South Africa's Geographic Challenge
At the tip of the African continent lies South Africa. The country borders Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique and also surrounds Lesotho and much of Swaziland. South Africa's current borders were consolidated by the British in 1910 as the Union of South Africa, following the Boer Wars between the United Kingdom and Dutch settlers.
The Drakensberg and Karoo mountains rim the coastlines, separating a dry interior from a coastal region, which captures the majority of the country's rainfall.
Two key factors distinguish South Africa from much of the rest of the continent. The country has a malaria-free climate, which attracted European settlers. It also has abundant mineral resources -- including gold, diamonds, coal and platinum -- in the north-central interior.
This mining area is the geographic core of South Africa -- encompassing the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria and adjoining parts of Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West and Free State provinces. This core is connected by road and rail to a series of ports -- from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, to Durban and Richards Bay -- that carry goods and resources to and from Gauteng.
The wealth generated there underwrites financial, agricultural, industrial and manufacturing activity in other parts of South Africa.
South Africa's geographic challenge is to protect the extraction of natural resources in its interior while striving to maintain sufficient employment. It must then find ways to disperse enough wealth to appease its populations in the Gauteng and peripheral zones of the country.