South Africa has a relatively good core network of national economic infrastructure. The challenge is to maintain and expand its electricity, water, transport and communications infrastructure in order to support economic growth and social development goals. There is some concern that the state does not have the institutional or financial capability to implement the investment plans needed to finance infrastructure to the required scale. Current investment levels are insufficient and maintenance programmes are lagging behind. Given the government’s limited finances, private funding will need to be sourced for some of these investments.

Many South Africans in poor rural and peri-urban communities struggle to access basic social and economic infrastructure. These are some of the bigger underlying causes:

  • Many households are too poor to pay for the cost of services
  • Some municipalities are poorly managed or have limited human and financial resources to deliver services
  • There is inadequate bulk infrastructure to supply all households with electricity and water in some communities
  • Unrestrained use of resources by some households leave others with nothing

The Role of the Regulators

While some network industries lend themselves to competition, core components such as the electricity grid, gas and water pipelines, and railway lines tend to form natural monopolies. In such cases, effective economic regulation is essential to issue licences, ensure access to networks, set prices and establish technical and service standards that safeguard reliable and competitive prices for consumers, promote affordability, and ensure operators are efficient and financially viable.

The role and effectiveness of sector regulators needs to be reviewed as improved regulatory performance is vital for national development. This will require capacity-building in regulatory institutions. In addition, the state must have adequate capacity and capability to formulate effective policies, support regulators, and respond to issues identified by regulators.

The Energy Sector

The NDP envisages that by 2030 South Africa will have an energy sector that promotes economic growth and development, social equity and environmental sustainability. Moreover, South African should have adequate supply security in electricity and in liquid fuels, such that economic activity, transport and welfare are not disturbed. South Africa’s energy system needs to be supported by effective policies, institutions, governance systems, regulation and where appropriate, competitive markets.

South Africa is coal-dependent is consequently a significant emitter of carbon dioxide which contributes to climate change. Policy planning and decision-making often requires trade-offs between competing national goals. For instance, the need to diversify South Africa’s energy mix to include more renewable energy sources, which tend to be variable in terms of production, should be balanced against the need to provide a reliable, more affordable electricity supply.

Key Policy Issues and Planning Priorities

  • Growth in coal exports must be balanced against domestic supply issues
  • Gas should be explored as an alternative to coal
  • There must be a growing diversity in the mix of energy sources and suppliers
  • Improved Municipal electricity-distribution
  • Electricity pricing and access need to accommodate the needs of the poor
  • The timing and desirability of nuclear power and new petrol refinery need to be considered

Water Resources and Services

Water is a strategic resource critical for social and economic development and there is a growing concern about the potential impact of water-related risks. South Africa is ranked 148th out of 180 countries in terms of water availability per capita, according to the 2012 World Water Development Report. As a water-scarce country, greater attention must be paid to water management and use.

By 2030, it is envisaged that effective management of water and the services derived from it will support a strong economy and a healthy environment. All South Africans will have affordable, reliable and sufficient safe water and hygienic sanitation.

Managing Water Resources

  • More effective administration is needed which requires clear and coherent legislation and policies based on strong research and development capabilities as well as the right technical tools.
  • Management of water resources approach must be reviewed regularly to ensure that priority areas for intervention are identified and implementation is monitored.
  • Urgently plan to ensure protection of priority water resources.

Water Management Strategies

  • Establish a national water-resources infrastructure agency to manage large regional investments
  • Reduce water demand by an average 15% below baseline levels in urban areas by 2030.
  • Manage agricultural use better through reduced water demand and improved water-use efficiency
  • Investigate water reuse and desalination


By 2030 investments in the transport sector will bridge geographic divide affordably, support economic development and promote a low-carbon economy. The state will oversee a transport system that takes into consideration the realities of transport in South Africa and thrives to serve the interests of society.

South Africa needs reliable, economical and smooth-flowing corridors linking its various modes of transport. These corridors are dominated by outdated, malfunction-prone railway technology and poor intermodal linkages. Ports are characterised by high costs and substandard productivity relative to global benchmarks.

Social and economic exclusion caused by apartheid planning is evident in the long distances that many travel from where they live to where they work. Providing suitable means for the safe, efficient, and cost-effective transport of people and goods is crucial. Such mobility broadens social and economic access and alleviates poverty.

South Africa needs to focus on a number of strategic focus areas to reach its 2030 transportation goals:

  • Competing options must be ranked using clear decision-making criteria, focusing on safety, affordability, and efficacy. Decisions must prioritise South Africa’s developmental considerations.
  • A systematic approach to transport, which puts focus on the total transport network, will improve transport efficiency and accessibility while reducing the overall environmental, social and economic cost.
  • Use spatial planning to create appropriate settlements closer to areas where people work.
  • Shift public thinking on public transport and greener energy sources.

Key Policy and Planning Priorities

  • Create a workable urban transit solution through:
    • Increased investment in public transport and through resolving existing public transport issues
    • Devolving transport management to local authorities
    • Providing incentives for public transport use
    • Improving road infrastructure
    • Renewing the commuter train fleet
  • Strengthening and optimising freight corridors through expanding and improving the following corridors:
    • Durban Gauteng Corridor
    • Coal Transport corridors
    • North South Corridor
  • Providing long-distance passenger transport options
  • Rural access and mobility

Information and Communication Infrastructure

ICT is a critical enabler of economic activity in an increasingly network world. As a sector, ICT may provide important direct opportunities for manufacturing, service provision and job creation, but their main contribution to economic development is to enhance communication and information flow that improve productivity and efficiency.

An immediate policy goal is to ensure that the national ICT structures adequately support the needs of the economy, allowing for parties beyond the public sector to participate.

By 2030, ICT will underpin the development of a dynamic and commented information society and a vibrant knowledge economy that is more inclusive and prosperous. Seamless information infrastructure will be universally available and accessible and will meet the needs of citizens, business and the public sector, providing access to the creation and consumption of a wide range of converged services required for effective economic and social participation – at a cost and quality at least equal to South Africa’s main peers and competitors.

Growth in South Africa’s ICT sector has not brought affordable universal access to the full range of communication services. The price of services and equipment remains a significant barrier to expanding mobile-phone and fixed-line use with limited network competition further increasing costs.

The main constraints have been:

  • Poor returns from the state’s investment in Telkom
  • Little evidence of an effective strategy to ensure that connectivity in South Africa keeps in line with its peers
  • Policy constraints, weaknesses in institutional arrangements, conflicting policies, regulatory failure and limited competition
  • The ability of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa to enable a more open market

A single comprehensive strategy is needed to ensure the diffusion of ICTs in all areas of society and the economy.

Policies and Priorities

To achieve its ICT goals, South Africa must have a coordinated, enabling ICT strategy and plan whose key aspects are:

  • A national e-strategy that cuts across government departments and sectors
  • Stimulating sector growth and innovation by driving public and private ICT investment, especially in network upgrades and expansion and development of applications and local content
  • Reviewing market structure and analysing the benefits and costs of duplication versus sharing of infrastructure, given that the radio spectrum on which mobile networks depend is limited
  • Establishing a common carrier network, possibly by structurally separating Telkom’s backbone operations and its retail
  • Applying open-access policies to encourage sharing of certain elements of the backbone fibre network, without discouraging private long-term investment
  • Targeting public investment, possibly through public-private partnerships
  • Developing the specialised institutional capacity to ensure that the policy keeps up with the evolution of the sector and that regulation is effective
  • Effectively engaging various institutions, including global ICT governance agencies on issues of regional integration and harmonisation

There is a clear and urgent need for a full policy review, which has not been done in the ICT sector since 1995. In the next 5 years, South Africa needs to develop a more comprehensive and integrated e-strategy that reflects the cross-cutting nature of ICT.