Addressing Change in South Africa


Effective Solutions in Urbanization & Metropolitanization

Let us ask the question, what opportunities are being created for the citizens of South Africa to be part of the economic growth in Sub Saharan Africa between now and 2030. In 1994 there was real change that has slowly stalled and now the hopes and dreams of many millions of citizens have turned into the shattered reality of the current situation. According to a recent McKinsey report urbanization is confused with improved quality of life and that at least 72% of Africans live in cities, live in slums.

There has been a growing global trend for rural inhabitants to move away and into urban areas for various reasons such as and not limited to better access to employment, health and education services and an improved standard of living. If we are to see this trend in Africa, then surely it would be prudent for urban planners and other government departments to provide real solutions for the urban populations. Infrastructure development and the allocation today of a percentage of GDP towards education and health services, water and sanitation would be a start.

Let’s take agriculture as a case in point: According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, there are 500 million smallholder farmers in the world. Smallholder farmers provide up to 80 percent of the food supply in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. And about two-thirds of the 1.2 billion people now surviving on US$1.25 a day or less live in rural areas that are largely dependent on small-scale agriculture. Can we improve the education of these farmers and lift their production rate without placing strain on the environment and the ecosystem and in doing so lift their standard of living through an increase in wages/income.

Now if our estimated global population growth trajectory is accurate the global population will be around nine billion by 2030 (estimated by others to be 2050) and Africa will double by 2050. There are benefits for government in taking a proactive stance in policy making and in planning for the tomorrow with effective solutions. In many cases, these farmers can double their productivity and output together with their income, through access to tools and technology available today within the private sector. More importantly, by improving smallholder farmer productivity and their access to markets by working with the private sector, incomes will be generated and will go a long way to solving poverty.

In a previous article I made mention of the South African National Development Plan and I would like to focus here again on this plan. If we look at independent data, the projected population by 2030 of South Africa will be 66,000,000. The current estimated population of South Africa is 52,900,000 and so there must be effective planning undertaken by the current and by successive governments if we are to see an improvement in the standard of living for the citizens of South Africa.

One example here to review is that of Gauteng, one of the nine provinces, that currently has a population of approximately 12,500,000 people and it is estimated that by 2050 that figure will rise to 23,100,000 people. This province has the highest density ranking and so I have highlighted it here as it will have the greatest demands in addressing the MDGs. Increasing the affordability and access to quality education is an effective solution to alleviating poverty and this must be a priority for government for this province.

Gauteng produces approximately 10% of the total GDP of Sub Saharan Africa and yet has 8.4% of residents aged 20 and over have received no schooling, 11.2% have had some primary, 5.5% have completed only primary school, 34.3% have had some high education, 28.0% have finished only high school, and 12.6% have an education higher than the high school level. Overall, 40.6% of residents have completed high school, 25.8% of the population aged 15–65 is unemployed.

From these figures one can see that the lack of education is evident and it is a belief, widely held by educational academics, that education is one way of alleviating poverty – median annual income of working adults aged 15–65 is R 23 539 ($3,483). Males have a median annual income of R 24 977 ($3,696) versus R 20 838 ($3,083) for females. I will use just one example below to highlight the point of the correlation between lack of education, poverty and the standard of living.

Alexandra, Gauteng, with a population of 166,000. However, some estimates place the number closer to 470,000 as the population has grown after the fall of apartheid and the rise of people seeking jobs as immigration from other parts of Africa is on the rise. Alexandra is located northeast of the Johannesburg city center situated on the Jukskei River and covers 8 square kilometers. Originally planned to be a vibrant community this area turned into low-income developments with 7,500 formal homes and roughly 20,000 shacks. The people and their plight is something we do not think of when simple things such as electricity and plumbing is common to us, but relatively uncommon to those who reside in the slums.

According to UN-Habitat, besides Johannesburg, Gauteng comprises Pretoria, Vereeniging, Benoni, Krugersdorp and their surrounding areas, with a total of 23 municipalities and is the headquarters for most of South Africa’s large corporations, banks and other financial and business activities. It is estimated that by 2020, Gauteng will be an urban region of 20 million people. It would make sense that government and non-government leaders huddle and make plans for the future, to bring about real and effective social change through the improvement and access to quality education for the citizens of this province.

Likewise, the other provinces could review and adopt the same or a similar model of providing this and other services, but for this article it is education which is the focus. In 2015, the urban slum population in Africa is likely to reach 332 million. There are other societal benefits for addressing population growth and the rural migration to urban areas and improving the standard of living through education, such as a stabilizing and or the reduction in the crime rate. South African homicide rates remain exceptionally high – higher than any other country that submits crime statistics to Interpol. A SAPS performance report reveals that over 21,400 cases of murder, nearly 540,000 cases of rape and over 116,700 cases of serious robbery were recorded in 2000/2001.
Increasing youth crime has serious implications, particularly in Africa where over two thirds of many cities’ populations are between the ages of 12 and 25. Most of these young people live in informal settlements without basic facilities, services and security. South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world. Tackling these challenges will not be an easy task, and it will require good governance and transparency to bring about the required change. Corruption is pervasive in Africa and a previous article reviewed the KPMG report into South African fraud and corruption which is now systemic in government.

Equitable quality learning is one way to bring about this change. Skills are the key way in which education reduces poverty. Education makes it more likely for men and women not just to be employed, but to hold jobs that are more secure and provide good working conditions and decent pay. In so doing, education can not only help lift households out of poverty, but also guard against them falling – or falling back – into poverty. Low quality education reinforces this problem, as parents are less willing to bear those costs if they cannot see the benefits of education.

Demographic change has a profound impact on the direction of public policy and the development of a country. As the population increases nationally and or provincially, policymakers will be compelled to meet the service needs of a larger population in areas like healthcare, education, employment or basic infrastructure
needs. The importance of aligning policy planning to cover all possibilities and contingencies cannot be overemphasized in the current context in South Africa.
Understanding the dynamics of population change and by government adopting and implementing policy that is proactive in its approach to the challenge of Urbanization & Metropolitanization, South Africa will move towards a better tomorrow for all of its citizens.

“Children of today are the leaders of tomorrow and education is a very important weapon to prepare children for their future roles as leaders of the community”. Nelson Mandela



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