Homelessness in South AfricaRates of poverty in South Africa are high; the estimated percentage of the population living under the poverty threshold of $3.20 a day is 37.12% in 2022. According to the U.N. Sustainable Development Report, in South Africa, significant challenges remain in moving toward zero poverty and the country is regressing in its quest to reduce poverty. One of the major and most visible manifestations of extreme poverty is homelessness. No official census exists on rates of homelessness in South Africa, however, estimates indicate that up to 200,000 people in the country live without the basic human right to shelter.

Unemployment Rates in South Africa

Unemployment rates in South Africa have increased in recent years, rising from 24.3% in 2020 to 28.8% in 2021. With scarce employment opportunities to secure an income, people are plunged into poverty. This, in turn, leads to higher rates of homelessness in South Africa at large. A survey conducted by the Unit for Street Homelessness at the University of Pretoria in collaboration with the Tshwane Homelessness Forum and the City of Tshwane in October 2022 found that unemployment was the primary reason for the high number of homeless people in the City of Tshwane, Pretoria.

The Role of Apartheid

The apartheid era plays a significant role in the issues of homelessness and landlessness that have been affecting South Africans. During apartheid, the government forcibly removed non-whites from their lands and pushed them into subpar neighborhoods known as “townships.”

But, decades since the abolishment of apartheid, “land distribution and economic inequity remain unresolved,” Africanews reports. Since 1994, the end of the apartheid era and the beginning of the first democratic elections, the South African government has been trying to address the housing crisis by providing low-income families with homes funded by the state. The government has constructed more than 3 million low-cost houses since the end of apartheid to address the need for housing, but the affordable housing shortage still amounts to about 3.7 million houses.

Close to 13% of South Africans live in shacks or informal settlements, according to 2019 data from the government. People from rural areas have migrated to urban city centers for better job opportunities and access to quality schooling and health care services. But, the infrastructure in these cities has struggled to keep up with increasing population numbers.

Homelessness in South Africa’s Two Wealthiest Cities

South Africa is a country of great economic disparity. Johannesburg, located in the North East of the country, is the country’s wealthiest city. Cape Town, nestled on the West Coast, is the country’s second-richest city. Together, the cities share a private wealth of more than $400 billion.

Despite their wealth, rates of homelessness in Johannesburg and Cape Town are high. Johannesburg has an estimated 15,000 rough sleepers, according to local media outlet GroundUp, and Cape Town has more than 5,000 homeless people. Unemployment rates and a lack of adequate and affordable housing for the poor in these cities contribute to the unequal distribution of wealth, made visible on the streets. South Africa has the largest gap between rich and poor in the world. According to TIME magazine in 2021, 85% of the country’s wealth is owned by the wealthiest 10% of the population, a result of apartheid as “the world’s most egregious racial divide has turned into its most extreme economic disparity.”

Taking Action

A remedy to homelessness in South Africa is affordable housing and accessible shelters, particularly in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The Johannesburg Homelessness Network is a charity that offers a space to stay for homeless people in the city. The organization takes a multidimensional approach to helping the homeless, providing mental health support and medical care as well as shelter.

Launched in 2018, Cape Town’s program, Safe Spaces, also offers low-cost, secure shelter for the homeless and access to basic health services and amenities. The City of Cape Town plans to commit R77 million in 2023 and R230 million for the next three years, totaling a 62% increase in funding, toward the Safe Spaces program to help homeless residents, according to Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis.

Considering the facts, consistent government efforts could prove vital in alleviating poverty and homelessness in South Africa and enable affected citizens to access better living standards.

– Eloïse Jones
Photo: Flickr

riots in South AfricaSouth Africa’s poverty rates have long been high, and the pandemic exacerbated the situation for the country’s lowest-income people. Furthermore, weeks of riots in South Africa have left buildings burning, food scarce and many people in Durban and the surrounding cities starving.

Reasons for the Riots

On July 8, South Africa’s former president Jacob Zuma started serving a sentence of 15 months in prison for contempt of court, an offense that entails disrespectful or insulting behavior toward a court of law or law officials. Zuma’s imprisonment angered supporters, especially in his home province of KwaZulu-Natal. As a result, violence and unrest began to spread within the province.

Rioters blocked major highways and burned about 20 trucks, resulting in the closing of two major roads that link the Indian Ocean ports of Durban and Richards Bay to the industrial hub of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Furthermore, looters ransacked shopping malls, taking food, electronics, clothes and liquor. The attacks spread through KwaZulu-Natal to the Gauteng province, the country’s largest city of Johannesburg and the seat of the country’s executive branch, Pretoria. In Durban and Pietermaritzburg, rioters also burned warehouses and factories, collapsing many of their roofs. A week into the riots, 25,000 army troops were deployed, ending the violence, but plenty of damage had already been done.

The Manipulation of the Poor

Thousands of businesses have closed due to fear of ambush by rioters. In addition, because of many looters taking clothes, food, medical supplies and even flat-screen TVs, more than 200 malls have been forced to shut down.

With many businesses closing down in the Durban area, food, clothes and other supplies are rarities. For people living in poverty in Durban and the surrounding towns, food was always scarce, but now it is even more so than usual. Professor Mcebisi Ndletyana, a political analyst, said the communities have left people in poverty to fend for themselves in a system that keeps them in poverty, causing them to start lashing out.

While the riots initially protested the jailing of former President Jacob Zuma, their continuation reflected general grievances over the inequality and poverty that have rocked the country. Amid people in poverty’s anger about decades of mistreatment and discrimination, criminals used the chaos for their own benefit.

July’s riots hit people with unstocked pantries and massive debt the hardest. President Cyril Ramaphosa sent troops to aid police in quelling the riots, but people in poverty remained in need of immediate relief.

Muslims for Humanity

Many Muslim organizations in South Africa have come together to bring relief to people impacted by the riots. South African Muslim businesses and NGOs such as Muslims for Humanity and Natal Memon Jamaat Foundation (NMJ) have come together to distribute bread and milk to communities impacted by violence and looting in the Durban area.

Aahana Goswami
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare Innovation SummitOn Aug. 19, 2015, health care and technology executives will gather at the Protea Fire & Ice Hotel in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg. The agenda of this meeting is to discuss the upcoming African Innovator Round Tables: Health Care Innovation Summit.

The summit will address the theme, “Transforming Health Care with Technology.” Africa is lagging behind poor countries in South East Asia in all indicators of health. When measured a few decades ago, Africa was ahead of these Asian countries.

The change in health care is a necessity for Africa. On average, Africans live 14 years less than the average world citizen and 21 years less than the average European citizen.

All of Africa is not blighted by the lack of health care. There are some sporadic success stories. These success stories are made possible by multilateral institutions, governments, private firms or non-governmental organizations.

Although there are some success stories, all of Africa needs more assistance. Lack of skills, access to facilities and medication, and chronic disease care continue to place high demands on the existing health care resources in Africa.

Economic instability pushes governments to reconsider health care budgets and the adoption of new technology. While health care budgets are being decreased, there is a growing expectation of safety, access and enhanced patient experiences.

These high demands cannot continue to be met unless there are some changes. “In order to address these challenges, African governments and health care providers must turn to technology innovation especially in the areas of mobility, clinical decision support, patient management systems and data analysis and business intelligence for health care resource planning,” according to the African Innovator Magazine.

Moreover, “At the Healthcare Innovation Summit, delegates will have the opportunity to take part in in-depth round table discussions, which will cover technological issues that affect the development of health care in Africa, as well as hear from a number of top-flight local and international speakers.”

The summit is hoping to attract guests such as innovation officers in health care facilities, chief information officers in the health care industry, chief medical officers, technology service providers, academics, advocacy groups and health care press.

Topics discussed will include:
– Unleashing the potential of applications and wireless devices in health care
– Investing in data integration and software integration
– Addressing the challenges of fragmented information in health care
– Embracing new technology
– Finding the next biggest opportunity for health care in Africa

Conference Information

Date: Aug. 19, 2015
Delegate Fee: 950 Euros
Group Discounts:
-3 or more delegates – 5 percent discount per delegate
-5 or more delegates – 10 percent discount per delegate

The Healthcare Innovation Summit registration fee includes entry into all round table sessions, networking sessions, all conference documents, delegate bags, corporate gifts, USB sticks, light lunch and refreshments.

Kerri Szulak

Sources: African Innovator, IT News Africa
Photo: IT News Africa

The National Basketball Association will soon be holding its first ever game in Africa, with proceeds from the historic event going to support local charities.

The NBA Africa Game will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa. It will feature a face-off between Team Africa, captained by South Sudan native and Miami Heat star Luol Deng, and Team World, led by Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Proceeds from the already sold-out event will go to the local Boys and Girls Clubs of South Africa, SOS Children’s Villages Association of South Africa and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Official partners of the game include Econet Global Limited, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa, NIKE Inc. and others.

First and second-generation African players will represent Team Africa in the game, honoring the NBA’s history of recruiting players from Africa as well as their commitment to giving back to the struggling continent. The nonprofit NBA Cares has helped create 58 homes or community centers in Africa and has raised over $250 million for charities.

The exhibition-style game will be played August 1 at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg and will “impact young people throughout the continent, both on the court and in the community,” according to NBA Vice President and Managing Director-Africa, Amadou Gallo Fall.

Gina Lehner

Sources: Biz Community, NBA
Photo: Wikipedia

As with many of South Africa’s social ills, poverty in Johannesburg is rooted in the legacy of apartheid. But decades before the downfall of apartheid, seismic shifts in the South African economy ensured that poverty will remain a pressing concern in Johannesburg for years to come. Facing unemployment of Great Depression levels, Johannesburg’s poor blame immigrants instead of apartheid for their enduring misery.

Until 1994, the apartheid system was the defining socioeconomic force in South African life. Termed “separate development” by its apologists, apartheid sought to segregate South Africa’s four principal racial groups—blacks (native Africans), whites, coloreds (of mixed black and white descent) and Indians—in all domains of public and private life. Though the governments that enforced apartheid—which were elected exclusively by white voters—characterized it as a policy of “good neighborliness” between discrete groups, the system extended rights and privileges to whites that no other group could access.

In Johannesburg, the apartheid system entailed the division of the metropolitan area into eleven local authorities—seven for whites, four for blacks. Given the disadvantaged position of blacks in apartheid-era South Africa, local authorities for blacks could afford annual spending of 100 rand per capita, while local authorities for whites boasted annual spending of 600 rand per capita. These sorts of systemic inequalities relegated most blacks in Johannesburg to atrocious levels of poverty throughout the apartheid era.

Though the apartheid system set the stage for contemporary poverty in the city, other factors contribute the prevalence of poverty in Johannesburg today. Economic forces originating in the apartheid era and continuing today play a significant role. During the late 20th century, the South African economy grew at a sluggish pace: GDP growth averaged 1.6 percent between 1980 and 1995, a disappointing pace for a developing nation.

As a result, population growth has vastly outpaced job creation. This sluggish growth coincided with the decline of manufacturing industries in and around Johannesburg, leaving semiskilled and unskilled workers with dwindling employment prospects. These twin forces have raised unemployment to 30 percent in Johannesburg and 25 percent nationwide. As under apartheid, blacks suffer more than any other race group from these phenomena: 72 percent of Johannesburg’s poor are black, according to city authorities.

Faced with unemployment and a legacy of discrimination, the poor of Johannesburg often vent their frustration at a more tangible scapegoat: immigrants. Accused of stealing jobs from native South Africans, both legal and illegal immigrants are the targets of riots by poor citizens in the country’s largest cities. Illegal immigrants face additional persecution for abusing social services—“allocated on the basis of legal populations,” according to the Johannesburg government— that would otherwise benefit the native South Africans among Johannesburg’s poor.

Though the deleterious effects of immigration on South Africa are disputed, poverty in Johannesburg remains grim and unabating. Rooted in mass unemployment and historic discrimination, poverty will continue to wrack Johannesburg in the coming years.

– Leo Zucker

Sources: University of Johannesburg, City of Johannesburg, Environment and Urbanization, CNN
Photo: The Record


Since the eradication of apartheid in 1994, many South African residents have gradually seen improvements in their quality of life. Nevertheless, poverty still plagues the lives of many South Africans, and residents of the capital city of Johannesburg are no exception.

An estimated 20 percent of Johannesburg residents live in abject poverty, the Johannesburg government website reports. These residents often live in informal settlements that lack electricity, proper roads or any other form of direct municipal services. Another 40 percent live in “inadequate housing,” with insufficient municipal services.

More specifically, the Johannesburg City Council reports that 16 percent of households in Johannesburg lack municipal sanitation, 15 percent do not receive municipal electricity and unemployment stands at 30 percent.

Poverty in Johannesburg still generally falls along distinct racial lines, with black residents making up 72 percent of Johannesburg’s “poor,” according to the government website.

The government attributes much of the city’s poverty to apartheid’s enduring legacy. During apartheid, Johannesburg was divided into a series of local districts segregated by race, with the white districts being substantially wealthier and more self-sufficient than the black districts. Today, racial districting has ended, and the Johannesburg municipal government has been tasked with overseeing seven times the population it had under apartheid.

Illegal immigration also places major stresses on the city, the Johannesburg government reports. In sufficient numbers, migrants from other African countries can strain city and provincial services, which are “allocated on the basis of legal population.”

In response to these issues, the Johannesburg City Council has identified a series of reforms to be implemented, including progressive tax cuts for low-income property owners, low-income senior citizens and low-consumption water users; greater funding to community health services, such as reproductive health care; immunization programs; investment in housing infrastructure; and an overhaul of the city’s transportation system.

As a nation overall, South Africa ranks poorly in several global indicators of national health and prosperity. According to the World Bank, nearly one in ten South Africans live on less than $1.25 a day, one in four are unemployed and one in five are infected with HIV.

– Katrina Beedy
Sources: City of Johannesburg, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, World Bank 3
Photo: Flickr

Art in Public Spaces Can Change a Community

Achieving a sustainable and high-valued life stems from more than just meeting one’s basic needs. In developing countries, it is often believed that the poorer classes don’t have time to spend on things such as art, music, and fun. Lesley Perkes, a native of Johannesburg, sees it quite differently.

Perkes is an artist whose goal in life has been to incorporate art in public spaces. Her newest project is to revamp the famous Hillbrow Tower, which was formerly the tallest structure in the southern hemisphere. To date, however, the tower and the area around it have been neglected and left to sit in the dust. The poverty-stricken communities surrounding the tower live in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. This will all change as artists from around the world draft their ideas and submit them to the project.

The whole point is to transform the entire area as well as the tower to reflect a truly public space. Instead of rundown buildings and empty lots, there will be sculptures, bright paintings and signs, and even general improvements to the drains, lamp posts, and sidewalks. With the $5 million that has already been raised for the renovation, Perkes hopes to have enough money to install those basic public amenities as well as fund street performers.

While this project may not feed the bellies of starving children or put money in the bank accounts of struggling parents, the aesthetics of Johannesburg will greatly improve. Seeing creativity and energy put into their community will brighten the moods of those who have become accustomed to the trash-filled parks and dark and dirty streets. This change in scenery and pride in one’s home can have profound effects on the poor and perhaps be the change their community needs.

– Deena Dulgerian

Source: Co.EXIST