by Safiyia Stanfley – Federal Deputy Leader of the Democratic Alliance Women’s Network
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Date: 24 May 2018
Note to editors: The following speech was delivered today by the Federal Deputy Leader of the Democratic Alliance Women’s Network, Safiyia Stanfley MPL, during the Africa Day debate held in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature during a sitting in Barkley West.
The Democratic Alliance joins the country and the continent in commemorating Africa Day tomorrow. The fifty-fifth anniversary of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor of the African Union, is an opportunity to celebrate the strides taken by African countries towards prosperity, freedom and peace. It is an opportunity to reflect on how far we, united in our diversity, have come.
It is a day on which we say, as Brenda Fassie did, that I am proud to be an African.
It is also an opportunity to reflect on the ability of South Africa to contribute to the greater development of the continent. The fate of our continent and the fate of our country is intertwined – if South Africa succeeds, Africa succeeds.
South Africa has the potential to be one of Africa’s powerhouses.
After all, it is those born on South African soil who gave the world such innovations as the CT scan and the CAT scan, the world’s first successful heart transplant and the retinal cryoprobe which revolutionised eye surgery. We have entertainers like Trevor Noah, musicians like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and entrepreneurs like Elon Musk who can hold their own on the world’s stage. We can be proud of what we have accomplished.
Indeed, Honourable Speaker, we have the potential to do much, to be much and to contribute much to the development of our continent.
But we have not yet realised that potential fully.
The reality is that we can, and must, do more to ensure that our country is still a trendsetter on the African continent. While we like to think of ourselves as an economic powerhouse, the reality is that a failure to leverage on interlinkages with the growing global economy has caused us to fall behind our African counterparts.
We are being outpaced by our market peers on the continent – GDP growth is projected at 3.3% for sub-Saharan African in 2018, but only at 1.1% for South Africa. Current levels of economic growth in our country are far too low to generate sufficient employment opportunities, especially considering the influx of new entrants into the labour market.
As we systematically tackle the barriers to growth and job creation, Honourable Speaker, it is imperative to consider the role of women in our economy. Since the dawn of democracy, South Africa has adopted a number of legislative measures to protect and promote the rights of women. But while we have made some significant progress in realising the socio-economic rights of women, at least on paper, it remains a fact that women are still more likely to be unemployed than men.
Statistics South Africa’s reports on the Labour Market Dynamics, the Vulnerable Groups Indicators and the Quarterly Labour Force Surveys show, time and again, that more work needs to be done to ensure that women become true participants in our growing economy.
Almost forty per cent of female-headed households do not have an employed member, while less than twenty per cent of male-headed households do not have an employed member. Female-headed households report higher dependency ratios. As a result of this disparity, women and those in female-headed households are more likely to suffer from poverty – and to experience deeper levels of poverty at that.
The knock-on effects are numerous and costly – for example, financial constraints mean that households are already underspending on nutritious food by twenty five per cent. Women older than forty five are reporting more non-communicable diseases than before and children are more likely to suffer from more prolonged, more severe childhood diseases.
Honourable Speaker, we cannot become a powerhouse on the African continent if our economy excludes an entire segment of the population and condemns them to poverty. For South Africa to realise its full economic potential and to become a contributor to the African continent, we must do more to include women in our economy.
It is possible to implement reforms which will stimulate economic growth and create an environment conducive for the sustained creation of sustainable jobs. The Democratic Alliance proposes the following be done to ensure that South Africa takes its rightful place as one of the leaders on the African continent:
Firstly, we need economic policy certainty across all government departments. Policy uncertainty and weak governance, including a lack of control for corruption, has resulted in low investor and consumer confidence, as can be seen from South Africa’s worsening rank in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index. We went from being 28th in 2006 to being 82nd in 2018, with countries such as Rwanda, Kenya and Botswana outranking us. The finalisation of policy has the potential to contribute two to three percentage points to real GDP growth over the next ten years, which can translate into job creation.
Secondly, to empower our youth and women to embrace new economic opportunities, we must introduce a National Civilian Service year to provide work experience for new entrants into the labour market to enter into work-based training in the community healthcare, basic education or SAPS fields. We must also amend B-BBEE legislation to include internships, bursaries and the funding of schools as forms of legitimate empowerment.
Thirdly, governments must pay their debt of more than R7.7 billion to small businesses. During our recent round of budget presentations from provincial departments, it was interesting to note how many commitments are made to support women, the youth and people with disabilities – yet government routinely fails to pay the small businesses who supply goods and services.
As of March 2017, the Northern Cape is estimated to owe R621 million to various suppliers in accounts outstanding for more than thirty days. It is a fine thing to declare in front of a committee that your department will provide support to vulnerable groups, but it is another thing to follow up on this commitment.
Honourable Speaker, we have great and limitless potential in this country and on this continent. Let us commit ourselves to the full and actual realisation of this potential – not just on paper, but in practice too.
Federal Deputy Leader of the Democratic Alliance Women’s Network
084 919 4157
071 251 5558