Mpumalanga, which means “Place Where the Sun Rises”. Spectacular scenic beauty and an abundance of wildlife makes Mpumalanga province one of South Africa’s major tourist destinations. Mpumalanga is home to just more than four million people. The principle languages are Siswati and isiZulu. With a surface area of only 76 495 km2, it is the second smallest province after Gauteng, yet has the fourth-largest economy in South Africa.
Bordered by Mozambique and Swaziland in the east, and Gauteng in the west, the province is situated mainly on the high plateau grasslands of the Middleveld. In the north-east, it rises towards mountain peaks terminating in an immense escarpment. In some places, this escarpment plunges hundreds of metres down to the low-lying area known as the Lowveld. The province has a network of excellent roads and railway connections, making it highly accessible. Owing to its popularity as a tourist destination, Mpumalanga is also served by a number of small airports, including the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.
Mbombela is the capital of the province and the administrative and business centre of the Lowveld. Other important towns are eMalahleni, Standerton, Piet Retief, Malalane, Ermelo, Barberton and Sabie, which lies in the centre of one of the largest man-made forests in the world. Mpumalanga lies mainly within the Grassland Biome.
The escarpment and the Lowveld form a transitional zone between this grassland area as well as the Savanna Biome.
The Maputo Corridor, which links the province with Gauteng, and Maputo in Mozambique, facilitates economic development and growth for the region.
Mpumalanga Agriculture and forestry
Mpumalanga is a summer-rainfall area divided by the escarpment into the Highveld region with cold frosty winters and the Lowveld region with mild winters and a subtropical climate. The escarpment area sometimes experiences snow on the high ground. Thick mist is common during the hot, humid summers.
Agriculture, as the backbone of the province’s economy, employs 8,1% of its total workforce. An abundance of citrus fruit and many other subtropical fruit – mangoes, avocados, litchis, bananas, papayas, granadillas, guavas – as well as nuts and a variety of vegetables are produced here.
Mbombela is the second-largest citrus-producing area in South Africa and is responsible for one third of the country’s orange exports. The Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Crops is situated in the city.
Groblersdal is an important irrigation area, which yields a wide variety of products such as citrus, cotton, tobacco, wheat and vegetables. Carolina-Bethal-Ermelo is mainly a sheepfarming area, but potatoes, sunflowers, maize and peanuts are also grown there.
Mpumalanga Industry and manufacturing
Most of the manufacturing production in Mpumalanga occurs in the southern Highveld region; especially in Highveld Ridge, where large petrochemical plants such as Sasol 2 and Sasol 3 are located. Large-scale manufacturing occurs especially in the northern Highveld area, particularly chrome-alloy and steel manufacturing. In the Lowveld subregion, industries concentrate on manufacturing products from agricultural and raw forestry material. The growth in demand for goods and services for export via Maputo will stimulate manufacturing in the province.
Mpumalanga is rich in coal reserves with eMalahleni being the biggest coal producer in Africa. South Africa’s major power stations are situated in this province. Kendal power station’s cooling towers are the largest structures of their type in the world. The Kusile power station near Delmas, which was completed in 2016, is the country’s biggest, contributing a massive 4 800 MW of electricity to the national grid.
One of the country’s largest paper mills is situated at Ngodwana, close to its timber source. Middelburg, which produces steel and vanadium, is home to Columbus Stainless, South Africa’s only producer of stainless steel flat products.
Population: 4 444 200
Percentage share of the total population: 7,8%
Area: 76 495 km2
Source: Stats SA’s Mid-year population estimates 2017 and Community Survey 2016