Poverty is a complex and multilayered problem that affects millions of people in South Africa. As of 2023, an individual living on less than R1,058 is considered impoverished, according to the poverty lines. The recently published official Inflation-adjusted national poverty lines for 2023 (per person, per month in rands) stated that the Lower-bound poverty line (LBPL) is R1,058 and Upper-bound poverty line (UBPL) is R1,558
According to a Statista report, around 18.2 million people in SA are living in extreme poverty, with the poverty threshold at USD1.90 (R34,85) daily. By 2030, over 19.1 million South Africans will live on a maximum of USD1.90 (R34,85) per day.
SA’s unemployment rate further exacerbates the situation. Almost 8 million of South Africa’s 40,7 million people who are eligible to work, between the ages of 15-64, are unemployed according to Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for Q2 of 2023. The survey shows that 16,3 million are employed and 16,5 million are Non Economically Active (NEA), and that our official unemployment rate stands at 32,6%, which amounts to one out of every three eligible workers.
There is no single solution to poverty, but there are ways that individuals can help to make a difference. Here are some possible actions to help alleviate the burden of poverty all around us:
Educate yourself and see what can help
Educate yourself and others about the causes and consequences of poverty, and the policies and programmes that aim to address them. Read literature or watch documentaries that shed light on the realities of poverty in South Africa and around the world.
Exposure to the living conditions of those who need financial support in your area and nationally can help you understand where to lend a helping hand. One of the best ways to do this is to support registered NPOs and related organisations for a safe and secure involvement, as well as a more coordinated effort.
Support local businesses and entrepreneurs.
By buying from local vendors, artisans, and farmers, you can help to create jobs and income for people living in poverty. You can also support small business development programmes that provide training, mentoring, and funding for locals. You can buy their products, invest in their ventures, or mentor them with your skills and knowledge.
Key Accounts Manager at local non-profit Relate Bracelets, Dalit Shekel says, “Relate Bracelets raises funds for various charitable causes through the sale of beaded bracelets, including the preservation of endangered animals and youth empowerment programmes. These bracelets are manufactured locally by aged women, giving them an opportunity to earn money. By buying the products they manufacture, for example, you are helping them to support their families.”
‘Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’, be a responsible citizen
You can also contribute towards alleviating poverty by doing your civil duty and being a responsible citizen who respects the law, pays taxes, and participates in civic activities.
Make sure that the organisations you support are legitimate and properly vetted to receive and utilise funds for causes. This protects both you and potential recipients of the funds from fraudsters, says Shekel.
You can also be a responsible consumer who makes ethical choices about what you buy, how you use resources, and the way in which you dispose of waste.
Donate to charities or volunteer your time and skills
In the spirit of ubuntu, your time may be of more value to someone else than you may think. There are many organisations and initiatives that work to alleviate poverty in South Africa, and they often need volunteers to assist with their activities.
“If you are not able to donate money or goods to charitable organisations, you can volunteer to tutor children, cook food at shelters, mentor youth, provide health care, build houses, or participate in community projects,” explains Shekel.
Use your voice and advocate for change.
You can use your voice and influence to raise awareness and demand action on the issues that affect poverty in South Africa. Ways to do this include signing petitions, joining campaigns, writing letters, or attending protests that call for better policies and practices on education, health, social security, land reform, corruption, and human rights.
As Nelson Mandela said: “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in our hands to make a difference.” As the year draws to a close, make these last few weeks a time of giving, concludes Shekel. “Whatever the scope of your gesture is, it can positively impact someone in need – not only during the coming festive season but beyond that, too.”