Since the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa has emerged as the main engine of growth in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the lead architects of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), and a major force in regional stability. With a population of more than 48 million, South Africa is the biggest and most advanced economy in Africa. It has a diversified market, an abundant supply of natural resources, an established manufacturing sector, a well-developed financial services sector, as well as extensive transport infrastructure, good communications, and modern distribution facilities. But it also has large areas of extreme poverty and deprivation, primarily in black communities.
South Africa ranks 121st out of 187 countries on the United Nations Development Programme's 2012 Human Development Index. Since 1990 it has dropped about 40 places on this index almost entirely because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which gives rise to severely reduced life expectancy and continues to strain social services and place a huge burden on women and children. It is estimated that one out of five adults is HIV positive—the highest number of HIV-infected people in any one country in the world. There are also about 1.2 million AIDS orphans, who are children whose parents have both died of HIV/AIDS.
South Africa has sound constitutional and legal policies, but lacks the capacity to implement them effectively. This is partly due to the substandard education that many black people received during apartheid and the slow changes made to the education system since that time. The resulting skills shortage, coupled with an unemployment rate of 25 percent, makes it difficult for the Government of South Africa to deliver services to poor communities.
Canada and South Africa signed a general agreement on development cooperation (PDF, 27 KB, 1 page) in 2006. Canada's international development program in South Africa is closely aligned with the country's most important priority areas, as identified in the Government of South Africa's Programme of Action 2009 (PDF, 1.23 MB, 12 pages). South Africa is committed to strengthening its regulatory and public administration systems and to delivering better public health services to its people.
The goal of Canada's current international development assistance program in South Africa to March 31, 2014, is to help the country improve service delivery in the area of HIV/AIDS and build accountable public institutions, as well as to help South Africa play its regional role on the continent through sharing relevant expertise.
South Africa is one of very few countries where infant and child mortality rates are rising—mainly because of mother-to-child HIV transmission at birth. Canada continues to support South Africa in implementing its 2012-2016 HIV & AIDS and STI Strategic Plan (PDF, 1.44 MB, 86 pages). Canada supports efforts that focus on improving service delivery in HIV/AIDS by supporting projects that reduce the number of new HIV/AIDS infections—the vast majority occur in children and youth—and on providing school-aged children and youth with access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care, and support services that address and take into account differences between women and men. This includes support to both government and civil society organizations.
South Africa faces a critical skills shortage, which hampers its ability to deliver services to the poor within national, provincial, and local governments. Canada continues to support efforts that help build accountable government and non-governmental institutions.
Democratic governance is one of the Government of Canada's five priority themes for international development assistance.
South Africa adheres to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (PDF, 317 KB, 23 pages), and is one of its strongest advocates and a champion of its implementation.
Donors are encouraged to channel aid contributions through South Africa's National Treasury Reconstruction and Development Program Fund, which demonstrates local ownership, alignment with local procedures and processes, mutual accountability, and results.
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