Two decades ago South Africa was shunned by the west, its apartheid system a symbol of the iniquities of colonialism. Now the country aspires to be the economic example to be followed. A deal in 2000 saw tariffs on most EU trade lifted, but some of South Africa’s farmers see that as a raw deal. “Tariffing would help a lot to protect ourselves, against lower prices coming from the world market”.
In the urban bustle of the capital Pretoria, however, the consensus is that an up-and-coming economy such as South Africa’s should be making deals with richer countries. Analyst Tom Wheeler shares this view. “There should be a partnership between Africa and the developed world and the industrialised world, and that industrialised world can assist Africa out of the grinding poverty that exists in many countries”.
But some poorer African countries and aid agencies do not subscribe to the logic that playing in a higher league will benefit everyone. One NGO member explains that farmers and businesses are calling on leaders not to sign rushed Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union.
For South Africa the crunch test of its economic strength comes in three years when it becomes the first African country to host the most commercial event of them all, the football World Cup.