I have been asked to address you on economic and political prospects for South Africa and Africa – a topic in which I, of course, have a very special interest.
The first point that I would like to make is that in our globalised world the futures of South Africa and Africa are inextricably dependent on, and interlinked with, developments in the global economy and in global geopolitics.
As commodity producers we are extremely sensitive to fluctuations in the world economy – fluctuations over which we have no control. We did not cause the 2008 economic crisis – but like the rest of the world – we were directly impacted by its consequences. We have no influence on developments in China – but the current stock market crisis and reduction of economic growth to a mere 6% have far-reaching implications for our mineral exports – and for the prices that our commodities will achieve in global markets.
Africa will also be directly affected by global geopolitical developments. As the world moves away from the unipolar dominance of the United States, Africa will once again become an area of contestation between rival powers. On the one hand, the influence of the United States – and of the old European colonial powers – is perceived to be waning – and on the other hand there is the rising influence of China.
Having given due recognition to the international environment, the fact remains that the future prospects of Africa and South Africa will primarily be determined by their own actions – by their ability to adopt the economic and governance approaches that they will need if they want to catch up with the rest of the developing world – and ultimately with the First World.
The formula for societal success is not a mystery. It is there for all to see in the economic and governance approaches that numerous successful states have adopted since the Second World War. They include:
- The maintenance of peace and security internationally and within one’s own society;
- The protection of the lives, persons and property of citizens;
- The maintenance of an effective legal system supported by independent courts to protect the basic human, economic and social rights of citizens;
- The creation of an environment that is conducive to free markets and to free economic activity;
- Governance that is characterised by integrity, frugality and service to the people – and that tolerates neither public nor private corruption;
- The development of the physical infrastructure that is necessary for sustained economic development; and
- The development of human resources through the cost-effective provision of education, health and social services.
The question is how have Africa and South Africa been doing when measured against these requirements?