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Keynote address by Ms. Maropene Ramokgopa, Minister in The Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, at the Development and Democracy Intergenerational Dialogue, Pan-African Parliament

Programme Director, Ms Sibongile Gangxa, 
Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira, President of the Pan-African Parliament,
Hon. Dr. Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation,
Hon. Ronald Lamola, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development,
Dr. Emma Kantema-Gaomas, Deputy Minister of Sport, Youth, and National Service in Namibia,
Your Excellency, Ms Lindiwe Khumalo, Pan-African Parliament Clerk
Prof Eddy Maloka, CEO of the African Peer Review Mechanism,
Ms Karabo Mohale, Executive Deputy Chairperson of the NYDA Board,
Ms Pearl Pillay and Mr Thulisa Ndlela, Members of the NYDA Board, 
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Your Majesty Lebogang Mogale, Your Royal Highness Dr Koketso Rakhudu) and other Traditional Leaders present,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen.

Good Morning!

I am honoured to address this dialogue on a topic of great importance to the future of our nation on the “intersection of development and democracy”. Indeed, we gather here during a critical juncture in South Africa's history, where the voices, perspectives, and expertise of the youth are critical in shaping our collective future. Now more than ever, the youth of South Africa and continent must be at the centre of strengthening democracy and advancing development. 

Last Saturday, 27th April 2024, the world joined South Africa in celebrating and commemorating 30 years of freedom and democracy. During his address at the Union Buildings, President Cyril Ramaphosa shared;

“South Africa’s democracy is young. Most of the world’s most established democracies are over a hundred years old. The progress that has been made in a relatively short period of thirty years is something of which we can and should all be proud.

It is only those who wilfully will not see, who shut their eyes to progress, who will deny that South Africa today is an infinitely better place than it was thirty years ago.”

Programme Director,

Over the past 30 years we have been empowered with policy frameworks and plans aimed at advancing development. These include the Freedom Charter of 1955, the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) of 1994, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) of 1996, the National Development Plan (NDP) of 2012, and the Medium-Term Strategic Frameworks under each administration amongst several others.

The NDP is South Africa’s first plan that provides a long-term perspective on development to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. The NDP asserts that South Africa can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing state-capacity, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society.

The high-level goals of the NDP are coherent with key international frameworks for development, namely: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs), the African Union Agenda 2063, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP 2020-30). Most importantly, the goals are coherent with the aspirations of our people.

The NDP like many other policy frameworks of South Africa’s Government aims to leverage the nexus of democracy and development. It is a roadmap for transforming South Africa through a commitment to fostering solidarity, equality, and sustainable development while committing to democratic values. South Africa, like many developing democracies, maintain that development and democracy are often intertwined and depend on each other. 

Therefore, as we celebrate 30 years of democracy and freedom, we also celebrate 30 years of development. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Our journey to democracy has not been an easy one, nor the journey to development. 

Over the three decades, South Africa has faced systemic and contextual challenges that have impacted the country’s development trajectory.

In 2023, the National Planning Commission (NPC) released the Ten-Year Review of the NDP. The review reflects on our nation's progress and assesses the key NDP indicators and targets, such as poverty, inequality, and unemployment.  

The NDP set a goal of achieving an annual average of 5.4% GDP growth and aimed to create 11 million jobs. Over the past 30 years the South African economy has grown and is expected to be Africa’s largest economy in 2024 according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

Our labour force expanded from 11,3 million in 1994 to 28,3 million in 2023. Due to progressive labour legislation, the race, gender, age, and skills composition of the labour force and employment have altered considerably promoting more inclusive economic development. 

Infrastructure development is a pivotal driver of growth and development in South Africa and the continent. South Africa continues to affirm its support for the Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative Africa-Wide (PICI) as a member state alongside eleven other African countries.

The main goal of PICI is to ignite and sustain catalytic collaborative partnerships among member-state countries toward the realisation of an integrated continent through transboundary infrastructure development. This is key to ensuring the operationalisation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Through PICI, member states commit to promoting the empowerment of the most vulnerable groups namely; women, youth, and persons with disabilities across Africa. 

South Africa's demographic landscape reflects a significant youth bulge, with the population aged 25 to 39 representing potential economic drivers. Balancing this demographic potential with education and employment opportunities is crucial.

The Government, through democratic institutions, seeks to create an enabling environment for economic growth by addressing obstacles to transformation, innovation, competition, and development. 

We are yet to fully explore the potential of small and medium enterprises (SMMEs) in driving innovation, inclusion, and transformation. The NDP states that SMMEs will create 90% of new jobs by 2030. This accounts for around 9.9 million jobs of the target of 11 million jobs by 2030. 

Therefore, we applaud agencies such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) for their continued work in ensuring the youth-led SMMEs become equal contributors in growing our economy through providing grants, capacity building, and upskilling opportunities for the youth. These include “Areyeng Brazil” Agricultural Summer School, an initiative led by Deputy Chair Karabo Mohale aimed to inspire and empower young people to become leaders and change agents in South Africa’s agricultural sector.

Distinguished guests,

South Africa's social sector indicates notable progress in education, social wage, and health, with young people benefiting greatly from this progress. 

The country is moving towards universal access to education at all levels and improved overall educational outcomes.

More individuals aged 20 and older have attained Grade 12 as their highest level of education, rising from 16% in 1996 to 38% by 2022. In 2002 there were 295 special schools for learners with disabilities. By 2022 there were 489 (435 Public, 54 Independent).

The matric pass rate improved to 82.9% in 2023, from 53.4% in 1995. Enrolment in public universities has more than doubled, steadily edging closer to the NDP target of 1.6 million enrolments by 2030. Access to higher education has been bolstered by the establishment of more institutions of higher learning and increased National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding.

South Africa's health system has evolved and has led to improved life expectancy and increased access to Primary Health Care (PHC) services from 68 million in 1998 to 138,8 million in 2022/23. 

Furthermore, South Africa’s social wage is one of the most advanced in the world and has proven to be an effective anti-poverty tool. It grew from 2,9 million beneficiaries in 1994 to more than 18 million in 2022. The COVID-19 grant increased reach to 27,6 million beneficiaries. Studies conducted over the two decades have shown that the child support grant is associated with a decline in incidents of poverty.

South Africa's youth bulge holds economic promise, yet high unemployment poses instability exacerbating inequalities and stifling potential. The Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) category, which constitutes 37% of young people aged 15-24, highlights the urgency of unemployment. 

Therefore, Government has taken steps to address the youth unemployment challenge. The Presidential Employment Stimulus, has assisted in creating more than 1,7 million work and livelihood opportunities.


Our youth are resilient, resourceful, and brimming with untapped potential. Across the nation, young people are leading grassroots movements, driving innovation, and advocating for change. Their energy, creativity, and passion are the driving force behind our collective aspirations for a brighter future.

As we chart the path forward, we must heed the voices of our youth and harness their potential as agents of change. Building on the lessons learned from the Ten-Year Review of the NDP and the upcoming launch of the 30-Year Review of South Africa’s Democracy, we must redouble our efforts to create an enabling environment that empowers and uplifts our young people.

To achieve the goals of the NDP requires more than a state-centric approach to planning and implementation. It requires a comprehensive, coordinated, and partnership-based approach to development. 

As I conclude, the NDP affirms the future of our nation lies in the hands of our youth. We are fast approaching the 2030 deadline and we need the youth of South Africa to lead in asking; What next?

How does the youth build on the existing progress made in improving livelihoods of the people? What strategies can the youth consider to strengthen institutions and systems we have developed? How does the youth leverage on South Africa’s growing international influence to drive forward domestic imperatives? What key reforms are needed to ensure our country’s economic growth is inclusive, transformative, and redistributive? How we can recalibrate our planning systems so that they can better serve our country?

I believe the youth of South Africa and Africa are in a better position to answer these questions. In the Words of Anton Lembede, Founding President of the ANC Youth League,

“The Hour of Youth has Struck”.

I thank you.

 Union Building