South Africa is the most unequal country in the world with race playing a major role in advancing inequality, according to a report by the World Bank’s global poverty database.
Despite three decades after the end of white-minority rule, the survey that was released late Wednesday said 10% of South Africa’s white population still hold 80.6% of financial assets in the country.
“In South Africa, the legacy of colonialism and apartheid, rooted in racial and spatial segregation, continues to reinforce inequality of outcomes,” said the report that assessed inequality in the Southern Africa region.
It said unequal land ownership, particularly in Namibia and South Africa, perpetuates historically high levels of income inequality.
“Land is a key asset, especially for poor people in rural areas. The unequal distribution of agricultural land, which is deeply rooted in the history of (apartheid/colonialism) in the region, contributes significantly to inequality,” according to the report.
South African political parties have been attempting to redress racial disparities in land ownership by supporting the expropriation of land without compensation, but the motion has failed to pass.
The report said inequality can be dealt with if the rural economy can benefit from resolving land inequality and strengthening land rights in law and practice.
“The legacy of a highly skewed distribution of land perpetuates inequality in Namibia and South Africa, which in turn undermines rural development and entrepreneurship. Weak property rights remain a key source of policy uncertainty in these two countries,” said the report.
“Currently, 70% of Namibia’s 39.7 million hectares of commercial farmland is still owned by Namibians of European descent. Land also remains a contentious issue in other Southern African countries, though to a lesser extent,” it said.
The report ranks South Africa first in terms of inequality out of the 164 countries surveyed.
“Consumption inequality across Southern Africa is over 40% higher than the averages for both Sub-Saharan Africa and other upper-middle-income countries,” it added.