Poverty on rise in South Africa
Experts blamed sluggish economic growth and failure to work with the private sector

Sluggish economic growth and a failure to work with the private sector are the driving forces behind rising poverty and unemployment in South Africa, once the continent's biggest economy.

"You can only deal with the issue of poverty if you have sizable economic growth," Koffi Kouakou, a senior lecturer in government communications and scenario planning at the University of the Witwatersrand's Wits School of Governance, told The Anadolu Agency in an interview.

A report released last week by Statistics South Africa, the country's official statistical agency, noted that national poverty rates had increased since 2010 from 20 to 21.5 percent.

"If the economy grows continuously by 5, 6 or 7 percent for the next ten years, then you can deal with poverty issues," Kouakou said.

"Since the economy hasn't grown, there is an enormous difficulty dealing with poverty," he insisted.

South Africa is among the few countries in Africa with a growth rate of less than 5 percent.

Recent figures suggest that the South African economy is growing at between 1 and 2 percent annually.

Kouakou believes the government has failed to give sufficient support to the private sector, which, he said, could help reduce the cost of public fiscus.

"This country is sitting on an enormous amount of opportunities – not just to cut taxes, but also to create an environment where small businesses can grow very quickly," he told AA.

"It's not about finding jobs in government only," the scholar insisted.

He noted that the country continued to attract foreign investors, meaning that the local environment is conducive to business.

"If foreign Africans can come to this country and succeed in small businesses, they must be doing something that is worth replicating for South Africans," Kouakou said.

"The environment is there," he added. "Foreigners are thirsty to do business [in South Africa]."

The expert went on to say that the government of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) should ensure that people get the skills necessary to compete in the job market.

"The ANC needs to work in partnership with the private sector, civil society and other political parties," Kouakou asserted.

He added: "That's the way for the government to be able to purge the nature of unemployment, poverty and inequality."

-Middle class-

Kouakou went on to note that, while the country's middle class was growing, its tax base remained negligible.

"The government needs to expand the middle class to make sure it can contribute to economic growth," he told AA.

Pusch Commey, a prominent Ghanaian-born lawyer based in South Africa, noted that many black South Africans had joined the middle class in recent years.

"These are the people who have been able to attain the kind of education and skills that have made them upwardly mobile," he told AA.

Commey said entrepreneurship also played an important role.

"You can't rely on the government to move the black population up the middle class through government jobs," he insisted.

"The black population needs to be empowered to create businesses, solve problems, sell products and grow the economy," he added.

Commey also stressed that education should be a national priority.

"The money that will enable people to get out of the poverty trap – through education, skills and training – will have to be found somewhere," he told AA.

"But simply providing money isn't enough," he said. "It also hinges on the ability to effectively administer the money to the issues we are talking about."

Last Modified: 2015-02-13 10:09:12
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