How Did Apartheid Have an Impact on World History?

Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial segregation that existed in South Africa from 1948 to the early 1990s. The word “apartheid” means “separateness” in Afrikaans, and the system was designed to separate people based on their race.

During the apartheid era, white South Africans held most of the political power and enjoyed privileges denied to black South Africans. The government passed laws that enforced racial segregation in all aspects of life, including housing, education, employment, and public services.

The impact of apartheid on world history is significant. Below are some of the ways that apartheid had an impact on world history:

1. International Isolation

South Africa was subjected to international isolation as a result of its apartheid policies. Many countries around the world imposed economic sanctions and trade embargoes against South Africa. This isolation helped to increase pressure on the South African government to end apartheid.

2. Resistance Movements

The apartheid system was met with resistance from various groups both inside and outside of South Africa. The African National Congress (ANC) was one of the most prominent resistance movements against apartheid. Nelson Mandela, a leader of the ANC, spent 27 years in prison for his involvement in anti-apartheid activities before being released in 1990.

The Role of Sport

Sport played an important role in highlighting the injustice of apartheid. South Africa’s exclusion from international sporting events such as the Olympics and World Cup helped to draw attention to the country’s discriminatory policies.

The Legacy of Apartheid

Even though apartheid officially ended with democratic elections in 1994, its legacy still affects South Africa today. The country continues to struggle with issues such as poverty and inequality that were exacerbated by decades of institutionalized racism.

  • One example is land reform – much of the country’s land is still owned by white South Africans, and efforts to address this issue have been slow and contentious.
  • The education system also continues to be unequal, with black students often attending underfunded schools and receiving lower-quality education than their white counterparts.


Apartheid had a significant impact on world history, both in terms of the international isolation it brought upon South Africa and the resistance movements it inspired. Although apartheid officially ended in the early 1990s, its legacy continues to affect South Africa today.