We need to turn the national dialogue away from owning "land" to owning "property". The former is a rural conception: owning soil and the notions attached to that. The latter is a modern, urban idea that leads to real economic gains. With two-thirds of the population living in urban areas, what South Africa needs is urban reform.
South Africa faces two substantial problems: high unemployment and inadequate housing. These problems are intimately related. The World Bank and UN have both researched the effects of urbanisation and the conclusion is clear: cities combat poverty. China's economic miracle, lifting millions from poverty in the last 20 years, was powered by transforming an agrarian nation into a modern, urban society.
Urbanisation alone, however, will not eradicate poverty. In 1960, only 16% of China's population lived in cities. Today that figure is 57%. Comparatively, South Africa had 47% of its population urbanised while today that stands at 65%. China's rapid urbanisation was built, in part, on high density state-owned housing schemes. This ensured that people moving to cities had access to adequate housing: the first step to building a middle class.
South Africa, conversely, has failed to provide adequate housing for those moving from...