SEATTLE — South Africa has the largest economy on the African continent, a stable democracy and is at the forefront in the fight against HIV and AIDS. However, no country is without its challenges. While still reconciling post-apartheid government systems that have left the country with low employment and even lower poverty rates, South Africa has taken steps towards improving the lives of its citizens. As stated in the National Development Plan 2030: Our Future, “South Africa has the potential and capacity to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality over the next two decades.” In an effort to achieve this goal, there are many important and influential development projects in South Africa that are currently underway to help create a thriving nation.
Improving Health Outcomes
With the largest HIV and AIDS epidemic in the world, there are around 5.7 million people living with HIV in South Africa. TB is also a prominent pandemic, with South Africa’s statistics ranking third in the world. Care and treatment of patients have become complicated due to high rates of co-infection. These diseases have a significant socioeconomic impact on education, with teachers not being able to teach and children unable to attend school if they or their households are affected. This also creates employment instability, dragging down the economy.
In response to this, the Partnership Framework in Support of South Africa’s National HIV and AIDS and TB Response was signed by the South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation and the United States Secretary of State on December 10, 2010. The objectives are to prevent new HIV and TB infections from spreading while improving the quality of life of people already affected by these diseases.
Stemming from the effects of the apartheid economic policies, such as dysfunctional labor market policies, racial segregation and narrow-minded trade policies, South Africa is in a state of severe unemployment. Approximately three out of five working-age individuals are unemployed.
The Employment for Sustainable Development in Africa is a regional program promoting employment opportunities in seven African countries, including South Africa. Through productive employment in green and natural resource sectors like the agriculture, textile, construction and infrastructure sectors, this development project provides training and job opportunities. Young people in particular are a focus of this project, as they are the central concern of this unemployment issue. The results of the partnerships will not materialize in full until the measures have been completed by 2019. However, when reviewed in January 2017, close to 2,000 people found employment, the income of almost 2,000 employees increased and working conditions improved for 3,400 people.
Raising Literacy Rates
South Africa is struggling to provide quality education in most of its schools. Performing below most of the 15 participating African countries in reading, South Africa has the third highest number of functionally illiterate learners. Most students that leave the South African school system are not equipped with the basic skills they need to succeed in the workplace or the global market.
The School Capacity and Innovation Programme (SCIP) was launched in 2012 as part of the development projects in South Africa to address this issue. The program was “designed to improve primary grade reading outcomes by building teacher effectiveness and strengthening classroom and school management in South Africa.” In its first three years, the program aimed to reach nearly two million learners, making up 20 percent of the country’s learner population, as well as 70,000 teachers, approximately one-third of the teaching corps. SCIP focuses on resources that have already shown innovation, impact and a vision for growth. Moving forward, this project seeks to expand to even larger numbers.
Early Childhood Development
South Africa has recognized Early Childhood Development (ECD) as a priority since 1994. Resources and support for promoting optimal child development from conception are key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Since the early years of a person’s life can determine their success as an adult, a lack of opportunities and interventions during early childhood can significantly disadvantage young children and diminish their potential for success. ECD focuses on improving the conditions of early childhood programs and those tasked to look after young children while their parents are at work in rural and farm areas as well as informal settlements, where poverty levels are the highest. The need is great: there are an estimated 8,207,723 million children under six years old, according to the 2014 Mid Year Population estimates. As one of the development projects in South Africa, ECD has very significant long-term goals, including age-appropriate, comprehensive childhood development services available to all caregivers and children by 2024.
Low Emission Development
With a rapidly growing economy, South Africa is highly dependent on fossil fuels. With efforts being made to improve the economic status of the individual, the strain on energy production and greenhouse gas emissions is estimated to increase dramatically in the coming years.
In November 2015, U.S. Ambassador Patrick H. Gaspard launched a partnership with the South African government to help reduce this energy strain and promote economic development. The USAID South Africa Low Emissions Development Program addresses key catalysts, such as waste management, transportation, renewable energy and energy efficiency in an effort to lower emissions. “The program also works with local government to build capacity and develop projects that respond to climate change and support South Africa in transitioning to a green economy.” The $15 million program will run for five years in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs and Department of Science and Technology.
This country is still in need, with poverty, poor health and poor education weighing it down. While these development projects in South Africa are making a difference, continued aid and support must be in effect if this nation is to reach its goal of eliminating poverty and growing as an African country.
– Kailey Brennan