The statistics which surround South Africa’s wealth gap always make shocking reading. A mind-boggling 10% of the population are believed to own 90-95% of the country’s assets. The poorest 50% of the population earn just 10% of the country’s total income. The wealthiest three billionaires in South Africa earn the same amount as the poorest 50% of the population put together. Clearly this is a country which is home to a serious wealth gap.
South Africa has long been a country of divisions. The heinous system of apartheid has left a legacy which is not so easily fixed. And it is through the prism of the nation’s wealth gap that this lasting inequality is very clearly seen. This prism also provides a valuable opportunity to highlight the radical differences between rich and poor which continue to blight this society, offering a potential rallying point for change.
“Even It Up”
This is exactly what Oxfam SA will do at Durban’s World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in May 2017, where “creating equality” will be the focus. The set theme of the event, which will be attended by over one thousand leaders from across the continent, is “Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership” – a fitting theme for a country currently experiencing significant political unrest as a result of corruption at the highest levels of Government.
Oxfam SA will be attending the event to promote their “Even It Up” campaign, which seeks to readdress the woefully unequal financial balance in South Africa. But what will it take to rebalance South Africa’s finances and finally bridge the vast wealth gap which has long existed in the country?
Education and Inclusion
While Oxfam SA and other speakers at the WEF on Africa will have their own recommendations and ideas about how to begin the mammoth task of rebalancing wealth, there are many people who believe that one part of the solution lies in boosting financial education and inclusion.
There are many organisations and businesses currently advocating for better financial literacy and inclusion; from Hollard Affinity & Direct insurance MD, Mandla Shezi, who claims “The needs of the emerging market sector are very different. We need targeted savings products that offer flexibility and allow for emergency withdrawals without penalties”, to the work of online loan provider Wonga which is currently building a digital library of financial education resources for South Africans.
Yet as long as Government fails to take a strategic, broad and well-financed approach to including all members of society in the financial system, the wealth gap will remain completely unbridgeable. Surely educating the population about finance and opening up access to financial products is a crucial first step.
What do you think it will take to bridge South Africa’s vast wealth gap? Do you think it’s possible in the next 20 years? Share your opinion with other readers.