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How South Africa is meeting its infrastructure needs using a 3-step process

08 December 2023

South’s Africa’s approach to creating a national infrastructure strategy has highlighted what’s needed to meet urgent socio-economic needs.

How South Africa is meeting its infrastructure needs using a 3-step process
South Africa has identified a pipeline of priority infrastructure projects, including two major home-building initiatives. Image credit: Shutterstock

An infrastructure strategy provides clear direction on how to meet national needs.

But there is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing a strategy.

Countries around the world have strategies under different names, and have used a variety of methods for delivering long-term plans.

South Africa’s three-step approach to creating an infrastructure strategy and investment plan is helping it meet its social and economic needs.

In doing so it embodies principle 3 of Enabling Better Infrastructure’s 12 guiding principles to highlight best practice.

This principle focuses on the importance of creating a strategic infrastructure plan that incorporates national needs.

Inequality: a challenge unresolved

South Africa has continued to face widespread socio-economic issues post-apartheid.

Planned power cuts are one of many ongoing challenges. Communities across the country are regularly left with no electricity for up to 12 hours a day.

Those who can’t afford to purchase generators, inverters or solar panels to power their homes and businesses during the power cuts have limited access to power, online employment and education opportunities.

This can impact income generation and quality of life.

What’s more, in South Africa, there are now 75,000 fewer jobs than at the end of 2019 due to negative shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This has disproportionately affected women and young people.

These challenging socio-economic conditions have led to heightened inequality.

A baseline for national development

Widespread access to good quality infrastructure with reliable service is integral to the well-being of society.

To address the complex socio-economic challenges of its population, the South African government has adopted a phased approach to infrastructure planning.

Its National Development Plan (NDP), published in 2012, was the first step.

This plan identified challenges that were hindering long-term development, including rising unemployment and poor access to essential services.

Pinpointing these challenges helped the government understand the steps needed to improve its socio-economic conditions.

Laying the groundwork for improved infrastructure

The second step set out South Africa’s long-term plans for infrastructure in its National Infrastructure Plan 2050 (NIP 2050).

This plan was developed in 2022 to help overcome the challenges outlined in the NDP by creating a supporting environment for infrastructure development.

This included boosting institutional capacity to deliver on infrastructure plans by strengthening knowledge on planning, monitoring, and budgeting.

Clarity achieved in the infrastructure strategy then laid the grounds for step three, the South Africa Infrastructure Investment Plan.

This plan identified a pipeline of priority infrastructure projects that would help address the social and economic needs outlined in the NDP.

Alongside the NDP, and the NIP 2050, the Infrastructure Investment Plan has accelerated progress on several major projects.

In Gauteng, for instance, two home-building projects that will home 68,000 families have begun.

How South Africa can enable better infrastructure

South Africa’s phased approach to setting up a national infrastructure strategy has provided clarity on the actions required to address its pressing socio-economic needs.

As a first step, its National Development Plan created a clear vision for policymakers to work towards.

This vision was in turn used to inform steps two and three, which map out the action required to improve the socio-economic value of South Africa’s infrastructure services.

Prioritising infrastructure projects based on country-specific challenges provides a clear direction of travel.

However, to truly transform its infrastructure, South Africa now needs a transparent system to review progress.

Having a strong, transparent review system in place means that the strengths and weaknesses of a strategic infrastructure plan can be identified and addressed.

The value of consistent review is highlighted in the Enabling Better Infrastructure report.

This report offers insight into how monitoring and evaluation can be factored into strategic infrastructure planning.

To find out more about how monitoring and evaluation can support infrastructure development, read our EBI report.

In case you missed it

  • Adina Nembhardt, EBI programme researcher at ICE