We all know that South Africa is home to one of the biggest wealth divides on Earth. Currently the three wealthiest billionaires in the country earn as much as the poorest 50% of the population combined. The top 1% own a gigantic 42% of the nation’s total wealth, while the top 10% own up to 95% of the nation’s assets.
These statistics may make sobering reading, but for many in South Africa, they can feel like a basic, everyday fact of life. Ingrained by the country’s oppressive history, inequality is a persistent problem which can feel like something which will never truly change, only morph and evolve.
Fortunately, not everybody feels that way and many people are working very hard indeed to bridge the Rainbow Nation’s wealth divide and work towards a more equal society. For these people, the kind of statistics quoted above are unacceptable, but also provide a very visible example of South Africa’s inequality, creating a rallying point for those keen to engender real change.
“Achieving Inclusive Growth”
One group who are especially keep to use shocking statistics like this to fight for progress is Oxfam SA. At May 2017’s World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in Durban, the organisation will be highlighting these figures to help push their “Even It Up” campaign, which is all about rebalancing South Africa’s unequal finances.
The theme of the WEF is perfect for Oxfam SA’s purposes. “Achieving Inclusive Growth Through Responsive and Responsible Leadership” taps directly into many of the problems which lie behind the enduring wealth gap. At a time when President Zuma (and many in his Government) are facing ever more damning evidence of corruption and ever-fiercer calls for their resignation, this campaign could really hit home. But aside from promoting change, what needs to happen to start to surmount the wealth divide?
Financial inclusion & literacy
There will be plenty of opinions about the best direction for South Africa at WEF, when it comes to working towards balance. But improving financial literacy in the country and boosting financial inclusion are likely to be at the top of the agenda. Currently 30% of South Africans do not have a bank account, while only 37% typically pay their bills on time – statistics which highlight the state of access to financial services and financial education.
Organisations and companies have been calling for improvements in these areas for years, with online loan companies like Wonga developing their own educational resources and insurance experts like Mandla Shezi stating that the Government must work with financial sector to develop products which are appropriate for poorer South Africans. So can Oxfam SA further these causes at WEF on Africa? We certainly hope so.
Do you think it’s possible to fix South Africa’s wealth divide? Will you see real change in your lifetime? Have your say below.