For a number of decades, South Africa was isolated by the international community on account of its policy of racial segregation known as "apartheid". It was not until 1994 that the country marked its return to the international community with free and universal elections. The country elected its first black president, Nelson Mandela, who epitomises the struggle against the apartheid regime of the white minority, which cost thousands of lives. The work done by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in coming to terms with this bitter past has earned it wide international acclaim.
When Namibia secured its independence in 1990, a neutral name with no historical connotations was chosen for the new nation. Its name was derived from the Namib Desert which extends over the entire coastal strip of Namibia. The country is almost two and a half times as large as Germany but has a population of only about 2.1 million.
Zimbabwe's economy depends heavily on its mining and agriculture sectors. Following a decade of contraction from 1998 to 2008, the economy recorded real growth of more than 10% per year in the period 2010-13, before slowing to roughly 3% in 2014 due to poor harvests, low diamond revenues, and decreased investment. Lower mineral prices, infrastructure and regulatory deficiencies, a poor investment climate, a large public and external debt burden, and extremely high government wage expenses impede the country’s economic performance.
Over the last few decades, Zambia has developed into a, for the most part, politically stable republic, in which more than 70 different ethnic communities live together peacefully. Compared with the rest of the region, the level of religious freedom and the generosity of the country's refugee policy are remarkable.