If South Africa is nothing like the rest of Africa, what claim does it have to be its gateway, let alone its leader? Does South Africa even understand Africa?
By Eliot Pence
South Africa has spent over a decade defining itself as different from the rest of Africa. Now, as its foreign policy pivots back to Africa and seeks to cash in on the continent’s growth, the country has sought to define itself as the leader of, and commercial gateway to, the continent. But the differences between South Africa and the rest of Africa are stark. If South Africa is nothing like the rest of Africa, what claim does it have to be its gateway, let alone its leader? Does South Africa even understand Africa?
There are a number of reasons why South Africa should be a leader in Africa. It’s the continent’s largest economy and home to its most sophisticated financial system. It has a constitution that is inclusive and progressive. But increasingly South Africa is misunderstanding the opportunities and challenges of the continent, even as it professes an interest in them.
As inbound investors steer away from Johannesburg, and the rest of the continent focuses its attention on capturing growth opportunities, South Africa’s lawmakers concentrate more and more on fundamentally different concerns: resuscitating anaemic growth, unlocking paralyzed labour markets, and balancing its obligations to country-club affiliations like BRICS and IBSA.
South Africa’s central claim as a ‘gateway’ to Africa rests on the assumption that it offers investors a secure and sophisticated landing pad filled with local partners able to take foreign investors into a rapidly expanding continental market …continue reading