Whilst much of South Africa’s political pundits focused on the fall-out of the Nkandlagate corruption allegations engulfing President Zuma, thousands of miles away, in Nigeria, a momentous announcement was made.
Nigeria with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$ 509 billion has surpassed that of South Africa’s with an almost puny-looking GDP (given its potential) of US$ 380 billion, making it Africa’s largest economy. This is set to widen with the Nigerian behemoth growing at 7 percent per annum compared to South Africa’s growth of less than 3 percent.
Indeed over much of Africa, the story is the same. The African continent is on the move like never before. Two years ago during a visit to Kenya, I was amazed at the number of tech-start-ups. Amazingly, all this is being done by the private sector with African states having learned the recent failed lessons of attempting socialist experiments.
Unfortunately, South Africa is heading in the wrong direction displaying scant respect for entrepreneurship and employment creation. Rather, we have become a nation of tenderpreneurs and a people content to live with our hands stretched out. Indeed 16 million South Africans out of a population of 50 million receive social grants from a state with a dwindling tax base. This, despite the fact, that one of the lessons of the current Eurozone crisis is that the days of the welfare state are well and truly numbered.
As European states seek to balance their precarious budgets by engaging in austerity measures, the welfare state with its corresponding entitlements is gradually being dismantled. To be frank, the maths never quite added up between those putting in and those taking out.
Similarly in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) government has successfully created an entitlement culture where hard work is not prized. Rather, there seemed to be an unwritten social contract between the ruling party and the poor. In exchange for not providing citizens with a conducive business environment in which businesses and employment opportunities flourish, the ANC will provide a few hundred rand a month with which one is to eke a miserable existence.
The flip side of the coin is that these poor social grant recipients will vote in droves for a corrupt political party and its bloated and incompetent civil service. Sickeningly, it is the poor who are the primary victims of this corruption.
It is in this context that the absence of a political party to the right of the ANC is all the more pressing. For a time, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) appeared to be playing that role. Unfortunately in the interests of attempting to enlarge its vote it has gradually moved to the left – so much so that its own economic programme and that of the ANC is indistinguishable, rhetoric notwithstanding. Note here, the DA’s flip-flops on Black Economic Empowerment and affirmative action. As for the ANC, given the electoral challenge posed by the Economic Freedom Fighters, it is increasingly moving to the left.
None of this bodes well for the future of the South African economy. We need a robust, unashamedly pro-business political party, which will seek to create real jobs as opposed to handing out social grants. In this way, South Africans will have their dignity restored. In the process South Africa can once more regain its economic stature.This article was first published on News24 Voices.