Across the modern global economy resource-rich countries are lagging behind their resources scarce counterparts. This doesn’t seem to make sense at first glance as countries surely should be able to benefit from their abundant resources and prosper economically.
I believe one of the fundamental reasons for this phenomenon can be explained by a simple analogy of a pie. Now imagine as an example three different households: The first household has no pie, signifying a country with no natural resources. The second household has a pie, but is not able to access all of the pie, representing a country with abundant natural resources but without the ability to develop an industry to extract them. The third household has a full pie and can access the whole pie, representing a country rich with resources and the ability to extract them.
As all households will need to eat the different households will react in different ways to ensure their own sustenance:
· The first household with no pie is most likely to come up with innovative and creative ways to get sustenance and ensure that they keep supplied in future times. A country under this first category will either push to become knowledge based economies providing innovation and skills, push for providing low cost production or push for delivering high quality services and products. These countries are the most likely to prosper in a competitive global economy.
· The second household with limited access to the pie will most likely start to fight each other over who is sustained by the limited pie available leading to conflict and instability. A country under this category will most likely be stuck in the spiral of poverty many African countries find themselves in, where opposing parties fight for control of resources while the masses continue to suffer.
· The third household will seem to prosper at first as everyone is sustained by the pie; however over time as the household grows and the pie starts to shrink tensions would start to rise as the realisation sets in that some parts of the household would soon be left out. This household has to make the choice to either take on a collective effort to find other sustenance by following the example of the first household or follow the example of the second one and descend into anarchy.
My reason for bringing this analogy is because I believe South Africa to be the third household. We have been able to live off our pie for a long time because we forcefully limited the amount of pie provided to a big part of our population. This had to come to an end because it was inhumane and unethical. Now we sit with the challenge of dividing a limited pie amongst a great big household. Some say that the government should take control of the pie and reallocate it, some say that those left out in the past should get more pie than those who got pie in the past and some say that every person should get as much pie as he can get for himself. I say forget the pie.
To ensure our prosperity as a country we need to break our dependence on existing resources and existing industries. From a young age we are trained to get educated and get a job. This is wrong. The jobs available in South Africa are dependent on the existing industries that in turn are greatly dependent on our natural resources. Therefore by going out and getting a job you are merely fighting for your slice of the pie. No additional value is created and the country as a whole therefore is not improved in its position. Now I realise this is a broad generalisation but in a great number of instance I believe this to be the truth.
I work every day with entrepreneurs, small business owners and visionaries. These individuals are a prime example of exactly what our country needs: people who are willing to think outside the box and generate more pie in our country. However these people are almost scorned by society, written off and weird and unorthodox, looked down on because they earn less money than those tapping into the pie and not appreciated for the immense effort they put into generating wealth and prosperity for themselves and their fellow South Africans with diluting the limited resources available. South Africa needs more of these entrepreneurs, but first South Africa needs to appreciate the ones we have that more will be willing to take up this onerous path.
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