South Africa is a country of contrasts and its economy is no different – an economic powerhouse and the continent’s only member of the G20 on the one hand and a country desperately in need of infrastructure on the other.
Since the end of apartheid 15 years ago a dynamic black middle class has sprung up allowing some the opportunity to escape the townships and move into new government built houses. However, for many the chance of moving up the social ladder still remains only a dream. Seeing steady growth for the last 10 years, the economy has only recently been knocked off course by the global financial turmoil. Resource rich, it is one of the world’s leading producers of platinum, gold and diamonds. Despite that natural wealth, more than 40 percent of the population lives in poverty. Many continue to dwell in slums with unemployment also at around 40 percent. A figure due in part to almost a fifth of the adult population suffering from HIV/AIDS. In terms of numbers, South Africa remains the country most affected in the world. The AIDS virus continues to hit all sectors of the economy, particularly labour, productivity, government expenditure and foreign investment. The economy has also suffered from the emmigration of a large number of skilled white workers – an exodus partly prompted by a government policy to promote black representation in the workforce. In agriculture, 80 percent of cultivable land still remains in white hands, the government plans to redistribute 30 percent by 2014. Similarly in business, the goal is to get 40 percent of management positions filled by black staff. It is a policy of positive discrimination aimed at redressing past injustices. Nevertheless, almost two decades after the fall of apartheid, South Africa is still struggling to bring about social balance.