The impact of social infrastructure on economic growth in rural communities

For South Africa to truly grow economically, a plan must be put in place to ensure that rural and remote areas have the same opportunities as urban areas. The vast difference hinders economic growth in those areas and further puts pressure on urban areas. This pressure can be seen through overpopulation, high unemployment rates, overcrowded schools and health care systems. South Africa's rural population faces high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment. This is because these areas are highly under-developed, and people live in poor socio-economic conditions. 

Therefore, social infrastructure is vital to ensure a developed community that can grow and help with economic development and ensure a better quality of life for all. 

Education

Education plays a huge role in the development of the economy and is a type of social infrastructure that should be made a priority. The gap between the wealthy and poor continues to grow in South Africa. One way to rectify this is to offer equal education for all, which can only be achieved with adequate infrastructure. Adequate infrastructure in education helps facilitate learning, offering students knowledge and skills to help them enter the workforce. Rural communities face weak infrastructure, lack of resources, overcrowded classrooms, overworked teachers and lack of funds that make education challenging. Social infrastructure can help break down barriers to entering the education system by offering scholarships, funds to maintain or improve infrastructure, hire more teachers, create more schools and ensure an improvement in the quality of education. This helps offer students an opportunity, regardless of their background, to find or create employment, contributing to the economic growth in rural areas and South Africa as a whole. 

Health

A strong health care system is vital for any community. With so much illness and disease around the world, there must be a well-equipped health care system that can handle citizens’ health needs. Health care, particularly in rural communities, is one of South Africa’s infrastructure problems that need to be addressed. Health care services in rural areas are far apart, making it difficult for those in need to get there in time, especially with the quality of roads. They lack the necessary infrastructure and resources to take care of citizens, and doctors and medical staff are overworked, which affects the quality of care. Social infrastructure planning can help improve health care quality, efficiency, ensure quality equipment, improve patient experience, and ensure everything works seamlessly to assist those in need of medical care while ensuring that medical staff and doctors aren't overworked. 

Transportation

Transportation plays an important role in our daily lives. It offers people access to food, schools, employment, health care and recreational activities and facilities. While the transportation network in urban areas is maintained, it can't be said for rural areas in South Africa. Transportation systems in rural areas are usually limited, and it lacks road infrastructure, which can cause a potential safety hazard for citizens and further impact the rural economy and hinder any economic growth. Sustainable rural development in transportation can help improve economic activity in those communities. It can enable communication, potentially create jobs and ensure efficient trading between different communities. 

DBSA’s role in social infrastructure

The DBSA aims to provide long-term pre-financing support and services to under-resourced municipalities such as rural communities. To do this, we assist with infrastructure planning and project implementation. We seek funds and have a wide range of financing solutions that help the development of communities. We also support the maintenance and improvement of social and economic infrastructure projects vital in our fight to help under-resourced communities. 

Final thoughts

To date, rural areas in South Africa still have a high population. The dense concentration and high poverty levels, underdeveloped infrastructure, and unemployment continue to strain an already weak system. Rural communities have just as much potential to contribute to the economy without moving to urban areas. A solution for poor infrastructure in rural areas is simply working together as the private sector and public sector to help gain funding for improving infrastructure and offering adequate resources. This, in turn, will improve the quality of life and ensure steady and sustainable economic growth, creating a better future for all and helping reduce South Africa's greatest challenges which are unemployment and poverty.

It can be argued that healthcare, education and transportation are key factors in economic development. In rural communities; however, absent or lacking social infrastructure hinder their economic growth. In this article, we'll explore the positive and negative impacts that social infrastructure can have on rural communities in South Africa.