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South Africa

South Africa

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Program commenced:   1994

Total number of placements: 71 (as of 3 August, 2011)

Number of current placements: 7 (as of 3 August, 2011)

AVI Programs: Volunteer Program, Capacity Support for Youth Development, Community Participation Through Sport Project, KwaZulu Natal HIV/AIDS Out-Reach Project, South Africa - YMCA Better Life Options Project

South Africa, on the continent's southern tip, is washed by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and by the Indian Ocean on the south and east. Its neighbours are Namibia in the north west, Zimbabwe and Botswana in the north, and Mozambique and Swaziland in the northeast. The kingdom of Lesotho forms an enclave within the south-eastern part of South Africa.

The Dutch East India Company landed the first European settlers on the Cape of Good Hope in 1652, launching a colony that by the end of the eighteenth century numbered only about 15,000. However, Britain took permanent possession in 1814. In 1910 the Union of South Africa was formed. And in 1961, independence from Britain was gained as the Republic of South Africa came into being.

Despite huge resource wealth, the policy of Apartheid (racial separation) meant that huge inequalities within the population came to exist the whites and the coloureds (in South Africa the term meant any non-white person). New issues have replaced the racist policy in inhibiting greater development in South Africa.

Contact our Southern Africa program office.

Development Issues

Socio-economic issues
Health issues
Environmental issues

Socio-economic issues

In the period since 1994 South Africa has evolved into a vibrant democracy with a model constitution and a growing economy. Yet, the democratically elected government is still faced with the major socio-economic challenges of persistent high unemployment, poverty and large wealth disparities. Thus despite its relatively large economy its Human Development Index ranking in 2004 was 121st (of the 177 countries included) and only fourth in sub-Saharan Africa.

A further and related legacy of the Apartheid era that remains is the low skill level of the South African labour force (as a result of a majority of the population lacking access to education during that era) thereby reducing the effectiveness and efficiency of the South African economy.

Health issues

Both economic and human development progress in South Africa are also being hampered by the high incidence of HIV/AIDS. South Africa has a very high HIV prevalence rate of approximately 18.8 per cent (of all people aged 15-49). In fact it is estimated that there are over 5.5 million people in South Africa living with HIV. Further, it is also estimated that in South Africa there are 1.2 million orphans under the age of 18 as a result of HIV/AIDS. Of those living with HIV only 21 per cent are receiving antiretroviral therapy and only 14.6 per cent of pregnant women are receiving treatment to reduce mother-to-child transmission.

The reduction of life expectancy, diminished productivity, and increasing burdens on social welfare arising from the problem of HIV/AIDS looks set to continue to plague South Africa's development.

For up-to-date statistics on the above information, please refer to the following sites: 
UNAIDS page on South Africa

Environmental issues

South Africa faces problems endemic to industrialising countries, many of which contribute to environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity. These problems include deforestation, rapid population growth and urbanization. South Africa's thirst for water is currently outpacing supply. As a result increased strain is being put on rivers and lakes. Further, these rivers as well as ground water sources are being polluted by agricultural runoff, urban discharge and leaks at refineries and synthetic fuel plants. Additionally, South Africa's reliance on coal for electricity contributes to large-scale water and air pollution, including significant carbon dioxide emissions. Soil erosion and desertification are also major problems facing South Africa.

South Africa was ranked 93rd on the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) in 2005. The areas of main environmental concern identified in the ESI were reducing air quality, reducing waste and consumption, reducing water stress and greenhouse gas emissions.

The above information was sourced from the following sites: 
Energy Information Administration's South African Profile
CIA World Factbook page on South Africa