Fighting poverty, creating jobs, reducing unemployment and building a stronger economy. These are the aims behind Asgisa - the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa, said President Thabo Mbeki when he addressed the nation at the opening of Parliament in February.
The message in his State of the Nation Address was simple – the people of South Africa believe that because of what they have achieved, the country can move even faster towards the realisation of its dreams. “Our people are firmly convinced that our country has entered its Age of Hope,” he said. South Africans overcame apartheid to win freedom and build democracy; they have been working together to fight poverty and grow the economy - what we need, he said, is to continue this national effort and speed up progress.
In his State of the Nation Address, the President explained that Asgisa is a key part of government’s programme. Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is leading Asgisa. It will open the way for faster implementation of the various programmes of government. Through Asgisa government is focusing on overcoming the things that have held the economy back from growing as fast as it could. It will tackle these things in a way that will help close the gap between the First and Second Economies (see box below) to make sure that poor people share in the country’s growing wealth. The aim is to speed up economic growth to at least 6% a year between 2010 and 2014. This will help halve unemployment and poverty by 2014
R370 billion has been set aside for Asgisa infrastructure programmes. Some of these programmes will strengthen the economy by investing in the electricity, transport and telecommunications systems. To improve service delivery in underdeveloped urban and rural areas, Asgisa will work through the Municipal Infrastructure Grant, Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and other infrastructure funds. These will improve service delivery such as roads
and railways, water, electricity, housing, schools and clinics, business support centres, sports facilities and government service centres.
The EPWP also helps reduce poverty. It was launched in 20004. Since then, over 280 000 people, many of them women heading families, have been given temporary jobs. Through EPWP people work in road construction, water projects, community care and development projects, and environmental projects. They also get on-the-job training to learn skills that will help them find more permanent jobs.Asgisa will boost the development of small business. This will focus on black economic empowerment and the development of women and young people. Asgisa will also improve current business-support programmes like Mafisa (for agricultural development); SEDA (Small Enterprise Development Agency); Khula; Umsobomvu Youth Fund and the Small Business Initiative.
South Africa has been enjoying steady growth for more than ten years now. In the last two years growth has increased and is set to speed up further. This is one indication that the country has entered its “Age of Hope” for all.
First Economy - Advanced, increasingly competitive and impacting on people with the necessary skills.
Second Economy - Mostly poor, and lacking skills and access to information. People find it hard to make a proper living due to the legacy of apartheid.