Boost Growth and Gender Equality in South Africa Through Rural Development Investment

The population of South Africa faces the triple challenges of high levels of inequality, unemployment and poverty, with those living in rural areas and women being the most affected. The need for rural development as a strategy to improve the socio-economic lives of the rural poor is widely acknowledged, including among decision-makers. Furthermore, the agricultural sector has shown great resilience to the economic shocks brought by the current Covid-19 pandemic and could be key to the country’s recovery. However, formal agriculture and farmland ownership remain in the hands of a few white farmers. This limited access to agricultural land in rural areas, especially among smallholder farmers and women, remains the main impediment to inclusive growth, job creation, poverty eradication and inequality reduction. There is thus the need for significant land provision to rural communities through land redistribution from commercial agriculture to smallholder agriculture. The New Growth Plan (Economic Development Department, 2010) and the National Development Plan (NDP) Vision 2030 (National Planning Commission, 2012) articulate a vision of an integrated rural economy through land reform, job creation and increasing agricultural production. However, progress is slow and there is a long way to go to achieve inclusion.