To build a thriving society, more people must have the knowledge, skills and opportunity to participate fully in society and the economy, for the good of one another, and in synergy with the environment.
We have identified 10 opportunities to build a thriving society. They constitute some of the most profound twists to enable South Africa to escape the inequality trap. This is because we can’t keep tracing the same old pathways to development in South Africa. We need bold and decisive twists that get us out of the rut, give fresh perspective and create new opportunities.
South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world. Our painful past of racial exclusion trapped most black people in poverty. At the end of apartheid, there was progress, hope and renewal, but the gap between rich and poor remains far too wide.
Today, wealth is still concentrated in the hands of about one fifth of the population. Poorer people have worse nutrition, health and education, choking their potential to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to get a job, to earn and participate fully in society. When their children grow up, this cycle of exclusion is repeated, generation after generation. They are stuck in an inequality trap with few chances to break free.
Escaping the inequality trap requires a fundamental change in a child’s life trajectory. Changing trajectories begins with a healthy pregnancy. A child that is nurtured, eats nutritious food and is ready to read and do maths by the time they go to school is on a different path compared to a child that is stunted, has poor early language development and no caring adult at home. Skills beget skills so a child with a strong start and quality schooling will have more chances to fulfil their potential. And when more people build the knowledge and skills needed to fully participate in the economy, we have the makings of a thriving society, and a way out of the inequality trap.
The majority of South Africans are stuck in an inequality trap with wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. Most are stuck in intergenerational loops of exclusion with few chances to escape.
Think of a Möbius strip – just one twist in the circle allows you to trace a completely different pattern. Instead of being stuck on the inside of a loop, you emerge on the outside. In the same way, escaping the inequality trap requires a fundamental twist to set South Africa on a new path.
Trying to change life trajectories is ambitious and profound. It requires us to radically influence the lives of individuals and to be part of changing the circumstances in which they live.
To escape the inequality trap in South Africa we have set 3 goals. We then identified practical opportunities to realise each goal. This forms the guiding framework for everything we do.
The value that DGMT adds to the broader national development effort falls largely outside of formal institutions, in the spaces where government provision is often poor, where the private sector sees little role for itself in offering health, education and social services, and in parts of our nation that tend to be neglected.
DGMT currently distributes about R200 million per year and leverages and manages a similar amount of funding through joint ventures with other investors. Our strategic planning runs in cycles of five years, and after each five-year period, we review our strategies to see whether we are primed to achieve our goals.
To demonstrate the synergising power of our 10 opportunities to escape the inequality trap, we must bring them together in a geographic location with a long-term investment approach. DGMT’s place-based synergies team brings these opportunities together in the lives of individuals in specific populations and communities.
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