FRIENDS: Fellow government economic planners Trevor Manuel and Ebrahim Patel at Cosatu’s congress. Picture: TYRONE ARTHUR

STRONG leadership and more citizen activism are crucial if SA is to deepen democracy and fight poverty, National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel said yesterday.

He was addressing delegates of union federation Cosatu at an elective meeting in Midrand this week.

Mr Manuel said that 40% of South Africans lived below the poverty line, set by the National Planning Commission at R432 per person per month. "Nobody should live below that," he said.

Mr Manuel said improving the quality of education at school level was necessary for the country to create a better-skilled workforce, and to increase the earning potential of those who enter the working world. Citizens and civil society, including union leaders, had the power to influence developments in SA.

"This is a simple message, let’s stop outsourcing our responsibility. We can’t keep outsourcing it to those in Parliament," Mr Manuel told the 3,000 delegates.

Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel told the congress that industrial and green economic policy initiatives were on track to create new jobs.

"The government had identified opportunities in industries that would kick off a ‘green industrialisation wave’."

Mr Patel said the state had committed itself to ensuring that 40% of new energy over the next 20 years came from renewable sources. "This is a huge target. The 17,000MW of green energy is about four times the total installed electricity generation capacity in Nigeria," he said.

Every day the government installed about 500 new solar water heaters, with 290,000 units having being installed so far, he said.

"These are opportunities for local manufacturing and we have now introduced measures to make components for wind and solar energy plants, locally," said Mr Patel.

The state relied on the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), which has put aside R25bn to support green-economy industrial projects and investment in new factories to produce solar-water heaters.

New fuel-blending regulations have been introduced so that some of the petrol available in SA came from sugar-beet and sugar-cane grown locally.

The IDC would also increase its developmental projects funding over the next five years to R102bn.

"In the past year, the IDC increased funding in project approvals by 55%. That, in itself, will sustain or create about 46,000 jobs. The IDC is driving the development of renewable energy and agroprocessing, for which it set aside dedicated resourcing and expertise," he said.