It is a great honour for me to be addressing this esteemed gathering today as we continue to celebrate 75 years of the establishment of the UN. This meeting takes place at a time when countries are dealing with challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. South Africa has also not been spared of this pandemic and has just moved to Alert Level 1 of the national lockdown as part of our Risk Adjusted Strategy, prompted partly by the declining trends we see in COVID-19 infections, but also prompted by the need to fully open the economy, so that the people of South Africa can fully resume engaging in economic activities to support their families.
The relevance of this meeting cannot be over emphasised as South Africa has experienced the vital role that data plays in informing plans and decisions towards addressing the manifestations of this pandemic. Our national statistics office – Statistics South Africa – promptly conducted rapid online surveys to provide insights about the impact of COVID-19 on the economic and social well-being of households in the country. These were conducted soon after the country went into Alert Level 5 national lockdown, at the height of the COVID-19 infections, which had placed the country on the highest level of restrictions ever seen in history.
The rapid surveys indicated temporal and permanent loss of employment, reduction or loss of income, increase in incidences of hunger among other challenges. A social and economic relief package was established by our government to address these challenges, in addition to other interventions targeting SMMEs and the business community in general. Targeting the right recipients and beneficiaries, then became a crucial part of the solution. It was important for South Africa to continue to be led by sound evidence in planning, deciding and distribution of interventions. Data and statistics have become quite critical in our daily decisions, not only in South Africa, but the world over.
The South African Multidimensional Poverty Index that we call SAMPI – a South African multidimensional poverty measure — played a vital role in identifying areas where interventions are to be directed. Working with the national statistics office and its provincial offices, we were able to profile districts, municipalities and communities to identify areas of need.
Before the pandemic hit, we could already see that the outputs of the SAMPI were taking root in our country to inform planning and implementation of poverty reduction programmes. We have used the SAMPI to inform our Provincial Growth Development Frameworks (PGDF), Provincial Poverty Eradication Master Plans (PEMP), Provincial Spatial Development Frameworks and the Integrated Development Plans at local government levels. We have seen the SAMPI used to better understand communicable diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) which has strong correlates with poverty.
Our country has a social welfare program that caters for over 17 million South Africans who are mostly the elderly, the disabled and needy children from poor households up to the age of eighteen years.
Children are perhaps the most innocent victims of the scourge of poverty. Targeting efforts to expand the Child Support Grant, which is one of the South Africa’s most successful social protection instruments for addressing childhood poverty, utilise the SAMPI to confirm if the targeting measures were reaching the intended groups. These efforts are rooted in addressing the very real lived experiences of the most vulnerable in societies.
Civil society organisations have used the data to contribute to our government’s cause for development, especially on matters of addressing issues of poverty. The ability of the SAMPI to provide information at much lower levels of geography is key to galvanising responses from society at large.
All this is testimony of how data, multidimensional poverty data to be specific, can help change lives. Currently, South Africa is planning for the next Population Census to be conducted in 2021. This very important undertaking will avail fresh data on multidimensional poverty in South Africa to us, policy makers, for better understanding of the poverty situation, better planning, more accurate targeting and most useful for poverty reduction strategy development.
Meetings such as these, where countries can share experiences and learn from one another are important and provide a basis for the use of empirical evidence in our daily efforts to address the poverty challenge.
Through the use of such evidence, as countries we are well in the right path of achieving Sustainable Development Goals, Agenda 2030.
Let me wish all of you well during these trying times. The people of South Africa send their warmest regards to all of you. Working together as people of the world, we will overcome this COVID-19 challenge.
I thank you.
Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa