Look, I’ll be the first to admit that South Africa has many problems. Our economy buckled due to the protracted platinum strike last year, violence and rape remains disturbingly high, poverty and inequality is on the rise and our politics are, well, underwhelming to say the least. One of the consequences is that we have fallen into the grip of a deep and debilitating depression. We tell ourselves that our country is not so great. However I’d like you to consider this …
Imagine you’re a fund manager in New York in search for investment opportunities around the globe.
Looking at the world, what do you see?
First stop is Europe, which isn’t looking too pretty. The mighty German engine looks to have run out of fuel. Ukraine and Greece debt negotiations remain unsolved (spoiler: news of the eurozone is unrelentingly bleak). The economy has been traversing rough waters. Italy is slipping back into recession while reform continues to stall. Right-wing fundamentalism is on the rise. The last European elections saw neo-Nazism rear its ugly head. Shall we move on?
Iraq? Where vast oil reserves and religious fundamentalism are fuelling conflict and prejudice? No thanks.
What about Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria? Well, they are having to fend off a massive assault from religious fundamentalist group Boko Haram. East Africa is similarly unstable. Jihadists al-Shabab blew up the Westgate mall in 2013 and have been hitting at other Kenyan targets.
The search continues…
Now, where do these fund managers put their clients’ billions? Where do they find stability, growth and prosperity? There are only a handful of places in the world today that are not facing huge challenges. The world is not a happy place. The prospects for countries like Iraq and Central African Republic are pretty bleak. Even with the greatest goodwill, it is clear that these countries’ political, social and economic problems are not about to go away. Take the Republic of Macedonia for instance — where media freedom is seriously undermined. Besides having to deal with way more than cellphone signals being scrambled in parliament — journalists, poets, writers and activists are regularly thrown in jail or forced into exile.
Time for SA to count its blessings?
We’ve built such an incredible country over the past two decades. Even with all the problems we face, the past 21 years have given us something unique: the peace and democracy that has taken hold in our country. Given where we came from, this is nothing short of a miracle. It’s something we should build on, turning it into an economic dividend that lifts our people out of poverty and unemployment. To achieve this, we have to refocus and commit ourselves to an overarching and ambitious programme, such as the government’s National Development Plan. We have to move beyond bluster and implement it with vigour.
So the question arises again. You’re sitting in New York with your investment fund. In front of you is South Africa, with a clear commitment to the National Development Plan. Wouldn’t you choose a country like this?