Business Edge | South Africa is World’s Most Unequal Society

Apartheid may have ended some thirty years ago but race remains a key driver of inequality in South Africa due to its impact on education and subsequent employment opportunities. This was part of findings in a World Bank report that explores inequality in southern Africa and places South Africa at the top of the list as the world’s most unequal society. According to the report, only 10% of the population own 80% of the country’s wealth. When race is considered as a factor in the uneven distribution of wealth and income disparity, the unequal nature of society becomes more apparent and inimical to people trying to escape that poverty. In addition to race, gender also plays a role in the inequality experienced in South Africa- with women earning on the average 30% less than men. South Africa’s neighbours Namibia, Eswatini and Lesotho make up this worrying it. Being the world’s most unequal society is the focus on Business Edge, with Tolu Adeleru-Balogun discussing with Tessa Dooms, Director at Rivonia Circle.

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“It is really hard to disagree with that report,” she says, given that for the last twenty years, there have been several reports detailing the growing inequality in South Africa. Even though the country has in past been listed with other struggling economies like India and Brazil, it has been the only consistent feature on the list. To Dooms, South Africa simply has not addressed the problem enough. “People who visit South Africa as tourists and see the airport or places like Sandton [business district] [do not see the real picture]”, she adds.

The vestiges of the apartheid era further complicate things for black South Africans who haven’t seen a remarkable change in their lives since independence. “We haven’t fundamentally changed the structure of our economy from the apartheid economy as well as the governance and service delivery structure of society,” Tessa Dooms says. She states in addition, that although there’s now a black elite that is part of the dominant 10% and a black middle class, the debt trap persists for the latter group, who mainly are responsible for the poorest and most vulnerable.

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Watch Business Edge in full above.


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