SDGs Series Article 1 : Poverty in South Africa

Globally, more than 800 million people are still living on less than US$1.25 a day, many lacking access to adequate food, clean drinking water and sanitation. The SDGs are a bold commitment to finish what we started, and end poverty in all forms and dimensions by 2030. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

What is Poverty?

A condition where people’s basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter are not being met. Poverty is generally of two types: (1) Absolute poverty is synonymous with destitution and occurs when people cannot obtain adequate resources (measured in terms of calories or nutrition) to support a minimum level of physical health. Absolute poverty means about the same everywhere, and can be eradicated as demonstrated by some countries. (2) Relative poverty occurs when people do not enjoy a certain minimum level of living standards as determined by a government (and enjoyed by the bulk of the population) that vary from country to country, sometimes within the same country”

Poverty in South Africa

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) the national statistical service of South Africa has published the most recent poverty indices of the nation. The “Poverty Trends in South Africa” report shows a steady increase of poverty in the country in the year 2015 at 55. 5%; the percentage has increased from the previous series low of 53. 2% in 2011. The Poverty Headcount by Age graph below shows the different age groups and the poverty gaps between them. Graph: Statistics South Africa website

How are SDGs implemented in South Africa

Eradication of poverty is the first of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals identified by the UN; it is an extension of the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) which were phased out in 2015. South Africa, as a member state of the United Nations has an obligation to abide by the Global Goals; and it has done this in the following ways:

  • Land Reform and Agriculture

Since 1994 when South Africa became a democratic republic the issue of land reformation policy has been a controversial topic of debate among members of parliament. Opposition political parties like the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) continuously call for expropriation of land without compensation from white land owners by government.  This, they believe, will reduce poverty and redress past discrimination by the apartheid government which saw 90% of arable land in South Africa in possession and ownership of the white minority when the 1913 Land Act was first enacted. The Bill of Rights in The Constitution of South Africa states that:

  • No one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property.

“(2) Property may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application— (a) for a public purpose or in the public interest; and (b) subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court. “

(3) The amount of the compensation and the time and manner of payment must be just and equitable, reflecting an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected, having regard to all relevant circumstances, including— (a) the current use of the property; (b) the history of the acquisition and use of the property; (c) the market value of the property; (d) the extent of direct state investment and subsidy in the acquisition and beneficial capital improvement of the property; and (e) the purpose of the expropriation.

(4) For the purposes of this section— (a) the public interest includes the nation’s commitment to land reform, and to reforms to bring about equitable access to all South Africa’s natural resources; and (b) property is not limited to land. The Bill of Rights: Section 25 (Property), Page 10

Cyril Ramaphosa, the new president of the ruling party recently stated at the ANC’s 54th National Conference in December 2017 that the National Executive Committee (NEC) would start the process of amending Section 25 which is the Constitution’s property clause, in order to enable land redistribution without compensation. This will however be implemented on the condition that the process of expropriation does not negatively impact on agriculture, food security and other vital sectors in the economy.

  • Free Higher Education

In October 2015 the #FeesMustFall protest movement saw thousands of students from various Higher Education institutions marching to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, this was in response to the proposed increase in fees for South African universities in the following academic year. Student Representative Councils (SRC) from the different universities recognized that some students from their campuses are barely managing to pay for their university tuition on top of other costs associated with being a varsity student. Therefore an increase in the university tuition will not only exacerbate the situation but also prevent performing students an opportunity to further their education.

SRC’s and other student bodies engaged in dialogue with the management of their universities on behalf fellow students and communicated their grievances. Unsatisfied with the collective response from most of the university management, student organisations rallied their counterparts across the country to join in protest and march to the executive office to submit a memorandum to the President. The Presidency issued a statement shortly after the protest saying a commission of inquiry, which will investigate the viability of fee free higher education in South Africa, will be established and once the report is released a decision will be made.

Fast forward to December 2017, President Jacob Zuma announced free higher education for poor and middle class students. The details of how exactly this decision will be realized is not yet clear but this is a step towards the direction of higher education becoming a tangible possibility for students coming from poor households.

  • Growing Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is one of the most effective ways of tackling poverty in any society because it empowers people from poverty stricken backgrounds to take charge of their own livelihood and provide for themselves. South African is not slacking in this area. There are a numerous programmes throughout the country aimed at training people without a business background on how to start their own companies and also assisting existing small businesses to expand further.

“South Africa [was] ranked 46th in terms of its entrepreneurial environment in the Global Entrepreneurship Index for 2016”. – Fin24.

There is definitely room for improvement in the area of entrpreneurship especially with the poverty margin increase, but different sectors of the society are working together to curb the increase of this global issue.

Picture: San Jose State University

Below are some of the ways in which the public sector, the private sector, higher education institutions and civil society are working to eradicate poverty through entrepreneurship:

“The Entrepreneurship Development Programme is aimed at creating a conducive environment for young entrepreneurs to access relevant entrepreneurship skills, knowledge, values and attitudes for their businesses. The programme offers a package of entrepreneurship trainings that respond appropriately and adequately to the labour market and business needs of young people”. – NYDA

“The Academy’s work extends across the entrepreneurial spectrum to include women, social, green, youth, and township entrepreneurs in informal and more formal, growing businesses. Through dynamic, tailor-made and practical business and entrepreneurship education, thought leadership and research, the Academy’s work encourages growth and sustainability in the more sophisticated sectors like retail, ICT, construction, engineering as well as the less formal sectors like spaza shops. The offering spans across the business lifecycle and includes those interested in pursuing a social entrepreneurial cause all in favour of growing sustainable businesses, creating further employment and social impact”. – GIBBS

“BUSINESS/PARTNERS specialises in investing capital from R500, 000 to R50 million, skill and knowledge in entrepreneurs, and its staff has in-depth knowledge of the small and medium enterprise sector, as well as valuable insight into the various challenges facing businesses. Since inception, the company has made investments totaling R15.6 billion in 70 300 SME transactions facilitating over 593, 000 jobs in the process”. – Youth Village

“The South African Institute for Entrepreneurship (SAIE) is driven by a vision of a dynamic culture of entrepreneurship in South Africa that promotes a positive mindset in youth and adults and assists in the eradication of poverty through the creation of effective entrepreneurs”. – SAIE

From the above we can see that like many countries in the developing world South Africa still has a long wat to go in eradicating poverty completely in the country but there are already policies and programmes underway that will gradually help alleviate poverty for good, hopefully meeting the target date of 2030 agreed upon by the international community.

Article by: Pascaline Molepo