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JOHANNESBURG - According to the recent Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) poverty trends report, one in two South Africans lives under the poverty line, implying that more than half of South Africa’s  population are poor and are living in poverty. 

The report further indicated that the most vulnerable to poverty in the country’s communities are black Africans, people living in rural areas, those residing in Eastern Cape and Limpopo, and persons with little or no education.

What the report does not directly say however is that, intrinsically linked to the rising poverty in South Africa is the rising of both inequality and unemployment especially amongst black Africans. Also, important to note is that poverty, inequality and unemployment are directly linked to the looting and corruption that is currently taking in the country.
Billions of rands that could have been used for meaningful projects to create jobs and ultimately grow the economy are being spent on unnecessary expenditure at a government
level and wasted on corrupt activities at the country’s State-owned enterprises (SOEs). 

Looting and corruption is denying the majority South Africans access to basic social services and are perpetuating poverty, inequality and unemployment. South Africa must show the political will to address the things that are required to lift people out of poverty such as employment creation, skills development and encouraging entrepreneurship, which has a huge potential to eradicate poverty.

In that regard, there is a framework in place, the National Development Plan (NDP), which is described as the detailed blueprint for how the country can eliminate poverty by 2030. The NDP makes a compelling claim in this regard about the importance of the agricultural sector. Not withstanding the importance of other sectors of the economy, there is evidence that suggests agriculture dominates non-agricultural activities by its potential to reduce poverty. 

According to an Organization for Cooperation and Development (OECD) study carried out in a few developing countries that made the fastest progress in reducing poverty (including Indonesia and Vietnam) more than half of the reduction in poverty achieved was attributed to growth in agricultural incomes.

Given many challenges facing South Africa at the moment, including the slow economic growth, which has pushed the economy into a technical recession trajectory, there is a high probability that poverty will not be eliminated, instead it could worsen by 2030. The implementation of the NDP, coupled with good political and economic will and leadership,
might salvage South Africa from the blink of poverty crisis. Perhaps the upcoming ANC elective congress in December, will provide some light on how South Africa will address the poverty, inequality and unemployment issues, depending on the leaders that will be elected, which will potentially lead the country come 2019 general

-  Agri SA’s Chief Economist Hamlet Hlomendlini