and pdf (excerpt from the book):
    Country Case Insight – South Africa Developing Brand South Africa

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