Decreasing Poverty in South Africa
Bolt, a ridesharing app formerly known as Taxify, is creating jobs for people living in poverty in South Africa. The mobile app recently created a category of rides called Bolt Go, which offers rides exclusively by hatchback cars at a 20% discount. Hatchback cars are cheaper, more fuel-efficient and have lower maintenance costs than Bolt’s usual sedans, making it a cheaper option for rideshare drivers. As a result, Bolt Go may play a role in decreasing poverty in South Africa.

Bolt Go

Bolt Go’s trips will be cheaper, but will still offer the same quality of service that users have come to depend on. Bolt Go rides will include trip protection in case of accidents. Additionally, hatchback cars will need to be in good condition, have a low starting mileage and pass a 45-point safety inspection.

The desire to allow South African drivers to earn an income, even if they cannot afford a “typical” ridesharing car, fueled Bolt’s decision to offer this new service. In addition, hatchbacks’ low price points allow Bolt to offer cheaper rides. After drivers invest in a hatchback or use an existing one, Bolt helps the drivers connect to passengers, and allows them to make money based on their own hours.

Will Ridesharing Be Successful at Decreasing Poverty in South Africa?

Poverty in South Africa is still a prevalent issue, even in a post-apartheid state. A 2015 study found that nearly 56% of the South African population is below the poverty line, living on about 992 rand ($75) a month. While poverty has been slowly declining since the end of apartheid, the numbers are still bleak: about 25% of South Africans live in extreme poverty, down only 3% since 2006.

Bolt Go is thus a solution that can help to empower impoverished people to rise above the poverty line. For many people, ridesharing can serve as a second source of income, in which drivers can work any hours they are able to. Paired with the fact that Bolt is creating opportunities for drivers to use cheaper cars, it seems likely that many living in poverty will now have access to a new source of income.

The Resistance

Some driver organizations, such as the South African E-Hailing Organization, are concerned that this program may hurt rideshare drivers in the long-run. The South African E-Hailing Organization’s biggest critique is the 20% discounted fare, which it believes will quickly become the preferred option of all riders. With these lower fares come lower paychecks for drivers, who already struggle to break even. These organizations claim that Bolt is taking advantage of the failing economy and the fact that many poor citizens are desperate for a job.

While the Bolt Go program is currently rolling out in a few select counties, it is not clear whether the program will be a success in substantially decreasing poverty in South Africa. Though some view the new service as potentially exploitative, the Bolt company has made its priorities clear. In a statement released by the company, a staff member at Bolt said that the company’s “focus is on the thousands of South African drivers who rely on Bolt to connect them with passengers and earn a steady income – and enabling them to continue to earn that income to care for their families and loved ones.”

Hannah Daniel
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in South Africa
Known today as the “rainbow nation,” South Africa has a fast-paced economy with a pluralistic and diverse culture and history. However, the ramifications of the apartheid regime still continue to be an impediment to social and economic development and alleviating poverty in South Africa due to its impacts on the social structure, security nets and family life.

Poverty Statistics

Due to the apartheid legacy, income inequality remains prevalent with 1 percent of the population owning nearly 70.9 percent of the nation’s wealth. The unemployment rate currently stands at nearly 28 percent due to the recessionary conditions in the country.

According to a report by the Children’s Institute (CI) at the University of Cape Town, six million children still continue to live below the food poverty line. Despite the efforts of the organizations like Child Support grant, the administration in South Africa struggles to deal with the implementation of care arrangements for these children especially those who live in more remote and rural communities.

Failed Economic Reforms

Since the collapse of apartheid in the country, the African National Congress (ANC) party has embarked on a variety of neo-liberal and market reforms to liberalize the trade and commerce of the economy to avoid a potential poverty trap. Yet, these policies exacerbated disparities and inequalities in the economy and cast a great degree of skepticism about mainstream economics and neo-liberal policies centered around deregulation and privatization. Unregulated market approaches financial flows and capital were a breeding ground for corruption and bribery among top levels of state and private institutions in the country particularly during the era of President Jacob Zuma.

Government Actions

However, along with the continued efforts from the Child Support grant and similar outreach programs, a deeper collaboration between families and the state is being recommended as a solution to the problem. Under the policy, more than 12 million children benefit every month. Access to more information about relevant childcare arrangements and health care programs will also be effective in improving awareness among families.

Moreover, state income support is being recommended to decrease inequalities measured in Gini values from 0.69 to 0.6 and to decrease the number of people who live on a monthly income lower than $30 from 39 percent to zero. The implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP) is a government agenda that aims to address poverty in South Africa by allocating budgets and improving public services and infrastructure by 2030.

Chances for Growth

Under the administration of new President Cyril Ramaphosa, the country is stepping investments on more ambitious infrastructure projects. Foreign investment from countries like China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is expected to be worth a collective $100 billion.

Furthermore, education reform is vital to not only address poverty in South Africa but also to help townships progress from the apartheid-era Bantu education system, which was an aspect of the law that enforced racial segregation in schools. Yet, efforts to change the current situation is underway, with an increase in pre-school enrollment and the number of university graduates.

In 2011, the multidimensional poverty index was introduced to better analyze poverty in South Africa and recommend sustainable solutions toward remediating some of its associated issues. A combination of social indicators like education, health care and quality of life is now assessed. Fortunately, under this poverty index, there was a decline in poverty by over 13 percent between the years 2001 and 2011. The sample can be improved further by combining a series of other factors like financial, transport and other assets as well.

To conclude, even though South Africa continues to be a modern economically developing country grappling with problems from a complicated history, a strong foundation will yield good progress in the long run and help the country overcome its many economic and social challenges.

– Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Elderly Care in South Africa
The South African government currently offers seven different types of social protection grants for its inhabitants. One of those grants is the Old-Age Pension Grant also known as the Older Person’s Grant (OPG), the only grant targeted specifically towards elderly care in South Africa. It provides a monthly income for citizens, refugees and permanent residents who are aged 60 or above with no other means of income.


The grant is allotted based on the results of a means-test, which requires the recipient to provide the government with information on their household, income and financial assets. In 2018, pensioners over the age of 60 received R1600 a month, which is around $115. Pensioners over the age of 65 received R1620, or $117 per month. The government reported that pension recipients will see a small increase in the amount received per month during the year.

Benefits of the Old Age Pension

The Old Age Pension keeps the elderly from falling into further poverty once they have surpassed their ability to provide household income. In fact, according to the International Labor Office, along with other grants, the OPG has been instrumental in the “reduction in poverty incidence among older persons from 55.6 percent in 2006 to 36.2 percent in 2011.”

Furthermore, it was even reported that female pension recipients reported better overall health within the first five years of payments than elderly females who had not yet become eligible for the grant. However, the benefits of the grant do not stop with the elderly.

Elderly people who receive the grant and live in a household with more family members are reported to share their monthly income with the rest of the house, which helps to reduce poverty for the entire household. It is estimated that one grant can reach up to six people in a household.

In addition, there is a positive correlation between employment and members living in a household where the pension is received. Women who are aged 20-30 that live in a recipient’s house are 15 percent more likely to be employed than those who do not.

Moreover, children who live in a recipient’s household are reported to have better height-for-age and weight-for-height than those who do not. Due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, many grandparents have taken over the care of their grandchildren as their parents are suffering or have perished from related illnesses. This grant helps grandparents care for these children appropriately.

More Work to Be Done

The pension has done great things for elderly care in South Africa, but also because of its reach into multi-generational households, it has aided overall poverty and living conditions in the country. However, there is more work to be done. Only 80 percent of age-eligible inhabitants are receiving the pension. Those who are eligible but still not receiving the grant are usually males with poor socioeconomic status that live in smaller households and come from the Mozambican origin.

This lack of reception could be explained by many factors. For one, the application process for the grant requires the applicant to travel to a state application center and provide heavy documentation regarding health, income and household information. Traveling to these centers can be difficult and costly for those living in extremely rural areas.

The South African government is dedicated to aiding decrease in
poverty levels and creating a better standard of living for its inhabitants, but many older individuals still hold distrust of the government from the apartheid regime. Elderly care in South Africa has benefitted exponentially from this grant, and though it is a means-tested pension right now, the government hopes to make it universal in the future.

Mary Spindler
Photo: Pixabay

Inequality in South Africa
South Africa has long been known as one of the most unequal societies in the world. In the 1990s, South Africa’s Gini coefficient–a measure that reflects inequality, where zero is absolute equality and one is absolute inequality–was, at 0.66, the highest in all the 57 countries for which this data was available. That measure, as of 2015, has remained the same. The top 10 percent of South Africans earn roughly 60 percent of all income and own 95 percent of all the country’s assets, whereas 80 percent own no wealth at all. Inequality in South Africa continues to be a major issue as the country moves to distance itself from its apartheid- era exclusionary style.

The root causes of South Africa’s severe inequality can be traced back to the establishment of Cape Town, a Dutch shipping port in the 1650s. Over the next two centuries, “military conquest and political exclusion, which took a colonial and racial form,” expanded into the interior.

After the British took over in the early nineteenth century, the defeated indigenous groups were never fully incorporated into the economic and political model. The twentieth century brought the neighboring counties under British rule, culminating in a peace settlement which “inscribed racial discrimination in the foundations of the new South African state.” The framework for inequality in South Africa had already been laid by the time the National Party came to power in 1948 and enforced its apartheid legislation.

South Africa continues a system of socioeconomic exclusion. However, whereas historically the exclusionary practices were racially-based, today the extent and depth of inequality in South Africa is increasingly intersectional. Although it continues to impact black South Africans the most, it strikes at race, gender, class and age. Over 55 percent of South Africans continue to live in poverty and unemployment sits at 25 percent.

All hope is not lost, however. The University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg has founded a new center, the Southern Centre for Inequality Studies, that will drive a five-year-long, interdisciplinary project. It will include approximately 80 researchers from across the country: economists, historians, legal academics, healthcare experts, sociologist and other disciplines.

The most promising hope yet for combating inequality in South Africa comes from the implementation of the National Development Plan. The plan seeks to reduce inequality and eliminate poverty by 2030 by “drawing on the energies of the country’s people.” Some of the key points include: increasing employment to 24 million, ensuring all children can read and write by the third grade and providing affordable healthcare and a public transit system. It also aims to strengthen the criminal justice system, including governmental accountability. “Progress over the next two decades means doing things differently,” the plan states.

In detail, the plan calls for:

  • infrastructure investment set at 10 percent of the country’s global domestic product (GDP).
  • raising rural incomes.
  • strengthening social wages.
  • professional public service.
  • private investment to boost labor.
  • housing market gaps to be closed.
  • informal settlements to be upgraded.

After handing over the plan to President Jacob Zuma, Minister Trevor Manuel stated that “social cohesion needs to anchor the strategy.”

South Africa’s apartheid era formally came to an end in April of 1994. Less than a month later, in May of 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first black, democratically elected president. The exclusionary system that Mandela grew up in is still widely overreaching within the country, but as the nine provinces continue to work together, there will be hope. Inequality in South Africa does not have to be a perpetuation.

– Aaron Stein

Photo: Flickr

laws aren't enough to end povertySocial justice does not work like a movie. Even if a climactic event results in the removal of unjust systems, the after-effects of injustice persist decades after the fact. Though apartheid was eliminated decades ago, South Africa still sees stark divisions between the living conditions of blacks and whites. These divisions continue due to economic barriers and reveal that laws are not enough to end poverty or prejudice.

The removal of apartheid laws brought several economic opportunities to poor, black South Africans. Unfortunately, this victory did not change ownership of land and capital from its predominantly elite white holders. Without a solid foundation for business creation, few black men and women could find substantial gain pre- or post-apartheid. Even in 2016, ten percent of South Africans own 90 percent of the nation’s wealth, and that ten percent is mostly white.

In an attempt to house black South Africans, the African National Congress built townships around major cities. Though these townships settled close to major centers of business, they were not business centers themselves. With no money flowing into these government-owned lands, the townships became ghettos with dangerous buildings and poor education. South Africa’s unemployment rate neared 28 percent in 2017 and more than half of the black population is officially unemployed.

In a 1997 Regional Review article, Ed Glaeser of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston examined the creation of ghettos and found features of segregated areas that apply all over the world. Concentrating resources in cities brings great wealth only to those working there. When certain areas of a city are deprived of incoming wealth due to artificial barriers, like in a township, racial tensions increase. An expanding economy in the 2000s doubled the size of South Africa’s black middle class, but the financial crisis of 2008 destroyed that decade’s gains.

Though Glaeser based his studies on American ghettos, his findings easily apply themselves to South African townships. “The ghetto walls themselves, not any increase in racism they may engender, thus seem primarily responsible for the poor black outcomes associated with increased segregation,” he stated. Both black and white South Africans consider themselves victims of racism. 44 percent of whites and 73 percent of blacks believe that the two races will never trust each other.

So what has helped South Africans escape destitution? Though laws are not enough to end poverty, they can create situations that allow people to overcome their struggles. In 2014, South Africa cut the rate of extreme poverty in half. In a press release from 2014, the World Bank credits this victory to redistributed income through tax benefits. Through a progressive tax system and an investment in infrastructure, South Africa achieved higher poverty reductions than Brazil, Mexico, or Argentina that year.

The fight is not yet over. The World Bank concludes its press release with the notion that “reducing poverty and inequality further in a way that is consistent with fiscal sustainability will require a combination of better quality and more efficient public services but most importantly greater employment opportunities.”

The New York Times compared South Africa post-apartheid to Europe post-WWII. Both regions had to rise from adversity by re-engineering their economy and challenging the legacy of colonialism. Just as the Marshall Plan restored Europe to prominence, so might foreign aid bring South Africa to the glory it seeks. Although laws are not enough to end poverty, persistent intervention from other countries could help.

– Nick Edinger

Photo: Flickr

The nonprofit organization Voices of South Africa has helped numerous South Africans realize their aspiration of a life beyond their impoverished communities, by enabling them to pursue their dreams of singing opera. In a country where over 50 percent of people live in poverty, the struggle to fulfill one’s everyday needs can easily eclipse such faraway dreams as a college education or the pursuit of a career which one is truly passionate about. Such is the case for many in South Africa, where poverty has been on the rise over the past decade. Today poverty in South Africa affects more than 30 million people, and high rates of violent crime, drug use and HIV/AIDS continue to be major sources of concern.

It would seem unlikely given these conditions that South Africa could have produced an astonishing number of world-class opera singers and been dubbed the “vocal breadbasket” in the past decade, but that is precisely the case. These singers represent the triumph of ambitious aspirations over considerable situational odds.

South Africa has a longstanding and rich choral tradition that has sparked an interest in opera and studying classical voice in many young South Africans. Embarking on an operatic career, however, requires a significant amount of time and money as well as access to specialized training and advanced levels of education. As indicated by the poverty rate, these resources are not available to the average South African. Recognizing this divide, opera singer Njabulo Madlala, a South Africa native, founded Voices of South Africa’s national opera singing workshops and competition in 2010, as a means of inspiring and supporting the next generation of South African opera singers. This registered nonprofit has played a key role in facilitating the education and career launch of several of the South African singers who have recently been hailed as some of the most promising newcomers to the international opera industry.

Each year, the organization selects a handful of the most talented singers who audition to participate in an intensive two-week program that involves individual vocal coaching, mentoring and career guidance and culminates in a gala concert. Each of the selected singers receives the necessary financial support to attend the program as well as the invaluable chance to work with respected members of the opera community for free. The singers are further supported during the application and audition process for music schools and professional programs. Moreover, a chief tenet of the program is helping the singers build the requisite skills to take advantage of opportunities that exist and create work for themselves so that they are able make a living whatever their current situation may be.

The organization’s founder and artistic and executive director has sung at some of the most prominent opera houses in Europe but comes from an impoverished background similar to that of many of his program’s participants. Njabulo Madlala grew up in an economically disadvantaged, single-parent household in Durban, where he was surrounded by poverty and crime. He was given the chance to escape poverty in South Africa and pursue his dream of singing when he was awarded a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Madlala founded the Voices of South Africa program with the desire to help give other singers the same chance he was lucky enough to receive.

Soprano Noluvuyiso Mpofo is a former Voices of South Africa participant, who has now embarked on a successful career. Mpofo placed third in the prestigious international Operalia competition, hosted by Plácido Domingo in 2011, and won second place in the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition – the “world cup” of opera – in 2013. The international acclaim focused on Mpofo and other South African opera stars such as Pretty Yende and Pumeza Matshikiza has undoubtedly been an appreciated source of national pride for a country beset with hardship.

Although it caters to a small niche, Voices of South Africa is an example of an initiative working to transform lives through education and mentorship programs for young adults. This organization has impacted the lives of numerous young South Africans by offering them the opportunity to escape their vulnerable situations and follow their dreams. The establishment of similar organizations catering to a wide range of interests and groups would surely go a long way toward reducing poverty in South Africa.

Savannah Bequeaith

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in South Africa

South Africa is a nation with a very deep and turbulent history. Since the official end of apartheid in 1994, the country has been struggling to combat entrenched poverty and inequalities. In order to further understand the issues, here are six facts about poverty in South Africa:

  1. South Africa is a middle-income nation with some highly developed economic sectors. For instance, South Africa’s stock exchange, JSE, is the largest in Africa and top 20 worldwide. Since 2000, South Africa has shown decreasing poverty and a decreasing wealth gap.
  2. The country nonetheless still suffers from serious poverty and unemployment, with 25 to 30 percent of the workforce unemployed. According to the U.S. government, around 36 percent of the population is living in poverty.
  3. The Statistics South Africa defines poverty with three categories: the food poverty line, the lower bound poverty line and the upper bound poverty line. About 20 percent of the population lives below the food poverty line, meaning they cannot afford food that meets a minimum calorie intake.
  4. South Africa’s poverty is rooted in economic disparities. Much of the nation’s wealth, as it is a moderately wealthy nation, is concentrated in the hands of few, particularly those who controlled wealth in apartheid times. Between 60 and 65 percent of the wealth in South Africa is concentrated in the hands of the wealthiest 10 percent of the nation. Comparatively, 40 to 45 percent of wealth in the U.S is controlled by the highest 10 percent.
  5. Poverty in South Africa has actually been declining since the mid 2000s. As a result of doubled per capita health spending and the building of 1.5 million free homes, among other government initiatives, over 2 million South Africans have climbed out of extreme poverty since 2006.
  6. In addition to the increased government spending, the United Nations Development Program has been working with the South African agencies to redress South Africans who were forced off of their land during apartheid. This land restitution initiative will help decrease South Africa’s wealth gap.

While poverty in South Africa is still a large problem, the recent government and international initiatives have had a dramatic effect on poverty reduction and economic redistribution.

John English

Photo: Flickr