The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) is the most polymorphic region in the human genome and accounts for more than 10% of human diversity. This region plays an important role in matching donors and recipients for transplantation. The South African Bone Marrow Registry (SABMR) does not reflect the demographics of the South African population. The large number of polymorphisms resulting from HLA diversity in the Black South African population and their limited representation in the SABMR reduce the chances of finding adequate matches between donors and recipients in this group. Umbilical cord blood is an alternative to bone marrow for the treatment of fatal diseases. Less strict HLA matching is required due to the naive nature of the T cells in cord blood. A public umbilical cord blood bank is a necessity in trying to cater for the diverse population in South Africa. However, the ethnic diversity of the South African population poses a great challenge in constituting a public umbilical cord blood bank that is representative of the entire population. The Roche designed next generation sequencing (NGS) high resolution (HR) HLA typing kit enables sequencing of additional HLA exons and could improve the degree of matching between individuals to ultimately decrease adverse reactions. An extensive study of the literature was performed to establish the demographics, linguistics, and HLA diversity of the South African population to determine how a public cord blood bank should be constituted. In addition, HLA genotyping was performed by 454 NGS on 20 samples that had previously been HLA typed by conventional methods. The 454 NGS technique made use of a Roche designed medium and high resolution HLA typing kit to genotype the samples. It was possible to assign accurate genotypes to 95.5% of the loci of interest for the total number of 20 samples using the MR kit, compared with 98.5% using the HR kit. In conclusion, the present study indicates the extreme HLA diversity in the South African population, and therefore, recommends constituting the first public umbilical cord blood bank in Gauteng on the basis of race or major ethnic groupings. A minimum number of 10 000 cord blood units is needed to initiate the bank. Furthermore, the 454 NGS platform together with the HR HLA typing kit display potential as an alternative method to be used in a public cord blood bank, as well as routine clinical and diagnostic laboratories, to ultimately improve HLA matching between donors and recipients.