Typical Characteristics of Southern Africa

Map of Southern Africa region

The Country Similarity Index groups the countries of South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Namibia into Region 4-C, Southern Africa. It is one of the 27 world sub-regions identified by the Index. Here are some of the traits most of these countries share:

Countries in Southern Africa tend to be cooler and drier than the African countries closer to the equator. The Kalahari Desert spreads into South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia. As a result, the region is mostly shrub land and grassland. Only a small percentage of the land is used for agriculture. For the few areas that are farmed, the primary crop is corn in all countries except Namibia. These countries tend to be located on a high plateau and have a high average elevation. The region is not densely populated.

photo by Edward Middleton

The majority of people in this region have African ancestry. Most natively speak Bantu languages. Another demographic characteristic Southern Africa shares is that there are more females than males there. The population is relatively young and there are few elderly people. The region is on average more affluent and educated than the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, however there are still a significant number of people living in poverty as well.

photo by South Africa Tourism

Since this region was colonized by the British, English is an official language in every country. In addition, most people are Protestant Christians and unlike much of Sub-Saharan Africa few people are Muslim. Christmas, Easter, and Ascension Day are national holidays in the majority of countries. Corn and wheat are the most common grains eaten in the region. Chicken is the most popular meat. Along with soccer, cricket and rugby are also popular in Southern Africa. Unfortunately, the murder rate is quite high in the region.

photo by Ossewa

Except for Eswatini and Zimbabwe, all the governments in this region are democracies. Four of the five countries have bicameral legislatures and legal systems that use a mix of common and civil law. Secondary schools tend not to be tuition free. Furthermore, there are relatively few welfare benefits for the unemployed, however they do have pensions for the elderly. The incarceration rate is especially high in this region. Four of five countries allow prostitution if it not organized. They also do not allow polygamy, but it is not criminalized. With the exception of Lesotho, abortion is not especially restricted. The South African Rand is legal tender in all countries except for Botswana. They are all members of the African Union. Except for Zimbabwe, they are all members of the South African Customs Union.

photo by Danie van der Merwe

All countries in this region drive on the left side of the road and use 3’6″ gauge railroad tracks. Most countries use Type M electrical outlets. They are all a part of the Southern African Power Pool. The electrical voltage is between 220 and 240 volts and the frequency is 50 hertz. A lot of mining is done in this region. Botswana and South Africa are reliant on coal to create electricity, while Eswatini, Lesotho, and Namibia use hydropower. While drinking water access is relatively high for Sub-Saharan Africa, its water quality is still quite low. Improved sanitation facilities are not available to many people.

photo by Na Derdingseben

Southern Africa‘s Most Representative Country: Botswana (74.7 regional average)

Most Similar Region to Southern Africa: Tropical Africa (4-B)

(Statistics as of 2020)

photo by Magda Ehlers

List of countries by region


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