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About Gauteng

It is by far the smallest of South Africa's nine provinces - its 17 010 square kilometres take up a mere 1.4% of the country's land area - but Gauteng packs a mighty punch. It has the largest population of all the provinces, with 11.2-million people making up 22.4% of South Africa's total, and with its small size has by far the highest population density: 658 people per square kilometre. (The Northern Cape province, by contrast, has only three people per square kilometre.)

Sesotho for "place of gold", Gauteng was built on the wealth of gold found deep underground - 40% of the world's reserves. The economy has since diversified, with more sophisticated sectors such as finance and manufacturing setting up shop, and gold mining is no longer the mainstay.

Gauteng dominates the South African economy, particularly in the secondary and tertiary industries. The province's capital city, Johannesburg, is the largest in the country and indeed in Africa as a whole. It is often compared to Los Angeles, with its similar urban sprawl linked by huge highway interchanges.

Johannesburg is a single municipality that covers over 1 645 square kilometres. Sydney's central municipality, by comparison, covers 1 500 square kilometres. It's been calculated that if a resident of the southern-most area, Orange Farm, were to walk northwards to the inner city, the journey would take three days.

In Johannesburg southwest is Soweto, developed as a dormitory township for black people under the apartheid system. Much of the struggle against apartheid was fought in and from Soweto, which has a population of over 2-million people.

The urban area extends virtually uninterrupted east and west of Johannesburg through a number of towns: Roodepoort and Krugersdorp on the west and Germiston, Springs, Boksburg and Benoni on the east.

To the north is Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, whose southern suburbs are slowly merging with the Johannesburg sprawl. The city is dominated by government services and the foreign diplomatic corps. The important industrial and coal-mining towns of Vereeniging and Vanderbiljpark lie in southern Gauteng, on the Vaal River.

The people of Gauteng have the highest per capita income level in South Africa. The province blends cultures, colours and first and third-world traditions in a spirited mix, flavoured by a number of foreign influences. The world's languages can be heard on the streets and in offices, from English to Mandarin, Swahili, French, German and more.

Since 1994, when the first fully inclusive democratic election effectively brought apartheid to an end, South Africa's political transformation, the relaxation of exchange controls and the liberalisation of its economic policies have made the country an increasingly valuable port of entry into the rest of Africa. And the place to start is the powerhouse province of Gauteng.
<August 2017>