By Connor J. Wangler
The Republic of South Africa is celebrating twenty years of democracy and the fall of Apartheid, whites-only governance. Since the elections of 1994, South Africans have seen tremendous economic growth; however, unlike the “rainbow nation” image that is propagated, this growth has still left many groups behind and in a state of extreme poverty. Thousands are still marginalized from formal economic participation and, as such, remain subject to the heavy burdens of a system that pushed them to the fringes of society. Many still live in informal settlements typified by tin shacks and extremely high population densities, are still denied access to education and employment opportunities, are still facing the battle of HIV/AIDS and malnutrition, and are still trying to escape a culture of abuse and discrimination. Seen as the “jewel of Africa” because of its relatively high level of development for the continent, South Africa still faces the battles of extreme poverty and development. Its successes, however, warrant an assessment of the many efforts, by both the government and private groups, to continue to raise people out of poverty. Using five key areas identified by Jeffrey Sachs in The End of Poverty, a case study of South Africa’s successes and failures will highlight what can work for developing countries, as well as what might be avoided. Here is a piece by CNBC Africa that discusses the country’s development issues and the national development plan with Planning Minister Trevor Manuel:
The five areas that Sachs are Agricultural Inputs; Basic Health; Education; Power, Transport, and Communication Services; and Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation. Each of these areas incorporates essential components for alleviating extreme poverty and growing development. The challenge in this assessment is the differing degrees to which these areas are already developed in South Africa compared to the rest of the continent; therefore, this examination will need to reflect not only on the future of development, the “what can be” view, but also the past, the “what once was” view. This will allow for a greater ability to compare countries with differing levels of poverty and development. One interesting subject that will be looked at is the level of development achieved during the years of the Apartheid government; different countries were left by the colonial powers in different situations.
This case study will also make an effort to look at the multiple realms in which development can stem from. Thousands of NGOs, both non-profits and corporations, start projects each year aimed at uplifting people out of poverty. These range from building homes to lobbying for policy changes. The government is particularly concerned with eradicating poverty in South Africa, not just because of the economic benefits but because of a constituency deeply committed to proving that Africans can successfully govern. The people of South Africa, still healing from the decades of Apartheid, want to show that an “African” solution to governing can work. That is why South Africa created “Vision 2030,” the national development plan.
While South Africa is far ahead of many other African countries in the development game, it can teach many lessons. Examining the path South Africa has taken, and is on right now, can shed light on where other countries trying to grow should focus. Obviously each country’s situation is unique and its solution must be unique; however, assessing the moves made by other countries can help avoid costly mistakes. That is why South Africa is a valuable player in African development and that is why it is included in this project.