South Africa: A Regional Mindset Stunts South Africa’s Growth

With South Africa at a pivotal rebuilding phase after years of economic mismanagement, it must come up with a new way of viewing itself in relation to the global economy.

From time to time, it’s easy to put oneself in a “feel-good” moment, by comparing our self with lower-performing countries, mainly on the basis that we are in the same region.

For example, the 120-page report released by the government ahead of its investment conference that kicked off on Monday 4 November boasted that South Africa is the continent’s second most competitive economy behind Mauritius. It’s true. But this isn’t necessarily a milestone. Of the 141 countries ranked in the 2019 World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index, only seven African countries are represented in the first 110 spots. Of the 30 lowest performers, 26 are African.

The tendency to “feel good” by running a regional comparison spills over into the private sector. For example, this year’s Global Food Security Index gave South Africa a comfortable lead on being the most food-secure country in Africa, and agriculturalists celebrated this ranking. However, this can give us a false sense of security. Other middle-income countries such as Malaysia, Brazil, and Chile came…

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