Profiting from Poverty in South Africa
At a rally during the recent local government elections in South Africa, the Secretary General of the African National Congress told a crowd that the party was ‘relieving men’ who couldn’t take care of their children by providing their families with child support grants. The ANC, he told them, was the only party that raised their children because fathers were failing to do so. Currently the state provides families and primary caregivers with R350 per child, per month provided that household income is below a certain threshold.
Every month around 16.8 million social grants are deposited into the accounts of around 10 million South Africans. Of these 11.9 million receive child support grants, 96% of which are women. These grants reach a large swathe of the population, with some 44% of households receiving at least one grant. Delivered by the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) social grants have been crucial in the government’s fight against extreme poverty. South Africa spends over 4% of its GDP on social welfare, which is higher than countries like Brazil and Egypt but lower than Algeria and Malawi. SASSA is mandated to provide grants to those who are vulnerable to poverty and in need of state support, this includes pensioners, those with disabilities, guardians of foster children and military veterans. Despite warnings that social grants are too costly for government, amounts have been expanded and there is currently discussion of extending the child support grant to 23 due to the high number of child-headed households.