South Africa has enjoyed considerable growth since the end of apartheid in 1994, but the benefits are distributed unequally. Many citizens still lack clean water, proper health care, and economic opportunity. Our support has focused on finding solutions for these challenges, along with ways to capitalize on the country’s strong research capacity.  Our work in South Africa began through a program designed to prepare the country’s future leaders to govern in a multi-racial democracy. Early research focused on health, urban issues, and economic and industrial policy. Further research helped deliver more effective diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. 

Building a strong competition regime

We helped fund the government’s efforts to establish a strong competition regime to guarantee a fair marketplace. To bolster competition authorities in the region, we supported the African Competition Forum’s creation in 2010. Our research funding also helped increase competition and reduce taxes on information and communication technologies, extending their reach. Another key area of support allowed the public greater access to telecentres.

Protecting against climate change

Raising livestock is the backbone of the country’s agriculture system, but infectious diseases take a heavy toll. Researchers from the University of Alberta and the Agricultural Research Council in South Africa are developing an innovative livestock vaccine to protect goats, sheep, and cattle against five important viral infections with a single dose. 

South Africa’s agriculture sector faces considerable impact from climate change, as do its urban residents. In the Cape Flats, a low-lying coastal zone outside Cape Town, researchers identified better ways to address flooding. As a result of their work, the municipality collaborates more closely with communities and civil society organizations for solutions to flood risk, and carries out educational campaigns. 

Total IDRC Support

339 research activities worth CA$90.2 million since 1989


Our support is helping

  • foster entrepreneurship and sustainable livelihoods, particularly among youth
  • restructure municipal water and sanitation services so they are more equitable
  • make information and communications technology available to people with minimal access 
  • promote open and competitive markets, allowing newcomers to participate
  • determine if cash transfers create a culture of dependency and are disincentives to labour market integration
  • address climate change flooding in Cape Town, which displaced 20,000 residents from waterlogged homes in 2009