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Eastern Cape Province

The Eastern Cape is a province in South Africa. The capital is Bisho.

Other cities include:
East London
Port Elizabeth

Basic Statistics

Capital: Bisho Principal languages: IsiXhosa 83,8%, Afrikaans 9,6%, English 3,7% and SeSotho 2,2%



% of total

Area (kmē)
169 580 

% of total

GDP (1995)
R49,6634 million

% of total

The Eastern Cape is the poorest province in terms of average on monthly expenditure, followed by Free State and the Northern Province according to the Statistics SA report: Measuring Poverty in South Africa. The wealthiest provinces were Gauteng, followed by the Western Cape.

Location & Area

The Eastern Cape is located on the south eastern seaboard of South Africa and is the second largest province with an area of 170 600 kmē and represents 14% of South Africa's land mass. The capital, Bisho, is conveniently located 60 kms from East London, on of two ports in the province, the other being Port Elizabeth. The province lies equidistant from the major market centres of South Africa and is linked to those centres by a modern network of air, roads and railways.


The province varies climactically from mild temperate conditions (14-23 degrees Celsius) along the coastal areas to slightly more extreme conditions (5-35 Degrees Celsius) among the inland areas, with the inland mountain areas experiencing winter snows and summer rainfalls.

Population Profile

The population of the Eastern Cape was approximately 6,7 million in 1993 representing 16,4% of the total South African population. Population growth between 1985 and 1993 was 2,6%, slightly higher than the national average of 2,4%. Half of the population is between 15 and 65, compared with the national average of 58.3%. 43% of the province's population is under the age of 15. 55% of the population is functionally urbanised but only a third live in official towns. There are 11 official languages in South Africa, 3 of which are predominant in the Eastern Cape, with English being the main business language.


The province boasts five universities, two satellite campuses, a number of technical colleges and numerous primary and secondary schools, many of which are extremely well known for the exceptionally high standards of education they maintain. Some of South Africa's oldest schools are in the province. In 1993 the Eastern Cape had the highest pupil/teacher ratio (39:1) in South Africa and the second largest number of pupils in school. As a result, the literacy rate, at 72%, is well above the national average.

Towns & Cities

The major towns and cities in the Eastern Cape are Aliwal North, Bisho, Butterworth, Despatch, East London, Grahamstown, Humansdorp, King Williams Town, Port Elizabeth, Queenstown, Uitenhage and Umtata. Port Elizabeth and East London are the centres of the two largest industrial regions of the province and are both served by well equipped ports.

Economic Background

During the 1980's the Gross Geographic Product (GGP) of the Eastern Cape showed an average annual growth of 2,7%. The metropolitan economies of Port Elizabeth and East London are based primarily on manufacturing, the most important being motor manufacturing.

Other major industries in the province include agriculture, textiles and clothing, tourism, wool, timber and transport. Tourism is expected to be the major growth industry as the province has over 800 kms of totally unspoilt tropical beaches lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, abundant big game fishing, mountain hikes, snow skiing, game reserves and numerous resort hotels, all within a three hour's drive from the major centres.

The government of the Eastern Cape advocates a system of free enterprise. To guarantee strict adherence to this economic framework it has entrenched this principle in the new constitution.


Electricity costs are the second cheapest in the world and all factories are supplied with 3-phase electricity at 220/380 volts. The water quality is of a very high standard and can generally be drunk from taps and used without further treatment. The province has abundant capacity to accommodate further industrial expansion and cheap industrial land is available in most towns. Good quality factories are generally available in Butterworth, East London, Port Elizabeth, Queenstown, Uitenhage and Umtata and all these areas are served by an efficient transport and containerised traffic network.

The container ports in East London and Port Elizabeth are of the highest international standard but are under-utilised. Major airports link them to Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. These act as international gateways for South Africa, offering direct flights to key cities throughout the world.


With its more than six million people, the Eastern Cape has the third-largest provincial population, living on about 169 600 km(2) of land.

The language spoken by most is IsiXhosa, followed by Afrikaans and English.

The province has five universities, three technikons and 20 technical colleges. Despite the high quality of educational facilities, 20,9% of those aged 20 years or older have never received any schooling, while 4,7% have completed some form of higher education.


The metropolitan economies of Port Elizabeth and East London are based primarily on manufacturing, the most important being motor manufacturing.

The province contributes approximately R30 billion to the national GDP and is widely regarded as having the potential to substantially increase this contribution as South Africa moves towards an export-led industrial strategy.

With two harbours and three airports offering direct flights to the main centres, and an excellent road rail infrastructure, the province has been earmarked as a priority for growth and economic development.

To facilitate integrated planning sensitive to the environment, the province is implementing a consultative process involving community participation that includes two SDIs, namely the Fish River SDI and the Wild Coast SDI, and two industrial development zones (IDZs), namely the West Bank (East London) IDZ and the Coega IDZ. The latter, 20 km east of the Nelson Mandela Metropole (previously: Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage Municalities), was the first IDZ to be earmarked and is one of the biggest initiatives ever undertaken in South Africa. Plans for the development of the area as an ex port-orientated zone include the building of a deepwater port


For millennia the southern end of Africa, including what is today known as the Eastern Cape Province, was occupied by small egalitarian groups of aboriginal hunter gatherers whose enduring legacy consists of thousands of beautiful, and often enigmatic, rock paintings and superbly crafted stone implements. Khoikhoi pastoralists, whose legacy lives on in place names like Kieskamma, Kei and Tsitsikamma, also inhabited the area. Then about 2 000 years ago Nguni speaking people who were pastoralists and agriculturists arrived from the north, bringing with them a totally new way of life-farming – into the hunting grounds of the aboriginal people usually known as the San.

These early settlers were a major disruption to the traditional hunter gatherer way of life that began a gradual but far reaching revolution in the political, economic and social system of the peoples of southern Africa.

These two disparate groups of people have over time been assimilated into a single population group. Today they form the bulk of the population of the Eastern Cape.

The next major settlement wave occurred during the nineteenth century when European settlers predominantly from Britain but also Germany, France, the Netherlands and other European countries came to lay down their roots. The arrival of the European settlers, coupled with the general expansion of the earlier Dutch and British settlers at the Cape of Good hope into the hinterland of the subcontinent, sparked off a series of skirmished, battles and wars. The Eastern Cape experienced a number of "frontier" or "wars of dispossession" during the last century which left the region devastated and the indigenous Xhosa speaking peoples under the political and economic control of the white settlers.

During the current century this political hegemony of white over black was translated into formal apartheid with the region divided into "ethnic", supposedly independent, homelands of Transkei and Ciskei. This lasted until the democratic elections held in the country in 1994.

One of the few positive products of the past has been a culture of learning in the region-no fewer than five universities and a growing number of Technikons, are located in the Eastern Cape-which together with the struggle for emancipation has led to sophisticated political debate and with it a desire for transparency in government and popular participation in the governance of the region