Afrikaners (Afrikaans: [afriˈkɑːnərs]) are a South African ethnic group descended from predominantly Dutch settlers first arriving at the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th and 18th centuries.[8] They traditionally dominated South Africa's politics and commercial agricultural sector prior to 1994.[9] Afrikaans, South Africa's third[10] most widely spoken home language, evolved as the mother tongue of Afrikaners and most Cape Coloureds.[9] It originated from the Dutch vernacular[11][12] of South Holland, incorporating words brought from the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Madagascar by slaves.[13] Afrikaners make up approximately 5.2% of the total South African population, based upon the number of white South Africans who speak Afrikaans as a first language in the South African National Census of 2011.[2]

Total population
c. 2.8–3.5 million[1]
Regions with significant populations
 South Africa2,710,461 (2011)[2]
 Namibia92,400 (2003)[3]
 Zambia≈41,000 (2006)[lower-alpha 1]
 United Kingdom≈40,000 (2006)[lower-alpha 1]
 Botswana≈20,000 (2010)[4]
 Eswatini≈13,000 (2006)[lower-alpha 1]
 Australia5,079 (2011)[lower-alpha 2]
 New Zealand1,197 (2013)[lower-alpha 3]
 Argentina650 (2019)[7]
First language
Second or third language
Mostly Reformed tradition (see Afrikaner Calvinism; specifically: Dutch Reformed  Dutch Reformed of Africa  Reformed  Afrikaans Protestant)  Other Protestants  Roman Catholicism
Related ethnic groups

The arrival of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama at Calicut in 1498 opened a gateway of free access to Asia from Western Europe around the Cape of Good Hope; however, it also necessitated the founding and safeguarding of trade stations in the East.[8] The Portuguese landed in Mossel Bay in 1500, explored Table Bay two years later, and by 1510 had started raiding inland.[14] Shortly afterwards the Dutch Republic sent merchant vessels to India, and in 1602 founded the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie ('Dutch East India Company'; VOC).[15] As the volume of traffic rounding the Cape increased, VOC recognised its natural harbour as an ideal watering point for the long voyage around Africa to the Orient and established a victualling station there in 1652.[8] VOC officials did not favour the permanent settlement of Europeans in their trading empire, although during the 140 years of Dutch rule many VOC servants retired or were discharged and remained as private citizens.[15] Furthermore, the exigencies of supplying local garrisons and passing fleets compelled the administration to confer free status upon employees and oblige them to become independent farmers.[16]

Encouraged by the success of this experiment, the Company extended free passage from 1685 to 1707 for Hollanders wishing to settle at the Cape.[16] In 1688, it sponsored the immigration of 200 French Huguenot refugees forced into exile by the Edict of Fontainebleau.[17] The terms under which the Huguenots agreed to immigrate were the same offered to other VOC subjects, including free passage and requisite farm equipment on credit. Prior attempts at cultivating vineyards or exploiting olive groves for fruit had been unsuccessful, and it was hoped that Huguenot colonists accustomed to Mediterranean agriculture could succeed where the Dutch had failed.[18] They were augmented by VOC soldiers returning from Asia, predominantly Germans channeled into Amsterdam by the company's extensive recruitment network and thence overseas.[19][20] Despite their diverse nationalities, the colonists used a common language and adopted similar attitudes towards politics.[21] The attributes they shared came to serve as a basis for the evolution of Afrikaner identity and consciousness.[22]

Afrikaner nationalism has taken the form of political parties and secret societies such as the Broederbond in the twentieth century. In 1914, the National Party was formed to promote Afrikaner economic interests and sever South Africa's ties to the United Kingdom. Rising to prominence by winning the 1948 general elections, it was also noted for enforcing a harsh policy of racial segregation (apartheid) while simultaneously declaring South Africa a republic and withdrawing from the British Commonwealth.[9] The National Party left power in 1994 following bilateral negotiations to end apartheid and South Africa's first multiracial elections held under a universal franchise.[23]