South Africa has been a partner country of Belgian development cooperation since 1998.
South Africa ranks 129th out of 182 countries in the UNDP Human Development Report 2009. Life expectancy at birth only amounts to 51 years. More than ten years after the demise of apartheid, poverty remains one of the main challenges facing the country.
The current cooperation programme between South Africa and Belgium has been elaborated in response to the request formulated by the South African government to consider phasing out the existing aid relationship by 2014 and to explore new avenues for cooperation. The aim is to establish a full political and economic relationship between equal partners.
The first democratic elections in South Africa were held in 1994. The country’s democracy remains young and fragile and the government faces massive social and economic challenges. High poverty levels have exacerbated the levels of crime. Crime in South Africa is perceived to be a significant threat to the country's overall stability and to the welfare of its citizens.
Dissatisfaction with the delivery of basic municipal services such as running water, electricity and sanitation, especially in informal settlements, has seen increased protest. Unemployment (officially at around 23%), high levels of poverty, poor infrastructure, and the lack of housing add to the growing dissatisfaction in these and other poor communities.
Although SA is better placed economically compared with most African economies, it still faces huge challenges in the traditional sectors of health and land reform.
Land reform is a sensitive issue in South Africa and has been brought into sharp focus by the decline of agriculture in neighbouring Zimbabwe. For many South Africans, the land redistribution process is not going fast enough. South Africa will have to increase delivery fivefold to meet the target of transferring 30% of land to black people by 2015.
South Africa's shortage of health professionals combined with a budget shortfall for the government's HIV programmes could keep the country from reaching its goal. The government wants to provide 80 percent of the people living with HIV/AIDS in need of treatment with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) by 2011. Belgium’s intervention is to promote staff retention in hospitals and in the Department of Health as a whole and uplift productivity and performance skills of officials and beneficiaries, as well as to provide HRM tools.