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The Republic of South Africa is a country located at the southern tip of Africa, with a 1,739 mile coastline on the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. To the north lie Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe; to the east are Mozambique and Swaziland; while Lesotho is an independent country wholly surrounded by South African territory.
South Africa is a middle-income, emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; a stock exchange that is 18th largest in the world; and modern infrastructure supporting an efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region. Daunting economic problems remain from the apartheid era -- especially poverty, lack of economic empowerment among the disadvantaged groups, and a shortage of public transportation.
The country is known for a diversity in cultures and languages. Eleven official languages are recognized in the constitution. Two of these languages are of European origin: Afrikaans, a language which originated mainly from Dutch that is spoken by the majority of white and colored South Africans, and South African English. Nine are different Bantu languages spoken by about 79.5% of the South African population which is of black African ancestry. South Africa also contains the largest European, Indian and racially mixed communities in Africa.
It is a constitutional democracy in the form of a parliamentary republic with a parliamentary dependent head of state. South Africa is one of the founding members of the African Union, and has the largest economy of all the members. It is also a founding member of the United Nations and NEPAD. South Africa is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Antarctic Treaty System, Group of 77, South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, Southern African Customs Union, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, G29 and G8+5.
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