Education is the key that unlocks social development and economic growth – both of which are desperately needed in SA.


Education is the key that unlocks social development and economic growth – both of which are desperately needed in SA. Education is not only a basic human right enshrined in our Constitution, but also an ambition laid out in one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which strives to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.

This is particularly crucial in SA’s deeply unequal society, where education can serve as a vehicle for social mobility leading youth out of poverty and towards a fulfilling, economically productive life. Yet – as the unacceptably high youth-unemployment rate indicates – far too many young South Africans are denied this opportunity in a school system that provides universal access to education but falls short when it comes to quality educational outcomes and skills.

Cruelly, COVID-19 has further entrenched this dilemma while highlighting another pressing education challenge – the need to improve financial literacy and education as a means for individuals to recover from the economic mayhem caused by the pandemic. South Africans from all walks of life were suddenly forced to face the importance of being financially literate and managing their personal finances, which includes difficult lifestyle choices, dealing with debt and making financial provisions for the future.

In times of uncertainty it’s even more important to be financially savvy enough to adapt to the rapidly changing and often unpredictable conditions.

Saving and investing is a learnt behaviour and, as such, SA needs to instil a savings and investment culture, at household and community levels, as well as at government level. The JSE is at the forefront of financial-literacy and investor education, driving economic inclusion and forging a culture of prosperity and growth. Our aim is to demystify the stock exchange and break economic barriers for the general population, for whom investing in shares has not been a part of life. Ultimately, our capital markets need to work for the benefit of all people, not just a privileged few.

The JSE has several long-standing financial-literacy initiatives, notably the Investment Challenge, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2023. This virtual game for high-school learners and students at higher-education institutions teaches the fundamentals of saving and investing in a fun and interactive way. The participants invest an imaginary R1 million over six months in actual JSE-listed shares. The winning teams receive prizes, but the real beauty of the game lies in the fact that most of the learners come from rural communities, where financial education is typically not easily accessible. They take away life-long lessons and financial know-how from the Investment Challenge that will stand them in good stead for their future.

The JSE’s other key financial-literacy initiative – #SheInvests – is an annual summit that empowers and educates women wanting to achieve financial freedom. During the pandemic, the event went virtual and proved highly relevant, as women were hardest hit by the COVID-related lockdowns and restrictions. They were more likely than men to be affected by pay cuts, job losses and, as schools closed for months, additional childcare duties. By putting women on the path to financial resilience through their investing in shares, #SheInvests is yet another example of how education can unlock personal development and economic growth in SA.

Vuyo Lee
Director: Marketing & Corporate Affairs