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South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa, is a country located at the southern tip of Africa. It is divided into nine provinces, with 2,798 kilometres (1,739 mi) of coastline[ on the Atlantic and Indian oceans. To the north of the country lie the neighbouring territories of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe; to the east are Mozambique and Swaziland; while Lesotho is an enclave surrounded by South African territory.

South Africa is multi-ethnic and has diverse cultures and languages. Eleven official languages are recognised in the constitution. Two of these languages are of European origin: South African English and Afrikaans, a language which originated mainly from Dutch that is spoken by the majority of white and Coloured South Africans. Though English is commonly used in public and commercial life, it is only the fifth most-spoken home language. All ethnic and language groups have political representation in the country's constitutional democracy comprising a parliamentary republic; unlike most parliamentary republics, the positions of head of state and head of government are merged in a parliament-dependent President.

About 79.5% of the South African population is of black African ancestry, divided among a variety of ethnic groups speaking different Bantu languages, nine of which have official status. South Africa also contains the largest communities of European, Asian, and racially mixed ancestry in Africa.

Today South Africa enjoys a relatively stable mixed economy that draws on its fertile agricultural lands, abundant mineral resources, tourist attractions, and highly evolved intellectual capital. Greater political equality and economic stability, however, do not necessarily mean social tranquility. South African society at the start of the 21st century continued to face steep challenges: high crime rates, ethnic tensions, great disparities in housing and educational opportunities, and the AIDS pandemic. It is ranked as an upper-middle income economy by the World Bank, one of only four countries in Africa in this category (the others being Botswana, Gabon and Mauritius). It has the largest economy in Africa, and the 28th-largest in the world. About a quarter of the population is unemployed and lives on less than US $1.25 a day.

South Africa is located at the southernmost region of Africa, with a long coastline that stretches more than 2,500 km (1,553 mi) and along two oceans (the South Atlantic and the Indian). At 1,219,912 km2 (471,011 sq mi), South Africa is the 25th-largest country in the world and is comparable in size to Colombia. Mafadi in the Drakensberg at 3,450 m (11,320 ft) is the highest peak in South Africa. Excluding the Prince Edward Islands, the country lies between latitudes 22° and 35°S, and longitudes 16° and 33°E.

The interior of South Africa is a vast, flat, and sparsely populated scrubland, the Karoo, which is drier towards the northwest along the Namib desert. In contrast, the eastern coastline is lush and well-watered, which produces a climate similar to the tropics.

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