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People and the River


Poverty Alleviation: South Africa  

Since apartheid, South Africa has implemented some 29 966 government-funded projects for poverty reduction, and has created a laudable Constitution and Bill of Rights (Luyt 2008), including rights to basic services. Regarding the Limpopo River basin, the Bill of Rights mandates access to potable water and to an environment that is not harmful to the well-being of the people of South Africa (i.e. access to sufficient water, food and health services). South Africa has met its Millennium Development Goal to halve backlogs for water and sanitation in 2005 and 2008 respectively, and aims to supply all with access to basic water and sanitation services by 2014. To find out if South Africa is on track to achieving other Millennium Development Goals visit the MDG Monitor website and select 'South Africa'.

Despite these accomplishments related to basic rights, nearly half of South Africa’s population lives below the poverty line and unemployment rates remain high. Although inequality between race groups has decreased since the end of apartheid, inequality within race groups is increasing (Luyt 2008). The African National Congress has made progress with their poverty alleviation strategies in the fields of water and sanitation, housing, electrification, health and education.

Women washing clothes at the river - Venda, South Africa.
Source: CSIR 2003
( click to enlarge )

In order to address the challenges to reducing poverty, the South African Government has come up with the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative – South Africa (ASGISA). Its goal is to halve the unemployment rate to 15% and reduce the poverty rate to less than one-sixth of households by 2014. In addition to these economic targets, its other goals are to improve the environment and to increase opportunities for more labour-absorbing market activities (SA Government 2009). The ASGISA task team identified several constraints:

  • Volatility and level of the currency
  • The cost, efficiency and capacity of the national logistics system
  • Shortage of suitably skilled labour, amplified by the impact of apartheid spatial patterns on the cost of labour
  • Barriers to entry, limits to competition and limited new investment opportunities
  • Regulatory environment and the burden on small and medium businesses
  • Deficiencies in state organisation, capacity and leadership

ASGISA also came up with a set of priorities to overcome the identified constraints:

  • Infrastructure programmes
  • Sector investment (or industrial) strategies
  • Skills and educations initiatives
  • Second economy initiatives
  • Macro-economic issues
  • Public administration issues

Water for Growth and Development in South Africa

The South African Department of Water Affairs (DWA) has undertaken the preparation of the Water for Growth and Development Framework (WfGD) to ensure that water is able to support both economic growth and development goals in South Africa. The framework is underpinned by the following principles:

  • All economic and development planning must include an assessment of water availability and effluent management.
  • Decisions regarding the use of water must balance the economic, social and environmental dimensions of water and social justice.
  • Water investment should give equal emphasis to the maintenance and refurbishment of the current asset base, and the development of new infrastructure.
  • Priority should be given to optimising efficient use and productivity to obtain more value per unit of water.
  • Sound management and use of local resources, including groundwater, should be prioritised before accessing more distant resources.
  • Institutional reform should tailor the institutional arrangements of the water sector to fit more closely with the capacity to deliver.
  • Sustainable service provision and water management rests on a strong partnership between citizens and government, with mutual accountability.
Source: DWAF 2009



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