Accessibility links

South Africa’s Census Reflects Progress

  • Anita Powell

South Africa’s census shows the nation is fifth in African population, with 51.7 million people. President Jacob Zuma said the census shows progress in the African economic powerhouse.

South African President, Jacob Zuma, September 26, 2012.

South African President, Jacob Zuma, September 26, 2012.

President Jacob Zuma said the 2011 census shows South Africa is young, and on the rise.

The 2011 census, released Tuesday, shows the nation has 51.7 million people, an increase from 44.8 million in 2001. That puts South Africa well behind Nigeria, the African population leader with 166 million people, according to U.N. estimates. Ethiopia, Egypt and Congo come next.

Two South African provinces led in growth: Gauteng province, home of the Johannesburg-Pretroia metroplex was up 33 percent. And the Western Cape, home of Cape Town, saw its population increase 28.7 percent.

The census lists 79.2 percent of the population as black, a small increase from the last census, and 8.9 percent of the counted population is listed as white, a slight decrease.

In a speech to ministers, Mr. Zuma said nine out of 10 households have access to water, and 73 percent use electricity as a main source of cooking. But he said almost 13 percent of the population lives in shack settlements.

Statistician general for South Africa, Pali Lehohla, said the numbers are encouraging overall.

“The general picture is that across time, all the things that were said to be delivered in a democratic system, things have improved," said Lehohla. "Even in income, things have improved, but much better for those who are advantaged than for those who are disadvantaged. Improvements overall, but a lot of concerns.”

The results show 88.9 percent of South African households use mobile phones, a huge jump since 2001, but 64.8 percent do not have access to the Internet.

This is only the nation’s third all-inclusive census. The first was conducted in 1996, after the end of apartheid; the second, in 2001. South Africa conducted its first census in 1911, but made no effort to accurately count the black population.

Show comments