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  REPORT - SOUTH AFRICA Part I The road to transformation
 

ONLY TWELVE YEARS SINCE THE END OF APARTHEID AND THE BIRTH OF DEMOCRACY IN SOUTH AFRICA, THE INDOMITABLE SPIRIT AND WILL TO SUCCEED OF ITS PEOPLE HAS REIGNITED WORLDWIDE INTEREST IN THE COUNTRY FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS.
Building a winning nation

THABO MBEKI
THABO MBEKI
President of the Republic of South Africa

South Africa today is one of the most sophisticated and promising emerging markets globally. The unique combination of a highly developed first-world economic infrastructure and a huge emergent market economy has given rise to a strong entrepreneurial and dynamic investment environment. In the twelve years since the historic elections that brought the African National Council (ANC) party led by Nelson Mandela to power, South Africa has experienced a social and economic renaissance. The government’s drive for a more equitable distribution of wealth has resulted in several potent programs aimed at redressing the apartheid imbalance, such as broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGISA), and the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA).

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Aziz Pahad comments, “We inherited two basic things. One of them was the most sophisticated economy in Africa. The other was the underdevelopment of the vast majority. In twelve years, we have achieved the best economic growth in our history, that is 4 to 5 percent average annual growth.”

‘Our people are firmly convinced that our country has entered its Age of Hope’

The nation’s economic turnaround is seeing the growth and development of the second economy, while effecting change in terms of ownership and executive directorship in the first economy. These have been integral steps to the true liberation of the people of South Africa. BEE is driving the transformation of the country from within the South African economy itself. “Transformation is the very essence of South Africa’s being,” says Joel Netshitenzhe, CEO of the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS). “It’s about ensuring equality of life amongst all South Africans irrespective of race, color, creed or religion. BEE is good for stability and for a sense of ownership, which has ripple effects on consumer demand and manufacturing opportunities.”

Deputy Director General of the Department of Trade and Industry Lionel October says, “Priority number one was stability, and political stability is financial stability. Confidence has returned. Nobody believes the country is going to fall any more. Everybody knows it’s going to be a success story. Our aim is to be an industrialized country by 2020.”

Public sector services such as schools and hospitals have benefited from the economic and social reforms that have been introduced since the country adopted a democratic governance system.

Pioneering retail chain Pick ‘n Pay Chairman Raymond Ackerman attributes a great deal of the successful transformation to Nelson Mandela’s desire “to work on reconciliation instead of retribution”. Mr. Ackerman says, “Mr. Mandela, Mr. De Klerk, and a lot of wonderful people on both sides of the fence were prepared to build a country together. BEE should be embraced by all. It’s an acceptable principle of remedying the past. We now have a very free society and that’s how the economy has risen.”

The Universal Service Agency of South Africa is promoting wider access to ICT services through school cyberlabs and community telecenters. Advances have been made and further opportunities identified in the telecoms sector, which will be covered in more detail in the next of this series of four special reports on South Africa.

President Thabo Mbeki opened this year’s State of the Nation address in parliament with the inspiring news that people were highly optimistic about their future and the future of the country, ranking eighth in the world on the optimism index. Gallup International, which issued the report, said there are three times more optimists than pessimists, and that the optimism figure had doubled since 2002. These results have been confirmed by a recent domestic poll conducted by Markinor, which states that 65 percent of people believe that the country is going in the right direction, 84 percent see a positive future for all racial groups, and 71 percent believe that the government is performing well.

JOEL NETSHITENZHE
AZIZ PAHAD
JOEL NETSHITTNZHE
CEO of GCIS
AZIZ PAHAD
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

“What these figures signify is that our people are firmly convinced that our country has entered its Age of Hope. They are convinced that we have created the conditions to achieve more rapid progress towards the realization of their dreams. They are certain that we are indeed a winning nation,” says President Mbeki. “In the period ahead of us, we have to sustain the multi-faceted national effort that enabled us to realize the advances that have inspired so much confidence among our people for a better tomorrow. The 2010 Soccer World Cup will make an important contribution to our efforts to accelerate our progress. Similarly, as an African Soccer World Cup, it will give additional impetus to our struggle to achieve Africa's renaissance.”