Socioeconomic and Ecological Transformation

With the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990 the last bastion of colonialism and racial segregation was finally destroyed in Africa.

The apartheid regime in South Africa once destabilised Southern Africa and rendered it a geopolitical hot spot of the cold war with its involvement in civil wars in Angola and Mozambique. Now South Africa is a state in peace with its neighbours and its re-entry into the regional and global economy fostered growth in the entire region.

Before the global financial and economic crisis, many Southern African states achieved unprecedented growth rates of between 4% and 20%. Nevertheless, many countries in the Southern African region are still characterised by mass unemployment and poverty, social inequality, a high level of crime, the AIDS pandemic and environmental degradation. The recent world financial and economic crisis negatively impacted the economies and the societies of the region. Southern Africa’s most important economy, South Africa, lost 900 000 jobs in 2009.

The economic and social woes of the region can be partly attributed to negative external factors such as European agricultural subsidies and cheap imports from China, as well as the negative effects of global climate change. Internal factors such as crony capitalism, a ‘bling-culture”, the high level of crime and lack of investment in infrastructure also contribute to an untenable situation in which poverty, inequality and ecological degradation abound.

Sustainable development is dependent upon good political leadership. Zimbabwe, once a model for other countries in the region, has spiralled into chaos due to bad governance and Madagascar seems to be emulating the Zimbabwean experience. Sustainable development is dependent on proficient political leadership but cannot be achieved without widespread critical public participation in democratic decision-making by organised labour, business, political parties, media, intellectuals and grassroots communities.

Sustainable development is inclusive development where economic growth is used by the state and its people to overcome poverty and social inequality and to sustain and enhance the livelihoods of present and future generations.

RLS Southern Africa currently implements, in cooperation with partner organisations, projects concerning:

  • research on the current growth-dependent, socially unjust and ecologically flawed global and local development model (Alternatives to Neoliberalism)
  • public debate and dialogue on radical reforms to achieve sustainable development in Southern Africa and beyond
  • dissemination of information on alternative thinking and viable, practical solutions for sustainable development in the region
  • development of local (rural/urban) community-based strategies to achieve sustainable livelihoods