A Modern-day Gomorrah
Neo Kekana was born in the Alexandra township of Jo’burg – a place so poor, locals call it “Gomorrah”.
His parents moved there just before Neo was born in 1992, hoping Jo’burg would offer an escape from the grinding poverty too many black South Africans live in.
As the 2016 matric results are published, only 66% of Neo’s black peers will pass. But determined, Neo managed to beat these odds and matriculated. By comparison, the figure for his white peers is 99%!
Beating the Odds Doesn’t Cut It
Despite his hard work, Neo failed to attend university as he lacked the money, and instead landed himself a job at Nike’s head office. However, just a year later, Nike was no longer able to keep him on and has since struggled to find work elsewhere.
Unfortunately, this story is far from unique, as 2016 saw unemployment rise yet again to 27%. StatsSA also show that when looking at black unemployment alone, the figure rises up to 39%, whilst white unemployment is just 8.3%.
However, Neo’s story didn’t have to be like this. Imagine if merit and hard work was all you needed to attend university and succeed in South Africa? How different would things have turned out for him and so many others?
It’s Time for Economic Diversification
Many will question if South Africa can afford this. Voetsek argues South Africa can’t afford not to. Our over-dependence on the mining sector – accounting for 61% of the economy – has left us with unemployment higher today than it was when Neo was born in apartheid South Africa.
As commodity prices remain at record low levels, investing in education is not only a political imperative; it is an economic one too. Education is key to driving economic diversification.
The crisis in South Africa should therefore be seen as an opportunity to invest in our country’s biggest resource: our children.
Neo Kekana’s story was first featured on SABC in December 2016: http://www.sabc.co.za/news/a/24b9ae004f56449ba719afc6bdfec5d9/SouthundefinedAfrica%E2%80%99sundefinednon-reconciledundefinedeconomy-20161512