Jun 23, 2015

Misty Hills, Muldersdrift, Gauteng, South Africa


It is a great pleasure for me to be here today to join you all in this important workshop on “measuring deprivation in order to promote human development in South Africa.” I would like to welcome all conference participants, especially our international experts, policy-makers, researchers and academics.

This workshop is taking place against the backdrop of an evolving global development agenda taking us beyond 2015. The emerging consensus in the international community today is that eradication of extreme poverty is possible for all people everywhere in our lifetime. Therefore, it is not surprising that, eradicating extreme poverty is the first proposed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). There is an urgent need to address the root causes of poverty and identify solutions  through integrated, coordinated and coherent strategies at all levels.

The number of people living on less than $1.25 a day in the world has halved since 1990, with around 700 million people having been lifted out of extreme poverty since the adoption of the MDGs, mainly as a result of progress in emerging economies such as China India, Brazil and the South East Asia region. Nonetheless, around 1 billion people, representing 14.5 percent of the entire global population are still extremely poor, most of these unfortunately, are domiciled here in Africa.

This workshop will provide a platform to address  threats to human development and the challenges facing South Africa in its quest to address poverty and inequality. This is important because despite rapid and sustained growth in many countries over the past two decades, growth has had a limited impact on reducing poverty and inequality. In the case of South Africa, growth slowed down in 2014, recording only 1.5%, the weakest performance since the global financial crisis of 2008/9. The drop in real GDP growth in 2014 reflected a recent downward trend with GDP growth declining from 3.2% in 2011, to 2.2% in 2012 and 2.2 % in 2013. Unemployment and poverty remain structurally intertwined in the country and South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world. In June 2014, unemployment stood above 25.5% with youth unemployment at over 50%, indicating one of the lowest labour force absorption rates in the world, at 42.7%. According to Statistics South Africa, there were 5.1 million unemployed South Africans in 2014. About 10.3% of South Africa’s population is considered multi-dimensionally poor (the Multidimensional Poverty Index value was 0.04 in 2014).

The current growth rate in the country is too sluggish to impact on the high unemployment rate and eradicate extreme poverty. Inclusive and sustainable growth must be sustained robustly over a period of time and shared across different sectors if human development outcomes in South Africa lead to the creation of livelihoods and productive employment opportunities for the poor and excluded.

South Africa has made progress in human development but challenges still remain. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report 2014 indicated that the maternal mortality rate was 300 per 100 000 in South Africa in 2010, while infant and under five mortality rates were 33 and 45 per 1 000 live births in 2012 respectively. These figures compare poorly with the 2015 MDG target for maternal mortality ratio and under-five mortality rates of 38 per 100 000 and 20 per 1 000 live births respectively. The same report indicates that severe or moderate stunting arising from malnutrition was 33% in South Africa. As an upper Middle Income Country, these statistics are not flattering at all and remedial action is urgently required.

Income gaps, coupled with insecure livelihoods, volatile markets, and unreliable service delivery, increase the prospect of many people in South Africa falling below poverty lines and into poverty traps. Processes of social exclusion — driven by multiple economic, social, political and cultural factors —play a major role in entrenching inequalities of outcomes and opportunities. Social exclusion denies many, including the urban and rural poor, women and youth, the opportunities and capabilities they need to improve their lives.

South Africa, with the second largest, but most technologically advanced economy in Africa, will continue to play an important role in regional and global affairs. To promote human development in South Africa, I would like to encourage participants at this workshop to explore the linkages between different dimensions of poverty, growth, inequality and equity. This is because eliminating income poverty will not guarantee that poverty is eradicated in all its dimensions including health, education, water and sanitation, and natural resources related to basic needs. To end extreme poverty in South Africa, we must leverage political will, development capacities, innovative solutions and finance to simultaneously bolster economic growth, promote child survival, expand access to renewable energy, improve education, and increase food security amongst others.

At UNDP, our overarching vision is to help countries achieve the simultaneous eradication of poverty and significant reduction of inequalities and exclusion. As a trusted multilateral partner with a presence in more than 170 countries and territories, UNDP is uniquely positioned to offer its expertise in development thinking and practice, connect South Africa to the knowledge and resources it needs, and coordinate efforts of the UN at the country level to support South Africa in addressing its triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment. 

In the run-up to the MDG deadline of 2015, MDG progress acceleration remains at the centre of UNDP’s work in poverty reduction. Through the MDG Acceleration Framework (MAF), which is a UN-wide initiative, we supported South Africa in systematically identifying and analyzing the bottlenecks that are slowing progress towards MDG 5 on maternal health by developing MDG action plans, including emerging areas that would inform the post-2015 development agenda, in three provinces namely, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. Through our Supplier Development Programme (SDP), we are also supporting the Government of South Africa create an enabling environment for the generation of jobs and livelihoods by connecting small and medium enterprises to large companies and suppliers in the country.

We recently assisted the country to implement interventions designed to reduce social and economic inequalities and eliminate barriers to women’s economic empowerment through top-notch research studies, training programmes, entrepreneurship initiatives and gender mainstreaming. At UNDP, we will continue to facilitate South-South knowledge exchanges and develop tools for capacity development to address poverty, inequality, social exclusion and marginalization in the country.

It is my hope that the quality of discussions at this workshop will generate meaningful options for the Government of South Africa to set up comprehensive poverty monitoring and assessment systems to generate the data and evidence needed to inform the design and targeting of effective poverty reduction and human development policies.

I wish you fruitful deliberations.

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP South Africa 
Go to UNDP Global