Time for the youth to engage with the National Development Plan
Be it a family seeking success, or any other organisation regardless of size, it follows that each person involved must contribute the necessary support. Working together, they should form a nexus generating combined strength and growth, and in so doing this facilitates the unity that is needed for success.
Colonialism, apartheid and tribalism prevented the growth of unity in SA by separating people into disconnected groups. This historical disconnection remains with us and still keeps South Africans from operating as one.
Following the first democratic elections in SA in 1994, we had to engage with and overcome at least three prime challenges, which were: how to build a democratic state; how to integrate ourselves into the competitive arena of international production and finance; and how to reconstruct domestic social and economic relations to eradicate and redress the inequitable patterns of ownership, wealth and social and economic practices that were shaped by segregation and apartheid.
National development plans were adopted by successive governments in the democratic state. While these plans differ in content and emphasis, their common thread is the perceived need to achieve the wide-scale ownership and implementation of a strategy through nationhood. In other words, achieving success through forging a unity of purpose — a nexus. While some aims have been achieved, we are far, far away from success.
SA’s current National Development Plan 2030 (NDP), is a socioeconomic growth initiative. It was launched in 2012 and presents SA with a way forward aimed at the successful transformation of our nation. The NDP sets out how to do this by drawing on the skills and energies of the nation to, among other things, grow a more inclusive economy, enhance the capacity of the state, build new capabilities, promote leadership and foster partnerships across various fronts.
Twenty-five years into our democracy, the youth of SA have the added responsibility of realising the full potential of the NDP. To commemorate June 16, the University of the Western Cape launches a new study called The Power of a Nexus in South Africa: National Development Plan Survey. The study gives insight into the current status of youth engagement with regards to the NDP. Crucially, it is a resource that provides recommendations on how to improve implementation and leverage the NDP with the youth.
Seven years into the implementation of the NDP, the lived experiences of South Africans remain uneven. Recent statistics and indicators do not show much improvement or progress in achieving the NDP goals. In August 2017, Statistics SA announced the latest income statistics per household in SA through the release of the Household Income Report.
The report brought into sharp focus the reality faced by South Africans and raised questions around the role of the state in a developing nation. In addition, it indicated that 55% (30.4-million) of South Africans earned less than R992 per month in the reporting period from 2013 to 2016. This statistic seems to confirm the state’s difficulties in providing the citizenry with sufficient effective developmental opportunities.
While there have been improvements with regard to infrastructure, provision of services and access to opportunities, too many South Africans still find themselves in dire poverty and struggle to meet their basic shelter, food, security, health, education and income needs.
The stubborn and consistent gap between policy intentions and policy impact in relation to earlier socioeconomic programmes appears to have persisted under the NDP, according to Prof Rouaan Maarman.
A telling indicator of socioeconomic inequality is the Gini coefficient, which measures relative wealth and the inequality of wealth distribution. The closer to 1, the higher the inequality and exclusion. In 2018 The World Bank reported that SA remains a dualistic economy with one of the highest levels of economic inequality in the world.
The Gini coefficient for income in SA was calculated as 0.69 and at 0.64 for consumption. This means that the poorest 20% of the population consumes less than 3% of total expenditure, while the wealthiest 20% consumes 65%.
Although SA has an expanding social welfare programme, the cost of this social safety net increases the burden on the state and taxpayers, and exacerbates low economic growth, corruption, increasing capital flight and rapidly escalating national debt, according to research conducted at the University of Ghana in 2018. These startling statistics should continue to challenge the national conscience.
It is crucial that civil society engages vigorously with the nature of socioeconomic programmes to improve wealth and opportunity distribution in the country. The history of post-1994 socioeconomic policy suggests that the main challenges reside in policy implementation and in actively engaging and leveraging the citizenry as partners, Prof Maarman found. It is thus essential to engage the youth and support their agency in realising the NDP goals of eliminating poverty and reducing inequality by 2030.
The youth are powerful change agents, as illustrated by the processes and actions that resulted in the fall of apartheid and the #FeesMustFall movement. They are each attached to families, communities and other organisations. The power of the youth can only be employed for the implementation of the NDP if they are aware of and familiar with the plan. Knowledge of the NDP is the first step if we wish to attain the socioeconomic empowerment and transformation that it promises.
• Prof Brian O’Connell is the former rector and vice-chancellor of the University of the Western Cape. He was the project leader of the study, The Power of a Nexus in South Africa: National Development Plan Survey