Jacob Zuma, South Africa's newly elected president, sure has his work cut out for him.
Zuma came into power just before the country announced that its economy is experiencing it's worst recession in 17 years. The country is also faced with the challenges of high unemployment — nearly 22 percent — and about a quarter of the population lives in poverty.
But the leader of Africa's most influential country says he's determined to turn this situation around.
In his first state of the nation address Zuma ambitiously promised to create 500,000 jobs by the end of the year. Zuma also committed to a new era of fiscal discipline, saying that "In the face of the economic downturn, we will have to act prudently — no wastage, no rollovers of funds — every cent must be spent wisely and fruitfully."
In order to survive this recession, Zuma needs to follow through on his promises. The New York Times quotes Harvard economist Dani Rodrik on the importance of job creation for South Africa: "If you don’t get these people in the work force, you’ll lose them forever to lives of distress."
Poor and out-of-work South Africans are placing a lot of hope in Zuma's pledge to create jobs. Interviewed by the Times, Josephine Nontando Mahlangu, an unemployed mother, reacted to Zuma's speech with some optimism: "Maybe Zuma will change everything the way he’s promised."