Poverty on the rise in SA with Women and Children mostly affected

The first of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals is “Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere”. This goal aims at eradicating extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030.

But according to the report released by Stats SA on Tuesday, 22 August 2017, South Africa is predictably very far from meeting its National Development Plan (NDP) to eliminate poverty by 2030.

While according to UN (United Nations) extreme poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 1990, the Stats SA report indicates that more than 30 million people in South Africa were living in poverty in 2015 (with upper bound  poverty line of R992 per month).

According to the report, 13 million people are extremely poor, living below the food poverty line of earning less than R441 per person per month. However, on the positive note, the South African multidimensional poverty index, show that the head count 7.0% of household in South Africa went down from 17% in 2001. This reflects progress made in increased access to social services such basic education, healthcare, housing and social wage.

Although, according to Stats SA, South Africa was making progress between 2006 and 2011 with reducing poverty, the poverty levels increased since 2011. There is still a significant disparity in poverty levels between population groups and the gender of individuals.

The SDGs represent global plan of action that aims to eliminate poverty in its multiple dimensions, ensure healthy lives and quality education, achieve gender equality, and promote decent employment, among others. However, according to the report, black females, children and people who live in the rural areas, particularly in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces and people with no formal education remain the victims of the ongoing struggle against poverty.

Statistics reveal that female-headed households remain significantly poorer than male-headed households and two out of every five urban dweller are poor compared to four out of every five in rural areas.

It emerged that children are also the most vulnerable to poverty. If children are poor, they are less likely to go to school and even if in school, they will perform badly. The majority of children are poor because they are in poor households.

From policy perspective, there is an apparent urgency   to convert the rhetoric on economic transformation to practical action that leads to broad based and inclusive economy. It is also important to note the social investments on education, health care, housing and social grants are showing positive results. The increased efficiency in these social services will lead to increased and sustainable impact.

Africa has the richest natural resources and yet it is the poorest and stagnant continent in development. A number of things contribute towards this Poverty in Africa. The leading causes that persistently come to mind would be corruption and poor governance, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. This calls for an urgent intervention.

Seeing that the war against poverty in Africa is slowly being lost, the implementation of the SDGs, particularly Goal #1 needs to be accelerated faster than previously planned.  Civil Society leaders need to champion the need to bring more attention to these challenges from a broader set of stakeholders. Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality, that way the poverty battle can be won.

African Monitor (AM) as an organization that aims at ensuring that ordinary people’s voices, realities and experiences are expressed and documented, went around seven African countries, hosting Citizens Hearings (Community Dialogues). What emerged in those dialogues revealed that eradicating poverty by 2030 is a dream that is far from being realised. However, these kind of engagements with the grassroots communities help in having a practical advantage of informing policy and engaging policy makers – as a Civil Society organization.


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