SOUTH AFRICA — The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam) released a new report last week, which has underscored the growing socioeconomic challenges faced by one of Africa’s most dynamic countries.
With 24 percent of the national population maintaining no access to electricity and 23 percent of the national population unable to afford an adequate food diet, Oxfam calls for both socioeconomic and environmental transformations in South Africa.
The report notes the current stresses observed over basic resources such as food and water, as well as growing concerns over public health due to decreasing air quality in the wake of steadily increasing national carbon emissions.
Oxfam notes within the report that South Africa holds at 25 percent the sixth highest national unemployment rate on earth, in addition to a staggering inequality index Gini Coefficient of 0.69.
The report states, “The world has entered an era of unprecedented environmental change and social inequality. South Africa is no exception having suffered unique challenges following decades of injustice under apartheid. The future of South Africa depends on the country’s ability to end social deprivation and manage environmental stress, enabling its people to live in a space where it is both safe and just for humanity to exist.”
With over half of South African residents living below the national poverty line and an additional 10 percent living in extreme poverty, less than $1.25 per day, many officials have called for significant efforts to stimulate the economic climate within the country.
The report, entitled “Is South Africa Operating in a Safe and Just Space?”, argues that the nation must work to end the persistence of social deprivation and expand efforts to regulate environmental stresses in order to improve the current quality of life.
The report explains how, “A significant proportion of South Africans are living below the social floor, while the country has already crossed its safe environmental boundaries for climate change, freshwater use, biodiversity loss, and marine harvesting.”
Oxfam continues by estimating that the government has the potential to create 816,000 green jobs within the country by the year 2025 in fields including natural resource management, pollution regulation, and energy production.
The report also analyzes the ambitious goals of the South African government to reach a target GDP of 5.4 percent and add an additional 11 million new jobs by 2030.
Megan Cole, a researcher at the University of Oxford in the UK and co-author of the report, warned in a recent interview, “The achievement of that GDP growth will ring hollow if significant numbers of people are left below the social foundation. Growth for its own sake is insufficient – it must be good quality growth that works for the poorest people first and foremost and significantly reduces inequalities.”
In regards to the South African government reportedly investing more than 20 percent of their annual national budget on education, Oxfam cautions, “This investment needs to be targeted to ensure that skills are developed that ultimately result in reduced inequality, job creation and poverty alleviation.”
The organization concludes their report in asserting the importance of technological and environmental science developments in the coming years. Oxfam says, “As global and local environmental changes accelerate, it will be critical to have the best possible science, technology, data and monitoring capabilities in order to adapt and make the right decisions. For this reason, investing in technological and scientific education should be a priority.”
– James Thornton