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Background: Dutch traders landed at the southern tip of modern day South Africa in 1652 and established a stopover point on the spice route between the Netherlands and the Far East, founding the city of Cape Town. After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902); however, the British and the Afrikaners, as the Boers became known, ruled together beginning in 1910 under the Union of South Africa, which became a republic in 1961 after a whites-only referendum. In 1948, the National Party was voted into power and instituted a policy of apartheid - the separate development of the races - which favored the white minority at the expense of the black majority. The African National Congress (ANC) led the opposition to apartheid and many top ANC leaders, such as Nelson MANDELA, spent decades in South Africa's prisons. Internal protests and insurgency, as well as boycotts by some Western nations and institutions, led to the regime's eventual willingness to negotiate a peaceful transition to majority rule. The first multi-racial elections in 1994 brought an end to apartheid and ushered in majority rule under an ANC-led government. South Africa since then has struggled to address apartheid-era imbalances in decent housing, education, and health care. ANC infighting, which has grown in recent years, came to a head in September 2008 when President Thabo MBEKI resigned, and Kgalema MOTLANTHE, the party's General-Secretary, succeeded him as interim president. Jacob ZUMA became president after the ANC won general elections in April 2009. In January 2011, South Africa assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2011-12 term.
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate): $354.4 billion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 3% (2010 est.); -1.8% (2009 est.); 3.7% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $10,700 (2010 est.); $10,400 (2009 est.); $10,700 (2008 est.);
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 3%; industry: 31.2%; services: 65.8% (2010 est.);
Population below poverty line: 50% (2000 est.);
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 1.3%; highest 10%: 44.7% (2000);
Labor force: 17.32 million economically active (2010 est.);
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 9%; industry: 26%; services: 65% (2007 est.);
Unemployment rate: 23.3% (2010 est.); 24% (2009 est.);
Budget: revenues: $103.1 billion; expenditures: $126.2 billion (2010 est.);
Industries: mining (world's largest producer of platinum, gold, chromium), automobile assembly, metalworking, machinery, textiles, iron and steel, chemicals, fertilizer, foodstuffs, commercial ship repair;
Industrial production growth rate: 3% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 240.3 billion kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 215.1 billion kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - exports: 14.16 billion kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - imports: 10.57 billion kWh (2008 est.);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
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The upcoming summit between U.S. and African leaders is likely to make progress on a number of investment, development and security issues.
Mandela's work to end apartheid in South Africa and fight for peace and equality throughout the world has left an indelible imprint on the global community.
Nine years after the Kimberley Process was formed to stop the trade in conflict diamonds and ensure that diamond purchases were not funding violence, the KP has refused to evolve and address the clear links between diamonds, violence and tyranny.
With economic malaise in the West and a growing population of young people at home, Africa faces significant challenges and opportunities in the coming year.