The Republic of South Africa is a middle-income, developing country with an abundant supply of resources; well developed financial, legal, communications, energy and transport sectors; a stock exchange that ranks among the 10 largest in the world; and a modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region.
South Africa is situated at the southern tip of the African continent bordered by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Indian Ocean to the east. Lesotho is an independent enclave within its borders. South Africa has a vast interior plateau rimmed by rugged mountains and hills with a narrow coastal plain.
The weather in South Africa is predominantly sunny and dry; most of the country experiences rainfall in summer.
The diverse population includes people from various African tribes, those with ancestry from all of Europe and those with roots in the Mideast and the Far East. Christianity is the largest religion. Because of the diversity of the population, 11 official languages are spoken in South Africa; English is widely spoken and understood.
South Africa conducted its first free elections for all its inhabitants in 1994 following a turbulent 40 years. The fledgling democracy is still trying to establish itself domestically while at the same time establishing itself as the power nation in Southern Africa. The current political climate is vibrant but stable.
Air carriers from Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as the national airline, serve South Africa. A well-developed extensive road and rail network allows access to almost every corner of the country. Car rentals, bus and taxi services are available in most of the country's cities and towns.
The communications infrastructure is well developed and all communications services (local and international phones, faxes, postal services, Internet cafes and business centers) are provided in an efficient, easily accessible manner, although sometimes expensive.
An emerging democracy with a developing economy and attendant high unemployment creates a crime situation that is the most pressing issue facing the country. Carjacking, robbery, rape and theft often associated with violence are common. Gang and taxi wars, often related to territorial issues, are rampant especially in major cities.
Medical facilities in South Africa are good in urban areas such as Cape Town, Johannesburg and in the vicinity of game parks and beaches, but may be limited elsewhere. The northeastern region of South Africa is a malaria-risk area.
With the country's currency reeling somewhat against the U.S. dollar and the Euro, going to South Africa is generally affordable. The country's tourism industry is vibrant and well developed, catering to travelers wishing to experience the game reserves, sandy beaches, rugged mountains or gold mines.