South Africa, with its 11 official languages, is characterized by diversity. Until 1994, South Africa was ruled by a white minority government, which was finally overthrown to extend democracy to the rest of the population. While South Africa has the continent's biggest economy, many citizens remain poor and unemployment is high. South Africa also has the second-highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection in the world.
South Africa's history of apartheid and international isolation until the 1990s have left major weaknesses. The economy is in a process of transition as the government seeks to address inequities of apartheid, stimulate growth, and create jobs. (Information from BBC and U.S. Department of State)