World Bank says land reform key to South African economic progress

The World Bank Group has identified land reform as a key policy option to eliminate poverty and boost shared prosperity.

The bank released its Systematic Country Diagnosis for South Africa on Monday (May 14), indicating five key focus areas for South Africa to encourage more inclusive and sustainable development.

“We have identified five binding constraints to addressing the legacy of exclusion which persists despite South Africa’s progress in granting political and civil rights to its citizens and increasing access to basic services and social assistance,” said Paul Noumba Um, World Bank country director for South Africa. “We stand ready to support South Africa in its efforts.”

The major constraint, according to the report, was the historical disadvantage entrenched in South Africa’s education system, resulting in insufficient skills. Skewed distribution of land and productive assets came in second while third was low competition and low integration in global and regional value chains. Limited or expensive connectivity and underservicing of disadvantaged settlements and the impact of climate change complete the list.

The World Bank Diagnostic suggests that the first step in addressing these challenges would be to fast-track policy interventions that focus on skills development in children and young adults. They add that strengthening land tenure security and capacity for land reform also needs to be prioritised.

“It would be easy to assume that addressing South Africa’s biggest constraints is the responsibility of government alone. That would be a mistake,” said Saleem Krimjee, international finance corporation country manager for southern Africa. “We hope all stakeholders can embrace the contribution business can make in tackling these issues. The private sector has a huge role to play in creating jobs, growth and a more equal economy.”

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