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  • Norman Brook

Development Need in South Africa

South Africa is one of the six “advanced emerging economies”. The others are Brazil, Hungary, Mexico, Poland and Taiwan.  It could be argued that as an advanced emerging economy, that South Africa should not need international development support.  The reality though is that South Africa, or should I say the majority of those who reside in South Africa, need international development support. If you have doubts regarding the need you may wish to consider the following facts which highlight the massive social challenges that still face South Africa.

1. Inequality

The gap between the rich and the poor in South Africa is increasing.

According to a report from the OECD published in January of this year, South Africa’s “high aggregate level of income inequality” increased between 1993 and 2008, and “the same is true of inequality within each of South Africa’s four major racial groups”. 

2. Poverty

The majority of South Africa’s residents live in poverty.

57% of individuals residing in South Africa in 2001 were living below the poverty income line according to a Human Sciences Research Council report published on the 26th July 2004.

3. Shack Dwellers

More and more South African residents are living in shacks.

“In 1994 there were around 300 informal settlements in South Africa, while today there are more than 2 600.”  according to Human Settlements Minister, Tokyo Sexwale, in a speech delivered in January of this year.


South Africa carries about 17% of the world’s HIV/AIDS burden despite accounting for only 0.7% of the world’s population.

An estimated 5.2 million people were living with HIV and AIDS in South Africa in 2008, more than in any other country.  Human Sciences Research Council (2009), ‘South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey, 2008: A Turning Tide Among Teenagers?’

It is believed that in 2008, over 250,000 South Africans died of AIDS.  Statistics South Africa (2009, July), ‘Mid-year population estimates 2009’

5. Orphans

There are 1.4 million AIDS Orphans in South Africa.   UNAIDS (2008), ‘2008 Report on the Global AIDS epidemic’

6. Child Abuse

One child is raped in South Africa every three minutes according to the Trade Union Solidarity’s Report published in 2009.

7. Gender Based Violence

Violence against women, including sexual violence, is very widespread in South Africa.

In a large survey, more than four-in-ten South African men reported to have been physically violent to an intimate partner.   Jewkes R (2009, June), ‘Understanding men’s health and use of violence: Interface of rape and HIV in South Africa’, South African Medical Research Council

8. Trafficking

“South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for forced labour and sexual exploitation.” CIA World Facts (2008).

9. Substance Misuse

“The drug problem in South Africa is extremely serious.   Substance abuse dependency is evident in children as young as 12 – and that age is dropping. One in two children in South Africa had used drugs or alcohol.”  David Bayever, Deputy Chairman, SA Department of Social Development – Central Drug Authority (March 2010).

While the world average for tik and amphetamine use is 0.4% of the population, South African users total 0.9% of the population.

The world average for dagga abuse is 4%, but 12% of South Africans abuse the drug. This is an increase of 4% in a year.

0.8% of South Africans use cocaine. The world average for cocaine use is 0.4% of a population.

Alcohol consumption in South Africa is among the 10 highest in the world. 1.9 million South Africans are alcoholics, 37% of the population are binge drinkers and 10% are classified “risky drinkers”.

10. Xenophobia

“Not only have immigrants been affected by xenophobic violence where 62 people were killed and thousands more displaced, but foreign African workers also suffer labour exploitation.”  Tamar Blieden, South Africa: Immigrants Create Jobs and Add to Economy,  7/06/2008

There are overwhelming social issues in South Africa and a continuing need for international development support to help South African’s address these challenges.

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