I’d like to consider myself a worldly person. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have a set of parents who absolutely love to travel. I mean, LOVE to travel. Every couple of years, my whole family would go on a cool trip to some unique part of the country or world. From staying at a dude ranch in Colorado, to getting our scuba diving certifications in Hawaii, to going on a safari in South Africa – the Lotkowictz family has seen many sides of the world and learned about several unique cultures.
While every trip and every place has its own special memories, somewhere that I’m dying to re-visit is South Africa. Thinking about my South African trip brings back so many memories – some good and some not so good. Most of the better memories have to do with the amazing 5-day safari in Kruger national park we went on (and spotting my favorite animal – a giraffe!) and surfing in the (freezing!) waters of Cape Town. Despite all of the wonderful memories I associate with South Africa, something that I will never be able to get out of my head is the disturbing poverty level.
Anyone who has been to Cape Town knows how beautiful the city is. However, anyone who has been outside of the city knows how devastating the poverty level is. What’s crazy is that South Africa practically has no middle class; it’s like everyone there is either fairly wealthy or very poor. I was looking through some articles in the Center for Global Development think tank, and I came across one that had an interesting piece of data – in 2005, only 7% of the South African population was considered to be in the middle class, with most of the population under the poverty line. According to the article, the middle class, in socio-economic terms is defined as “the segment of society with a degree of economic security that allows it to uphold the rule of law, invest, and desire stability.”
Much of the inequality and the poor state of the economy can be attributed to South Africa’s apartheid regime. Essentially, South African apartheid was a system of racial segregation that was enforced by the National Party governments between 1948-1994. Every non-white South African citizen faced intense discrimination, as they were not able to experience the same rights as white people, who made up the minority of the population. Strict race law prevented blacks from owning businesses, living outside designated areas, or even having a telephone. Needless to say, both the economy and the majority of citizens in South Africa suffered during this racist regime.
Fortunately, in 1994, the apartheid regime ended. According to a USA Today article I found on the Center for Global Development site, a sizable black middle class has emerged since apartheid’s end. The South African economy continues to struggle, but it has undoubtedly made huge strides forward. Overall, from the Think Tanks I was able to find great information about some of the topics I discussed in my blog post. I particularly liked the Center for Global Development and would recommend this Think Tank as it has lots of quality information that is easy to find!
I hope someday I am able to go back to South Africa. Sometimes it’s so easy for me to take things for granted, and having traveled to a place where so many people live under the poverty line gave me a new perspective on life.