South Africa could be the first-ever country to provide a no-strings-attached universal basic income

Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town, South Africa.UCG
  • Universal basic income has wide support in South Africa.

  • South Africa's largest political party recently pledged to make it a reality.

  • The country is ranked as one of the worst countries in terms of income inequality.

South Africa has some of the worst income inequality in the world. Its unemployment rate, meanwhile, is over 30%.

But some South African politicians think they have a solution: universal basic income.

The idea has broad support, and the country's largest political party, the African National Congress, recently said it's committed to implementing a universal basic income within two years.

Once restricted to ideological dreamers' imaginations, universal basic income — regular cash payments to a population with no strings attached — has grown in legitimacy lately, especially after the success of COVID-era stimulus checks. Tech visionaries racing to develop ever-more advanced artificial intelligence have also recommended implementing a universal basic income. They say it could help mitigate the effects of job losses from AI.

Several countries have experimented with versions of universal basic income. Kenya, for instance, offers unconditional payments to about 20,000 people across 200 towns.

In the US, some cities and states are experimenting with guaranteed basic incomes that offer no-strings-attached payments to select groups of people in need. Though studies have found that these programs have been successful, they've faced significant political opposition.

But in South Africa, most political parties support universal basic income. They just need to work out the details.

"The ANC is committed to finalising a comprehensive policy on the basic income support grant within two years of the new ANC administration, ensuring broad consultation and expedited action," the ANC said in a statement.

That statement came a week before the hotly contested general elections on May 29, which saw the ANC lose its majority in Parliament. The ANC is now working to form a unity government, and its commitment to implementing a universal basic income will almost certainly come up in negotiations.

The party said a study by the University of Johannesburg found that a majority of South African citizens "fully support the introduction of a basic income support grant."

While South Africa provides payments to certain groups living below the poverty line through its Social Relief of Distress grant program, the ANC plan would open eligibility to all South African adults, The Guardian reported.

The ANC said it's "exploring" options like new tax measures and a new social-security tax to fund the program. The party also says it wants the program to complement, not replace, existing social-security programs.

If it's approved, the ANC plan would make South Africa the first country in the world to provide a universal basic income.

Read the original article on Business Insider