Unpacking the National Development Plan

[Image] (Left to right) Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and NPC Deputy Chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa, with children.
(Image: National Planning Commission)

[Image] Trevor Manuel first presented the National Development Plan to Parliament in August 2012.
(Image: British High Commission)

Dumisa Jele
Chief of staff
National Planning Commission
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The National Development Plan (NDP), has taken the raw material that is South Africa as it emerges from decades of colonialism, apartheid and inequality, and mapped a way forward. By 2030, it says, we can have a country that we can all proudly call home. It is quite an arduous road to travel, however, and every resident is urged to participate.

Origins of the plan

The government concedes that though there has been significant progress made over the past 18 years, there is a need for a much faster pace, more action and better implementation of national goals.

According to the National Planning Commission in the Presidency, the NDP was initiated to significantly reduce inequality in South Africa by 2030 “through uniting South Africans, unleashing the energies of its citizens, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities and enhancing the capability of the state and leaders to work together to solve complex problems”.

The NDP was formulated after extensive research and input from tens of thousands of South Africans.

National Planning Commission

President Jacob Zuma appointed the commission in May 2010 to draft the NDP. An advisory body consisting of 26 people, the commission was drawn largely from outside the government, with members being selected for their expertise in key areas. It is chaired by Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, while the ANC’s deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, is the deputy chairman.

The commission’s Diagnostic Report, released in June 2011, set out South Africa’s achievements and shortcomings since 1994. It identified a failure to implement policies and an absence of broad partnerships as the main reasons for slow progress. And it set out nine primary challenges:

  • Too few people work.
  • The quality of school education for black people is poor.
  • Infrastructure is poorly located, inadequate and under-maintained.
  • Spatial divides hobble inclusive development.
  • The economy is unsustainably resource intensive.
  • The public health system cannot meet demand or sustain quality.
  • Public services are uneven and often of poor quality.
  • Corruption levels are high.
  • South Africa remains a divided society.


The commission had to take into account the demographics of South Africa, including:

  • The birth rate, which is at 1% now and is dropping, and is predicted to stand at 0.5% by 2030.
  • About 60% of the population live in urban areas; by 2030 it is predicted to be 70%.
  • The effects of immigration, which will add 0.1% to 0.2% to the population by 2030.
  • The effects of HIV and Aids, which has stabilised at 10% of the population being HIV-positive.

To maximise the benefits of this “demographic dividend”, says the commission, the country requires better nutrition and health care, improved educational standards, increased access to further and higher education, easier entry into the labour market and greater labour mobility, which is the ability to move to where jobs are on offer. All of these factors need to be taken into account in national planning.

The youth

The commission stipulated that the NDP should specifically embrace issues affecting the country’s youth, “as South Africa has a young population which is rapidly urbanising”. Young people bear the brunt of unemployment, it says, which is why it has adopted a “youth lens” in preparing its proposals, which include:

  • A nutrition intervention for pregnant women and young children;
  • Universal access to two years of early childhood development;
  • Improve the school system, including increasing the number of students achieving above 50% in literacy and mathematics, increasing student retention rates to 90% and bolstering teacher training;
  • Strengthen youth service programmes and introducing new, community-based programmes to offer young people life skills training, entrepreneurship training and opportunities to participate in community development programmes;
  • Strengthen and expand the number of further education and training (FET) colleges to increase the participation rate to 25%;
  • Increase the graduation rate of FET colleges to 75%;
  • Provide full-funding assistance covering tuition, books, accommodation and living allowance to students from poor families;
  • Develop community safety centres to prevent crime and include youth in these initiatives;
  • A tax incentive to employers to reduce the initial cost of hiring young labour-market entrants;
  • A subsidy to the placement sector to identify, prepare and place matric graduates into work, to be paid upon successful placement;
  • Expand learnerships and make training vouchers directly available to job seekers;
  • A formalised graduate recruitment scheme for the public service to attract highly skilled people; and,
  • Expand the role of state-owned enterprises in training artisans and technical professionals.

Global trends

The commission noted that long-term shifts in global trade and investment were reshaping the world economy and international politics. Chief among these developments was the emergence of the rapidly growing economies of the Brics countries, and particularly China, India and Brazil, as well as the increased growth in Africa. Globalisation presented additional risk for emerging markets, while climate change was another factor affecting development in South Africa. The country stands to benefit significantly from regional co-operation.

Goals of the NDP

By 2030:

  • Eliminate income poverty – reduce the proportion of households with a monthly income of below R419 (US$42.2) a person (in 2009 prices) from 39% to 0%.
  • Reduce inequality – the Gini coefficient should fall from 0.69 to 0.6.

This will be achieved by:

  • Increasing employment from 13-million in 2010 to 24-million in 2030;
  • Raising per capita income from R50 000 ($5 000) in 2010 to R120 000 ($12 100) by 2030;
  • Increasing the share of national income of the bottom 40% from 6% to 10%;
  • Establishing a competitive base of infrastructure, human resources and regulatory frameworks;
  • Ensuring that skilled, technical, professional and managerial posts better reflect the country’s racial, gender and disability makeup;
  • Broadening ownership of assets to historically disadvantaged groups;
  • Increasing the quality of education so that all children have at least two years of preschool education and all children in Grade 3 can read and write;
  • Providing affordable access to quality health care while promoting health and well-being;
  • Establishing effective, safe and affordable public transport;
  • Producing sufficient energy to support industry at competitive prices, ensuring access for poor households, while reducing carbon emissions per unit of power by about one-third;
  • Ensuring that all South Africans have access to clean running water in their homes;
  • Making high-speed broadband internet universally available at competitive prices;
  • Realising a food trade surplus, with one-third produced by small-scale farmers or households;
  • Ensuring household food and nutrition security;
  • Entrenching a social security system covering all working people, with social protection for the poor and other groups in need, such as children and people with disabilities;
  • Realising a developmental, capable and ethical state that treats citizens with dignity;
  • Ensuring that all people live safely, with an independent and fair criminal justice system;
  • Broadening social cohesion and unity while redressing the inequities of the past; and,
  • Playing a leading role in continental development, economic integration and human rights.

Critical actions to be taken:

  • A social compact to reduce poverty and inequality, and raise employment and investment;
  • A strategy to address poverty and its effects by broadening access to employment, strengthening the social wage, improving public transport and raising rural incomes;
  • Steps by the state to professionalise the public service, strengthen accountability, improve co-ordination and prosecute corruption;
  • Boost private investment in labour-intensive areas, competitiveness and exports, with adjustments to lower the risk of hiring younger workers;
  • An education accountability chain, with lines of responsibility from state to classroom;
  • Phase in national health insurance, with a focus on upgrading public health facilities, producing more health professionals and reducing the relative cost of private health care;
  • Public infrastructure investment at 10% of GDP, financed through tariffs, public-private partnerships, taxes and loans, and focused on transport, energy and water;
  • Interventions to ensure environmental sustainability and resilience to future shocks;
  • New spatial norms and standards – densifying cities, improving transport, locating jobs where people live, upgrading informal settlements and fixing housing market gaps; and
  • Reduce crime by strengthening criminal justice and improving community environments.

An important focus of the NDP is to unite South Africans around a common programme that will enhance the Constitution’s vision of a united, prosperous, non-racial and non-sexist society. “Although progress has been made to improve the lives of women; discrimination, patriarchal attitudes and poor access to quality education persists. The plan deals with these factors holistically, recognising that key priorities such as education or rural development will have the biggest impact on poor women,” says the NDP document.

In addition, citizens should be encouraged to be active in their own development. The document says that while the state “must actively support and incentivise citizen engagement”, citizens should:

  • Actively seek opportunities for advancement, learning, experience and opportunity;
  • Work together with others in the community to advance development, resolve problems and raise the concerns of the voiceless and marginalised; and,
  • Hold the government, business and all leaders in society accountable for their actions.

“The country we seek to build by 2030 is just, fair, prosperous and equitable,” says the NDP document. “Most of all, it is a country that each and every South African can proudly call home. It is up to all South Africans to play a role in fixing the future.”