The inequality that exists between the impoverished and the wealthy of South Africa boils down to social infrastructure. Social infrastructure refers to facilities and systems that enable the functionality of a community. The lack of social infrastructure places pressure on the existing systems in place. Overcrowded schools and healthcare facilities, overpopulation, and unemployment lead to an underperforming economy.
The only way to address the inequality persisting in South Africa is to create equal opportunities for all. The creation of social infrastructure and equal opportunities will build a more resilient population that contributes directly to the local economy. The following sections will showcase the benefits of social infrastructure.
Social Infrastructure: Education
Education unlocks endless opportunities in an impoverished country such as South Africa. There is an oversupply of unskilled workers and a shortage of professional and skilled workers. Education is vital in increasing the number of skilled workers, but rural communities experience overcrowded classrooms, overworked teachers, weak infrastructure, poor service delivery, and lack of funds.
Social infrastructure planning and improvement will open doors for the youth of South Africa and break down the barrier of entry to equal education opportunities. By offering scholarships, procuring funds for the maintenance of infrastructure, hiring more teachers, building more schools, and focusing on improving the standard of education, the gap between rural and urban could begin to close.
When the social infrastructure of education is improved, the number of educated people in South Africa will increase, enrolment in tertiary education institutions will increase, and the workforce will grow stronger and more skilled. When a more skilled workforce exists, the employment rate will increase, and more entrepreneurs will arise in rural communities, directly impacting the economic performance of that community.
Social Infrastructure: Health
With the prevalence of diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS in South Africa, quality healthcare is vital to the welfare of the community. The rural population is faced with inadequate healthcare services as the clinics are too small and cannot accommodate the number of people in need. People often travel great distances to clinics, only to be turned away. The healthcare workers in rural communities are overworked and are not able to offer the quality care, or attention patients need.
Inadequate healthcare causes communities to function at a lower capacity than necessary. People living with chronic diseases cannot receive the care they need to lead normal lives and maintain employment. Healthcare is often too expensive or far away, causing the mortality rate to rise unnecessarily. Adequate healthcare will bring stability and an increased standard of living to impoverished communities.
Social Infrastructure: Transport
Poor public transportation systems are detrimental to the standard of living within a community. When roads and bridges are dilapidated, the safety of the community is compromised. This also creates logistical difficulties for the distribution of goods and services to a community. Roads and transport systems are often the only means of access to schools, healthcare clinics, and employment opportunities.
The improvement of transportation systems and infrastructure will create opportunities for the community to become more independent and self-sufficient. They can access schools and job opportunities that will enable them to invest back into the community.
As a Development Finance Institution, the DBSA realises the importance of social infrastructure in economic development and aims to provide sustainable solutions to the poverty crisis in South Africa. We enable social infrastructure planning and assist with project implementation. It is only through investing in our impoverished communities that we enable them to contribute to the local economy. The main areas that require investment and attention to uplift local economic infrastructure are education, healthcare, and transport. By focusing on these basic needs of the South African people, we can build towards an equal society.