Flash Briefing: World Bank suggests SA job-seeker grant; Equiano cable to drastically improve SA internet; SA sugar industry pushes for biofuel subsidy

  • The World Bank said South Africa, which ranks among the world’s top 10 spenders on social assistance, could consider a range of reforms to its R156 bn annual welfare program to make it more cost-effective while expanding support for the unemployed. While more than 18million South Africans receive welfare payments, and almost two thirds benefit directly or indirectly from the grants, only child support, old age pensions and disability payments are handed out to people who haven’t paid into a separate unemployment insurance system. The country could consider a job-seekers grant, community works programs or differentiating child support payments so that the poorest families get additional help, the World Bank said in a report.
  • The new subsea Equiano cable linking Africa and Europe will significantly decrease internet costs and triple internet speeds in South Africa, says Google. In an online briefing, Google Africa managing director Nitin Gajria said the company is making steady progress in constructing the cable, with branches landing in Nigeria, Namibia, St Helena and South Africa. “Equiano will provide approximately 20 times more network capacity than the last cable built to serve South Africa,” he said. “This will lead to a 21% drop in internet prices as well as five-fold internet speed and almost triple in South Africa.” 
  • South Africa’s sugar industry is in talks with the government over a potential subsidy that could see it convert more than a third of its annual output into biofuel, according to a group representing companies in the sector. Currently 800,000 tons of the industry’s annual output of 2.1 million tons is being exported at a loss, according to the South African Sugar Association. The discussions follow the signing of the so-called Sugar Master Plan by the government, farmers, industrial users and retailers in the R16bn industry. The plan seeks to ease a crisis caused by a flood of cheap imports, much of those from neighbouring eSwatini, and a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks that lowered demand from beverage makers. While the plan includes off-take agreements with industrial users and retailers that helped boost local demand by 14% in the year that ended in March, diversifying uses for the crop could improve the industry’s sustainability, Trix Trikam, executive director of the sugar association said. 
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