South Africa most unequal country in the world: report

Thursday March 10 2022
South Africa soweto

A sedan car approaches an intersection in Soweto. A World Bank report said South Africa is the most unequal country in the world. PHOTO | AFP


South Africa is the most unequal country in the world, with race playing a determining factor in a society where 10 percent of the population owns more than 80 percent of the wealth, a World Bank report said Wednesday.

"South Africa... is the most unequal country in the world, ranking first among 164 countries," the Washington-based institution said in a report called 'Inequality in Southern Africa'.

Nearly thirty years after the end of apartheid, "race remains a key driver of high inequality in South Africa, due to its impact on education and the labour market," it said.

When race is considered as a factor in income disparities, the report added, "its contribution to income inequality amounts to 41 percent, while contribution of education is reduced to 30 percent."

"The legacy of colonialism and apartheid, rooted in racial and spatial segregation, continues to reinforce inequality."

The country's neighbours that make up the rest of the Southern African Customs Union -- Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia -- all finish high on the list of the most unequal countries in the world.


Gender also plays an important role. In the region, women earn on average 30 percent less than men with the same level of education. The pay gap between men and women reaches 38 percent in Namibia and South Africa.

The uneven distribution of agricultural land is also a factor driving inequality, especially in rural areas.

In Namibia, 70 percent of the 39.7 million hectares of commercial agricultural land "still belong to Namibians of European descent", the World Bank said.

The report was produced before the Covid-19 pandemic and its authors used the Gini coefficient -- an indicator of income inequality -- to rank countries.