- China has significantly reduced poverty in a decade
- South Africa can learn lessons, especially having appropriate policy and disciplined implementation
South Africa could learn some lessons from China on how to reduce poverty. Over a decade China reduced poverty to such an extent that now only 1.4% of its population are classified as extremely poor. By comparison, half of South Africans live below the poverty line.
About 55.5% of SA’s population live under the upper-bound poverty line – less than R992 per person per month, or roughly R33 a day – that equates to more than one out of every two South Africans, according to a 2015 report. This had decreased from 66.6% in 2006.
China measures its poverty levels by the percentage of people living under $1.90 a day (±R28). The country has decreased this percentage from 66.6% of their population in 1990 to 1.4% of their population in 2014. On a relative 10-year basis to South Africa, they decreased their poverty level by 17.3%.
The first UN Sustainable Development Goal is the eradication of poverty by 2030. By uplifting 700 million Chinese people out of poverty, China is the first country to be able to reach this goal. They are well within reach with only 1.4% to go over 11 years.
China vowed in 2017 to assist Africa in eradicating poverty. Their first point of call was sharing valuable lessons they learnt in emancipating their people from poverty: the key elements were the government’s emphasis on putting its citizens first. The leadership in China had clear policies to eradicate poverty with realistic targets that they applied with discipline.
The “architect of China’s miracle”, Deng Xiaoping, said the key to success in ending poverty was “crossing the river by feeling the stones”. This was interpreted to mean that any policy a country puts in place to end poverty needs to emerge from the country’s specific context.
A senior political analyst at the University of Johannesburg, David Monyae, believed that Africa failed in this regard due to policy susceptibility. Africa relies heavily on mineral exports. As a direct result the most durable resources in Africa, its people and land, are undermined. Monyae says poverty can be alleviated, as a start, by empowering Africans: diversifying economies towards land and ensuring the right leaders are at the forefront.
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