North West is bordered by Botswana in the north and fringed by the Kalahari desert in the west, Gauteng to the east, and the Free State to the south. It is known as the “Platinum Province”, owing to its wealth of this precious metal. The province has a population of more than 3,6 million people who mainly speak Setswana. Mahikeng is the capital city and well known for the Mafikeng Siege, which took place in October 1899 during the Anglo-Boer/South African War.

North West Population

Capital: Mahikeng
Principal languages:

  • Setswana 71,5%
  • Afrikaans 8,96%
  • IsiXhosa 5,51%

Population: 3 748 435
Percentage share of the total South African population: 6,7%
Area: 104 882 km2
Source: Stats SA’s Mid-year population estimates 2017 and Community Survey 2016

Most of the province’s economic activity is concentrated between Potchefstroom and Klerksdorp, as well as in Rustenburg and the eastern region, where more than 83,3% of the province’s economic activity takes place. The province has various tourist attractions. These include Sun City, the Pilanesberg National Park, Madikwe Game Reserve, and the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust. A portion of one of South Africa’s seven Unesco world heritage sites also falls within the borders of North West namely the Taung hominid fossil site, which has been incorporated into South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind.

North West Mining and manufacturing

Mining contributes 23,3% to North West’s economy, and makes up 22,5% of the South African mining industry. The Rustenburg and Brits districts produce 94% of the country’s platinum, which is more than any other single area in the world. In addition to granite, marble, fluorspar and diamonds, the province also produces a quarter of South Africa’s gold. Employment along the Platinum Corridor, from Pretoria to eastern Botswana, accounts for over a third of the province’s total employment.

North West’s manufacturing sector centres on the municipalities of Brits, Rustenburg, Potchefstroom, Klerksdorp and Mahikeng, which together account for more than 50% of the province’s total manufacturing production. The industries in Brits concentrate on manufacturing and construction. While those in Klerksdorp are geared towards the mining industry. In the manufacturing arena, automotive parts, machinery, electronic, audio, and medical equipment are manufactured using local materials and resources.

North West Agriculture

Some of the largest cattle herds in the world are found at Stellaland near Vryburg. This fact therefore explains why this area is often referred to as the Texas of South Africa. Marico is also cattle country.

North West is South Africa’s major producer of white maize. The areas around Rustenburg are fertile, mixed-crop farming land, with maize and sunflowers being the most important crops.

The arrestingly diverse landscape of the North West is occupied by charming people who’s responsibility to the land parallels their strong sense of tradition.

The culture of the people of the North West is to be found in every aspect of the daily lives of the people. – in their beadwork, the pottery, the houses, the music and song.

The people of the North West are predominantly BaTswana in origin and their language is SeTswana. They can trace their origins for many centuries through a turbulent history of war and migration across the plains and valleys of the province to the borders of the Kalahari.

Other groups touching the North West are the Ndebele in the east and theSotho in the south.

The North West Province is blessed with several cultural villages that entertain and enrich as they interpret South Africa’s people in their own unique manner.

Much of the province consists of flat areas of scattered trees and grassland. The Magaliesberg mountain range in the northeast extends about 130 km (about 80 miles) from Pretoria to Rustenburg. The Vaal River flows along the southern border of the province. Temperatures range from 17° to 31° C (62° to 88° F) in the summer and from 3° to 21° C (37° to 70° F) in the winter. Annual rainfall totals about 360 mm (about 14 in), with almost all of it falling during the summer months, between October and April.

In 1994 the population of the North West Province was estimated to be 3 669 349 (out of a total of an estimated 44 819 778 people living in South Africa); 65% of the people in the North West Provice live in the rural areas. The majority of the province’s residents are the Tswana people who speak Setswana. Smaller groups include Afrikaans, Sotho, and Xhosa speaking people. English is spoken primarily as a second language. Most of the population belong to Christian denominations. (Figures according to Census 2001 released in July 2003).

The province has the lowest number of people aged 20 years and older (5,9%) who have received higher education. The literacy rate is in the region of 57%. As part of the Department of Education’s proposed plans for higher education, the existing four higher learning institutions will be merged to form two.

During 2003, as part of the Year of Further Education and Training project, three mega institutions, Taletso, ORBIT and Vuselela, were established to provide technical and vocational training to the youth. These institutions have been incorporated into many of the former education and technical colleges and manpower centres.

Mafikeng, formerly Mafeking, serves as the provincial capital. Other significant towns include Brits, Klerksdorp,Lichtenburg, Potchefstroom, Rustenburg and Sun City. The province has two universities: the University of North West, which was formerly called the University of Bophuthatswana (founded in 1979), in Mmabatho; and Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education (founded in 1869; became a constituent college of the University of South Africa in 1921 and an independent university in 1951).

Important historical sites in the province include Mafikeng, the traditional capital of the Barolong people, where a British garrison was placed under siege by Afrikaners during the Boer War (1899-1902); Lotlamoreng Cultural Village near Mafikeng, which re-creates a traditional African village; and Boekenhoutfontein, the farm of Paul Kruger, who was the last president of the South African Republic (a state created by Afrikaners in what is now north-eastern South Africa), from 1883 to 1902. The province has several national parks. The largest, Pilanesberg Game Reserve, is located in the crater of an extinct volcano.

North West Region

From untamed bushveld to the sophistication of 5-star resorts, the North West Province provides the complete tourism package.

Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, the province offers an escape route to the real Africa. Nature has blessed this province with breathtaking scenic beauty, rolling fields of maize, golden sunflowers and vast plains of African bushveld. The ideal backdrop for the enjoyment of our outdoor attractions. Superb game parks – home to the Big Five – magnificent golf courses, water features, sporting facilities.

The North West Province – a blend of 20th century living and the mystique of ancient Africa.

Effectively forming the southern part of the Kalahari Desert, the North West Province offers almost all year-round sunshine. Do not forget your suntan lotion and sun hat. Few days will be spent indoors staring at bleak weather!

The North West is all about the authentic African bush experience and it is the hot, dry African climate which is truly unique. Small wonder, then, that so many indulge in the many water recreation facilities available throughout the province. Even less surprising that so many choose to stay in this place of uncompromisingly tempered, often intemperate climate.

The North West Province is a must see destination – one that is diverse and exciting. We offer some of the finest game reserves, cultural sights, archaeological treasures as well as entertainment resorts.

Visitors seeking to experience the wilderness and cultural treasures of the North West may do so conveniently because of it’s proximity to the Johannesburg International Airport and the major centres of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The agricultural and mining production in the North West plays a vital role in boosting the South African economy. The principal products are namely gold, platinum, diamonds, maize, beef as well as sunflower seeds.

While visiting the North West, the traditional warmth of the province will be shared with you as well as the pride in the history and culture of the province. Visitors to the North West can take home with them lasting memories a special experience and enjoyment.

Dams in the North West

  • Hartbeespoort Dam: Hartbeespoort Dam is a large dam on the Crocodile River, located about 35 kilometers (22 miles) northwest of Johannesburg. The dam was completed in 1938 and has a capacity of 1,097 million cubic meters (384 billion cubic feet). Hartbeespoort Dam is used for irrigation, hydroelectric power, and recreation.
  • Boskop Dam: Boskop Dam is a small dam on the Boskop River, located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Pretoria. The dam was completed in 1965 and has a capacity of 15 million cubic meters (530 million cubic feet). Boskop Dam is used for irrigation and recreation.
  • Taung Dam: Taung Dam is a small dam on the Taung River, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Mahikeng. The dam was completed in 1966 and has a capacity of 10 million cubic meters (353 million cubic feet). Taung Dam is used for irrigation and recreation.
  • Vaal Dam: Vaal Dam is the largest dam in South Africa, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Johannesburg. The dam was completed in 1938 and has a capacity of 30,400 million cubic meters (1,066 billion cubic feet). Vaal Dam is used for irrigation, hydroelectric power, and drinking water.
  • Tzaneen Dam: Tzaneen Dam is a large dam on the Olifants River, located about 300 kilometers (186 miles) northeast of Pretoria. The dam was completed in 1970 and has a capacity of 2,000 million cubic meters (70.7 billion cubic feet). Tzaneen Dam is used for irrigation, hydroelectric power, and recreation.


These are just a few of the many dams in the North West Province of South Africa. Dams play an important role in the province’s economy and environment, and they provide a valuable source of water for irrigation and drinking water.

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