South Africa: the good, the bad and the ugly

 ·21 Sep 2015
South Africa Map

The government’s Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation has released the National Development Indicators for 2014, showing the country’s hits – and misses – in achieving its development goals.

The indicators are released annually to establish how South Africa and the government are progressing on the National Development Plan (NDP) Vision for 2030.

According to Minister Jeff Radebe, it “employs quantitative measures to track progress made in implementing policies against national targets based on data sourced from research institutions, government databases, and official statistics”.

The report was presented by Radebe on 20 September, with a focus on the good news.

The Good

South Africa has made strides in healthcare, taxation, tourism, and longevity.

Life expectancy has increased from 52.7 years in 2004 to 61.2 years in 2014 – and infant mortality rates have imporoved from 58 to 34 deaths per 1,000 live births since 2002.

Despite having a worrying number of HIV-positive people in the country, South Africa has achieved its ARV targets ahead of time, getting 3.5 million people on antiretroviral treatment.

The country has seen the number of households expand, literacy rates are up (to 84% from 73% in 2002), and tax revenue has increased along with the registered tax base.

Tourism has effectively doubled since 2005, with R93 billion being drawn into the country in 2012 versus R45 billion in 2005.

The effects of recent visa law changes are yet to be seen, but experts say it will have a negative impact on tourism.

The Bad

Data on global competitiveness (from both the World Economic Forum and the Institute for Management Development) shows that South Africa is becoming less competitive – especially compared to its African peers.

Read: South Africa sinks in innovation index

Inequality is still rife, with an improvement in the country’s Gini-coefficient only masking the real problems: the poorest 40% of South African households saw their share of national income drop to under 6%.

40% of the population still live under the upper poverty line.

Service delivery is struggling, with the report indicating that 2014 saw 191 major service delivery protests – the highest number on the chart.

56% of people have trust in the government to deliver services – up from a low of 50% in 2011 – and the government’s metrics show that it has improved on service delivery, but problems persist:

  • Households accessing electricity improved from 80% to 86% – but load shedding has hit citizens hard since late 2014.
  • Household accessing water and sanitation went up from 62% to 80% – but the threat of water shortages looms across the board.

The Ugly

Of all indicators, the most worrying has to do with the economy.

The report revealed that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate in South Africa averaged 3.7% over the past 10 years – while the annual growth rate averaged 1.5% in 2014.

This is massively off target from the projected 5.4% which is embodied in the NDP.

Radebe attributed this creeping growth to the global economic recovery since the downturn of 2008 – saying it has been slow and uneven across continents.

He also placed the blame on poor global economic conditions which continue to impact on South Africa’s export markets as well as the country’s mining sector – which is facing an acute crisis partly as a result of the dramatic drop in commodity prices.

Exacerbating this issue is the matter of unemployment in the country – which has remained high, with no indication of it improving any time soon.

In 2001, unemployment stood at 26.2% (narrow definition) and 37.7% (broad definition) – at the end of 2014, it dropped to 24.3% and 34.6% respectively.

So far in 2015, these figures have risen again.

You can view the full report and all 86 indicators online.

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