Cyril Ramaphosa’s jobs summit starts today, so I figured I’d put in my two cents on what we need to do as a country.
My view is that we should not build our economy towards agriculture.
Historically South Africa has always suffered a bit of a lack of arable land, not only that but we don’t have a lot of permanent rivers, and we are very prone to droughts.
Climate change models predict that this is only going to get worse.
Not only that but we have a rapidly urbanising population – if our people wanted to be farm workers, they wouldn’t be moving to our cities.
Instead I think we should build towards manufacturing, information technology and finance, with strong investment in the sciences.
Our country has a lot of mineral wealth, a deeply undervalued currency, a very young population and decent infrastructure.
Not only that but our banks showed incredible resilience during the 2008 financial crisis – we’ve got sound financial institutions. Even regarding the knowledge economy, in 2017 Times LIVE reported that videogame development in South Africa went from R29.7-million in 2014 to R100-million in 2016.
We could expand this further, by reducing the cost of data further, and perhaps even sponsoring growth in a home-grown computer manufacturing industry in order to reduce the set-up costs for developers.
Economically we’re not focusing on our strengths, so growth is suffering.
We should expand funding to the sciences, build new science labs and increase the number of research institutions.
At the same time we should use mechanisms like the SABC in partnership with our universities to create documentaries and educational programming focusing on highlighting the work of our researchers.
This will allow our inventors to know about the research going on, and thus apply it to producing new patents, creating new products and new industries which we can then export.
Our banking sector showed its strength during the financial crisis of 2008, our banks are very sturdy. There is value in that, we should consider how we can expand on that going forward, so that perhaps we can be Africa’s bankers.
Obviously we need to address inequality and suchlike, this isn’t an exhaustive analysis, but this I think is more the direction we need to go. We need to invest significantly less on the past and resentment over it, and more on the future.