Images of Southern Africa - Melkhoutfontein children

Melkhoutfontein children

It is true that children are the future for South Africa. According to the State of South Africa’s Population Report 2000, 54% of the population is under 24 years of age, and 34% below 14. Thus, out of a total population of 44.8 million (2001) there are over 15 million children in the country.

These children were photographed in Melkhoutfontein Township, Western Cape. This province has the lowest percentage of Black Africans (21%) and the highest percentage of Coloureds (54%). Western Cape is also, apart from Gauteng, the most urbanised province – here 90% of the population live in urban areas.

These children attend a local Afrikaans-speaking school, and their community has been ‘adopted’ by the local white community. They are thus more fortunate than many children in South Africa. A much higher percentage of their homes have access to piped water (76% compared with the South African average of only 40%). Eighty-seven per cent have access to electricity, again well above the national average of 55%. The province also has, at 7.1%, the lowest incidence of HIV prevalence amongst women attending antenatal clinics - the figure for South Africa as a whole is 22.4% (see Falling life expectancy).

An interesting feature of this photograph is the Liverpool football club hat complete with badge. This could be viewed as an example of two local areas: the village of Melkhoutfontein, with a population below 1000 being linked to a city of over 400,000 people - Liverpool in the UK. It illustrates the process of globalisation.

Globalisation, a process whereby places around the globe are increasingly interconnected, has been taking place for centuries, but has gained in pace over the last 50 years. The linking of these children with a football club several thousand miles away is an expression of global interconnectedness. 

Ideas for further exploration:

  • Data on South Africa’s population since 1868 together with estimates until 2050 can be found online (e.g. at Using selected data from this site, construct a graph to show how South Africa’s population has changed over time. Then answer the following questions: (a) When did the so-called ‘population explosion’ begin in South Africa?, and (b) Is there any evidence from your graph that population growth is slowing down?
  • Look at the population pyramids for South Africa for the years 2000, 2025 and 2050 on US Census Bureau. Describe what the 2000 pyramid shows. What is predicted to happen over the coming decades? Can you suggest reasons to explain these predicted changes in the pyramid?
  • It has been announced (15 May 2004) that South Africa will host the 2010 World Cup. In what ways might this global football tournament increase the globalisation process within South Africa?
  • Can you find any examples of ways in which globalisation is having a detrimental effect on South Africa’s geography?
  • What other examples of globalisation can you find in this set of photographs?

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