Semigration wave in South Africa – where people are moving

 ·14 Apr 2024

South Africa’s economic powerhouse, Gauteng, continues to sport the lion’s share of the country’s migration, while the Western Cape has seem highest net increase of people from other provinces coming in.

This was outlined in StatsSA’s 2023 Migration Profile Report for South Africa, which analysed South Africa’s migration patterns over the past ten years.

Internal migration

Internal migration (labelled inter-provincial migration in the article) refers to the movement of people within the country’s borders from one geographic area (province) to another.

This is due to various reasons, such as economic opportunities, family reunification, education, access to services, and lifestyle preferences.

Design by Seth Thorne

Looking at inter-provincial migration, 295,908 people came to the Western Cape from other provinces, while 112,520 left. This means that the province had the highest inter-provincial net increase in the country, totalling 183,388.

395,977 people left Gauteng for other provinces, while 512,488 came from other provinces (+116,511).

The provinces which had more people leave for other provinces than come in are Limpopo (-114,328), KwaZulu-Natal (-57,411), Free State (-24,585), and Mpumalanga (-24,569).

Migration into SA

Design by Seth Thorne

Overall, looking at immigration, Gauteng boasts the lion’s share of the influx – over 172,000 more than second-place Western Cape.


According to the report, in total (both inter-provincial and outside SA), the provinces saw a net migration of:

  • Gauteng (+ 399,353);
  • Western Cape (+ 294,029);
  • North West (+ 47,275);
  • Mpumalanga (+ 12,650);
  • Northern Cape (+ 12,094);
  • Free State (- 9,878);
  • KwaZulu-Natal (- 10,067);
  • Eastern Cape (- 62,629);
  • and Limpopo (- 63,917).

Looking at the percentage distribution of period in-migration, the results indicate that Gauteng and the Western Cape are the two main provinces that attract a high number of in-migrants (34.4% and 19.8%, respectively).

Northern Cape is the province with the lowest share of period migrants (2,6%).

Eastern Cape, on the other hand, shows an increase of 5 percentage points between Census 2011 (5,3%) and Census 2022 (10,3%)

In-migration percentage distribution. Graphic: StatsSA

Looking at out-migration, Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Limpopo, and KwaZulu-Natal experienced a high share.

Notably, Gauteng had a share of 26.7% in Census 2022 – and increase from 17.8% in Census 2011.

The province with the lowest share of out-migration is Northern Cape, with 3% in Census 2011 and 2.2% in Census 2022.

Out-migration percentage distribution. Graphic: StatsSA


“Data on emigration, due to the very character of this migration type, is more difficult to collect than immigration data,” said StatsSA.

In the majority of cases, estimation techniques and data from destination countries have been used to produce estimates of stocks of South Africans residing abroad.

Provincial data is not provided.

It is estimated that just over 910,000 South Africans are living abroad (data from 2020).

Graph: StatsSA

Europe has the largest population percentage at 39.3%, followed by Oceania with 29.9%, Northern America at 18.1%, and Africa at 10.1%.

Meanwhile, Asia represents a smaller fraction at 2.2%, and Latin America along with the Caribbean has the smallest share at 0.3%.

Read: ‘Reverse emigration’ in South Africa – this is how many people actually came home

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