Part First World country, part emerging nation, South Africa has potential if your resettlement ambitions are more along the lines of a ranch than a semi. But this multicultural ‘Rainbow Nation’ is not without its challenges…
South Africa is located at the very southern tip of the African continent, with 1,739 miles of coastline dipping one foot in the Atlantic and the other in the Indian Ocean. Land borders are shared with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.
The country is classified by the UN as a middle-income country. It has abundant natural resources, a well-developed infrastructure, and is noted for financial, legal, communications and transport sectors that have all developed in the past decade. In 2007, South Africa was ranked 25th in the world in terms of its GDP, and has become a leading player in not just African but also the world stage.
South Africa has 11 official languages (Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu) – only Bolivia and India have more! However, English is the main language of commerce, science and international relations.
The vast majority (79.3%) of the country’s 48 million people are black, with the rest made up of white (9.1%), coloured (9%) and Asian (2/6%) citizens.
South Africa is a constitutional democracy with relatively strong historical links with the UK. The Union of South Africa was a dominion of Great Britain from 1910 until 1961 when it declared itself a republic. The country was readmitted to the Commonwealth in 1994 following the end of the apartheid system.
The official capital is Pretoria, although legislative and judicial spheres are based elsewhere (Cape Town and Bloemfontein, respectively). Beyond these cities there is widespread poverty and, since 2004, the country has seen thousands of popular protests, some violent – many have been organised from the shanty towns surrounding the main cities.
South Africa is a country of stark contrasts. Four areas – Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, and Pretoria/Johannesburg – are the nation’s economic powerhouses but, outside of these spheres of influence, many South Africans still live in severe poverty – despite the efforts of successive governments following the end of apartheid. Only a few areas have bucked the trend and have seen rapid growth in recent years – these include Mossel Bay, Plettenberg Bay Rustenburg area, Nelspruit area, Bloemfontein, Cape West Coast and the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast.
Unemployment is a real problem for South Africans and has continued to worsen in recent years, generally along racial lines. In 1995 the average white household earned four times the average black household; five years later, the average was six times. This is still a country in flux after the huge cultural shift seen at the end of apartheid; there’s still some distance left to run. That said, affirmative action policies have seen a rise in black economic wealth and an emerging black middle class.
With the South African Rand (ZAR) worth around 8p you should be able to afford the odd bottle of Chardonnay. Average house prices are highest in the North and in West Johannesburg at roughly ZAR 1,322,279 (£105,000). There are plenty of opportunities in South Africa for a very comfortable resettlement; and companies as diverse as Barclays and Vodafone are beginning to see the country as a prime business location.
HEALTH AND SECURITY
For many years successive governments did little or nothing to combat the spread of HIV and Aids in South Africa, leading to the death of an estimated 250,000 people in 2008 alone. Under the leadership of Kgalema Motlanthe, this has begun to change, but the country’s largely Roman Catholic population still makes the use of contraception controversial.
In general, however, the country’s public health service is over subscribed and underfunded; those who can afford it have turned to a flourishing hi-tech private healthcare system, furthering the gap between rich and poor.
Like many other African nations, South Africa has experienced a ‘brain drain’ during the last 20 years, reflecting the aspiration amongst certain racial groups and also ongoing fears about crime levels and violence. Crime against the farming community has continued to be a major problem. Middle-class South Africans often seek the better security of gated communities.
A SPORTING CHANCE
South Africans love sport – in particular soccer, rugby union and cricket – and the outdoor life. Perhaps this is because of the country’s large open spaces and a relatively temperate climate (between 8°C in June and 28°C in February). Although soccer commands the greatest following among the young, other sports like basketball, surfing and skateboarding are increasingly popular.
Another factor could be that South Africans were, for decades, starved of international competition as a result of numerous apartheid-inspired boycotts. Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup (which they won at the first attempt), the 2003 Cricket World Cup and the 2007 World Twenty20 Championship. South Africa will, of course, be the host nation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup – the first time the prestigious event has been held on African soil.
The persistent sunshine aside, South Africans were found to be the eighth most optimistic people in the world, according to a survey by Gallup in 2005.
SOUTH AFRICAN TOP SPOTS
Johannesburg: (also known as Jozi or Jo’burg) is recognised as one of the most popular and affordable cities for immigrants. It is the largest and wealthiest city in South Africa, with the largest economy of any metropolitan region in Sub-Saharan Africa. While not officially one of South Africa’s three capitals, it’s home to the Constitutional Court – South Africa’s highest legal institution.
Cape Town: the provincial capital of the Western Cape is the country’s largest city (in terms of area, if not population), and most popular tourist destination. It’s also the legislative capital of South Africa, home to the National Parliament and many government offices. The city is famed for Table Mountain, which looks over the city, and its harbour.
Durban: the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal is the busiest port in Africa, and also a major centre for tourism thanks to its subtropical climate and beaches. Durban is the third most populous city in South Africa, forming part of the Thekwini metropolitan municipality. It is renowned as being a safe city with a good atmosphere.
Germiston: established in the early days of the country’s gold rush, this was by 1921 home to the world’s largest gold refinery, the Rand Refinery. This is South Africa’s sixth-largest city, its biggest railway junction and the seat of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality which includes much of the East Rand.
Pretoria: located in the northern part of Gauteng Province, this serves as the country’s administrative centre and de facto national capital. Regarded as a leafy, sedate city, Pretoria sits in a warm, sheltered valley surrounded by the hills of the Magaliesberg range that ensure that temperatures here are invariably a few degrees warmer than Johannesburg.
Port Elizabeth: situated in the Eastern Cape Province, the city is often known by the shortened name PE and nicknamed ‘The Friendly City’ or ‘The Windy City’. It is one of the major seaports in South Africa and, unsurprisingly, is also known as Africa’s Water sport Capital, and is part of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality which has a population of more than 1.3 million people.
SOUTH AFRICAN PROVERBS
A chattering bird builds no nest.
A fool is a wise man’s ladder.
A termite grows up in dry wood, and yet comes to maturity.
Abundance does not spread; famine does.
Almost is not eaten.
An Elder does not break wind in public, but in a latrine.
As great birds die the eggs rot.
Before you milk a cow tie it up.
Behold the iguana puffing itself out to make itself a man.
By pounding the dough the bread will rise.
. . .
IMMIGRATING TO SOUTH AFRICA
Requirements for immigration to South Africa are subject to change, and each application is treated as an individual case.
While looking to encourage foreign investment, South Africa nevertheless is looking for immigrants who are ‘seriously committed to investing their assets, skills and experience for the benefit of themselves and the people of South Africa’. Basic requirements are that you should be of good character, be unlikely to harm the welfare of the country and not follow an unskilled or semi-skilled occupation for which there are already sufficient people in South Africa to meet the country’s needs. Applications should usually be made in your country of residence (in the UK, through the South African High Commission), although you can apply while in South Africa on a valid work permit, are married to (or are the child of) a South African citizen.
South African High Commission
020 7451 7299, www.southafricahouse.com