To grow an inclusive economy, the often-overlooked rural areas must be the centrepiece of the development agenda.
At the Investment Conference in November 2019, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted the importance of the township economy. He noted that “townships have always represented the heartbeat of a thriving economy, which grew against all odds. The time is upon us to re-ignite the township economy for the purpose of growing an inclusive economy”.
While townships are indeed a crucial part of the South African fabric, they are more nurtured than their rural counterparts, which have often fallen to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. Ultimately, to grow an inclusive economy, the often-overlooked rural areas must be the centrepiece of the development agenda. As it sits today, compared to many townships, the rural economy is more constrained by limited physical and financial infrastructure, which has constrained social and economic development and preserved the pervasive nature of inequality in South Africa.
Let’s take the Alfred Nzo District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, which is relatively rural. In 2016, World Bank analysis identified it as the district with the highest level of multi-dimensional poverty. Recent census data showed that only 8.1% of people have access to flush or chemical toilets – less than one-fifth of the South African average. Additionally, 26% of residents do not have access to electricity, only 39% are…