Aerial photo of Cape Town

South Africa : Society

The southernmost country of the African continent, South Africa is bordered by Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Eswatini. South Africa entirely surrounds Lesotho in the east. A large plateau dominates the centre of the country, with rolling hills falling to plains and the coast.  

Key facts

  • Region: Africa
  • Population: 58 million (2018) 
  • Area: 1,220,813 square kilometres 
  • Capital: South Africa does not have a single official capital city. The Parliament is in Cape Town, making it the legislative capital. The President and Cabinet meet in Pretoria, making it the administrative capital. The Supreme Court of Appeal is in Bloemfontein, making it the judicial capital 
  • Joined Commonwealth: 1931, on independence from Britain. South Africa left the Commonwealth in 1961 then re-joined in 1994 
  • Commonwealth Youth Index: 32 out of 49 countries 

Secretariat support for South Africa 

Elections support 

In October 2018, South Africa took part in a Commonwealth Election Professionals (CEP) Initiative training. Participants learned about new technologies, as well as how to plan and finance elections. 


The Secretariat helped South Africa’s Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to work with other anti-corruption agencies in the region. In August 2018 and May 2019, the Secretariat's Africa Anti-Corruption Centre in Botswana ran an intelligence-gathering course in Pretoria for SIU staff. 


The Secretariat is developing an information and price-sharing database for essential medicines. South Africa will be one of the early beneficiaries. 


In November 2018, the Commonwealth helped a senior official from the South African Department of Trade and Industry attend a Commonwealth consultation on trade held in Seychelles. 

Connectivity Agenda

The Secretariat is helping South Africa to co-lead on its Digital Connectivity Cluster as part of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda. 

It also helped the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa to share their views during a special session on Women in the Digital Economy. 

Blue Charter

South Africa is a member of the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance – the Blue Charter Action Group on tackling marine plastic pollution.

South Africa in the Commonwealth 

South Africans John Maxwell Coetzee (in 2000) and Manu Herbstein (in 2002) have both been overall winners in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. 

South Africa awards scholarships for postgraduate study to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan. 

Find out more