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  REPORT - SOUTH AFRICA
 

DESPITE GLOBAL ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY, AFRICA'S LARGEST ECONOMY IS HEADING INTO AN EXCITING YEAR. WITH THE ELECTIONS ON APRIL 22 AND THE FIFA 2010 WORLD CUP FAST APPROACHING, THE RAINBOW NATION IS TAKING CENTER STAGE
The best has yet to come

Kgalema Motlanthe, President of South Africa
Kgalema Motlanthe
President of South Africa

South africa has come a long way in just over 15 years. Emerging from social repression and economic hardship to become Africa’s largest economy, and biggest hope, the country and its people have shown that far beneath apartheid lay a vibrant and diverse society, patiently waiting for its opportunity to rise up and beat the odds.

“Even though hatred and racism were systematic in South Africa, we have managed to deal with a very painful past. In this sense, we are a role model in the world and rightfully referred to as the Rainbow Nation,” comments Brigitte Mabandla, Minister of Public Enterprises. “We are building a strong democratic society that coheres around the common good. Though many challenges remain, we have achieved a lot.”

Chosen to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the first African nation ever to have this honor, South Africa is again setting precedents. The prestige of hosting the World Cup speaks volumes to the social progress achieved over the last 15 years, and underpins South Africa’s advances in economic, legal and political practices.

For nearly a decade after the end of apartheid, the country enjoyed robust economic growth, culminating in a GDP high of 7% in 2004, which rested on strong government efforts to promote foreign investment. Now facing more turbulent times (a four-year 5% GDP growth streak finally came to an end in late 2008 as the economy slowed for the first time in over a decade), South Africa’s heavy infrastructure spending—mainly for roads, rail links and stadiums for the World Cup—could not have come at a better time. High unemployment, which the Economist has reported at 23%, for example, will benefit from the addition of 63,000 jobs from World Cup infrastructure projects, such as the Gautrain rail network.

Sicelo Shiceka
Jeffrey Radebe
Sicelo Shiceka
Minister of Provincial and Local Government
Jeffrey Radebe
Minister of Transportation

Along with preserving jobs, infrastructure spending will help South Africa sustain consistent economic growth, according to Minister of Transport, Jeffrey Thamsanqa Radebe. “Since 2004, we have worked to ensure that our entire transport infrastructure and networks would match our targeted economic growth and investment, and we are progressing well,” Mr. Radebe reports.

While most view the slowdown as inevitable, many are optimistic about the vitality of South African institutions. “We have set aside over 700 billion rands ($77 billion) for the next three years to repair the damage done by the crisis, and we believe that if we focus our efforts on infrastructure development, we will be able to create even more jobs,” Sicelo Shiceka, Minister of Provincial and Local Government says. “We are also very confident in our financial sector and believe that it will withstand the pressure from the recession. This is in part due to strong regulations, a sound banking system and efficient financial systems.”

Finally, improving public-private partnerships and collaborations will also provide more opportunities for South Africans in the coming months. “The private sector bears an enormous responsibility when it comes to creating competitive economic sectors,” says Jayaseelan Naidoo, chairman of the Development Bank of Southern Africa. “Only by opening up the economy will more jobs be created, and this includes supporting our small and medium-sized enterprises as well.”