Recent discussions in the media has focussed on whether South Africa belongs in the exclusive BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group of countries. Over the last year I have increasingly been looking to Brazil and India as examples of what might be possible. The improvements in the Human Development Index (HDI) of these countries suggests we can learn a great deal from them. Of course, in Brazil and India there are disputes on the numbers, however the take home is this – South Africa’s HDI has fallen primarily due to poor health outcomes, which are associated with the impact of HIV/Aids. Our educational performance has also been weak. The silver lining is that current initiatives by government in the health and education sectors have better prospects for success, than our first policy choices after 1994.
Human Development Index – Brazil, South Africa, China, Russia and India
The chart shows the Human Development Index (HDI) for the BRICS countries (i.e. Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa) from 1980 to 2011. The data shows that Russia, India and Brazil have improved their HDI, whilst South Africa has seen a decline in its HDI since the mid-1990s. It underscores the point, that we must be learning more from the experiences in Russia, but especially from Brazil and India.
At first glance South Africa’s performance looks exceptionally weak. To better understand the outcomes, it is important to look at the components that make up the HDI.