Despite gains made in the first 15 years of democracy, 55.5% of South Africans lived below the poverty line as of 2015. Coupled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, household food insecurity, child hunger, and extraordinarily high youth unemployment levels have eroded the early gains made.
The country’s expansive social grants system, insurance schemes and social relief are important mechanisms for ameliorating these challenges. But they need to go further. And the country should tackle the root causes of poverty, which are systemic. This means they cannot be shifted with a single intervention. That’s because cycles of disadvantage accumulate over long periods, generate multiple barriers, and are transferred across generations.