Having moved from South Africa to Europe five weeks ago, I have been fed gallons of humble pie. I’ve woken from my dreamy sleep to painful reality: the world knows very little about South Africa and, cares even less.
Looking back, my secret belief that we are the supreme rulers of the Newly Independent World has been thwarted. My country’s global politics influence have proved more perceived than real. This will be pleasing to many North Africans who often decry South African arrogance! I asked a few colleagues about Jacob Zuma, about Marikana… they just starred at me in awe. I was surprised to learn that the name Julius Malema does not resound with Europeans (or anyone really).
Most troubling has been learning how Africans feel about South Africa. South Africa has become infamous for arrogance. Haters! Even Egyptians declare that, “you South Africans are bloody arrogant.” The audacity!
Ignoring all this ‘Haterade’ – the question is, do we –as South Africans-- have any reason to be arrogant?
Many people look at South Africa and see Africa’s crown jewel (except maybe the damn Australians). 18 years into democracy, Africa’s biggest economy has not crumbled into pieces. There has not been an outbreak of civil war, or bombs randomly exploding in the streets. South Africans are slowly (and reluctantly) walking the Long Walk to Unity. We have removed many of the draconian Apartheid laws and OUR people, purple or green, are slowly finding their place in society.
South Africa enjoys relative international ‘strategic’ influence. The JSE is growing each year. Many South African entities, and person, are appearing in attractive Forbes’ lists. We were officially invited to join the world’s ‘fastest growing economies’ (BRICS). We have successfully hosted many international events, including, the 2010 FIFA World Cup and COP17.
But we must also admit that other African countries are not setting the bar very high. An able-bodied person need not be a Usain Bolt to win the Paralympics.
So the answer is no. South Africans have no reason to be arrogant (if we ignore the moral intricacies involved).
In fact, many would argue that South Africa’s position is a result of a combination of opportunity and luck. If anything, our incompetent government, which is driven by nothing other than personal interest (and gobbling to their bottomless pockets) is causing South Africa to loose to out on opportunities to develop the country and improve the lives of our people.
I am an optimist. Doom and gloom is not all I see. But I will make the following point: South Africa has the potential for greatness. Our leaders would see this if they take their hands of the cookie jar, even if just for a second!
South Africa’s economy makes it strategically significant. We have achieved sufficient infrastructural development to attract investment. Our government should be focusing on developing skills and educating the population.
Unfortunately, we have seen some regression. The ANC has become intellectually bankrupt. The nationalization debate is nothing new. In fact, it was explored an exhausted before and during the negotiations.
The government is failing to develop macro and micro economic policies that stimulate international investment (thus growth). Rather than debating a policy that has proven history of destructiveness, we should be exploring measures that open (liberalise) our economy (and asking for quid pro quos).
South Africa has been very reliant on natural resources. But our natural resources are slowly reaching peak-point. Our gold mines are almost depleted. Marikana has shown us the impact of out lack of diversification. If the mining sector goes bust, our economy will follow.
On the other hand, other African countries are ripe for investment. We should not let countries like China beat us into it. There are growing opportunities all over Africa [e.g. the telecommunications, petroleum (oil), etc.]. If we fail to protect investments domestically, if we have the audacity to nationalize, we should know that our companies would suffer the same elsewhere [lack of investment protection]. Also, anyone who has bothered to browse SA’s Investment Law knows that SA will be sued bankrupt under the various Bi-lateral Investment Treaties signed between 1994-2004…
Our government has lost the ball in the weeds. Priority number 1 should be education. Not security of the President’s compound. Capacity building should be the ultimate goal. BEE won’t make us all rich! Passing the buck will not resolve the educational problems in Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Western Province and KZN. To deprive a child of education is a capital crime, worse than apartheid!
Moreover, growing the South African economy will bring good fortunes to Africa. Yes! Other countries will benefit from the channeling of capital through South African to the smaller economies in SACU, COMESA, ECOWAS, EAC and and and…
If the government at least reads, I hope it takes heed!
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