The Triple Threat, as it is referred to in South African policy circles, remains a key policy priority for the government; namely, inequality, poverty and unemployment. The latter – unemployment – was 27.2% in the second quarter of 2018 and at such high rates, it is a critical development issue in contemporary South Africa.
The good governance of public financial resources is often more challenging during good times than during bad times. In the event of an unexpected negative shock – say a drought or a sudden decline in demand for the commodities produced in the country – it is generally rewarding, from a political perspective, for the government to launch ‘stimulus packages’ to keep the economic engine running.
The 4th Industrial Revolution is here: driverless cars, 3-D printing, and Artificial Intelligence are the future. These innovations deliver the promise of better and more convenient lives to many. But they also disrupt the way in which we used to do things, including the way we work.
Some people think innovation is only about gadgets, high-tech industries, and laboratories. But this is only the tip of the iceberg! The truth is that there are many types of innovation that can have a transformational impact on everyday people’s lives.
The recent decline in global commodity prices is proving to be very costly for South Africa. The deterioration of South Africa’s terms of trade since 2012 cost at least four percentage points of gross domestic product (GDP) growth. This estimate does not account for some important indirect effects generated by the commodity price shock, including the heightened volatility of the rand and its impact on investment decisions. Instead of global monetary policy developments, commodity price volatility is now understood as being the main driver of exchange rate and capital account volatility in South Africa, and in emerging markets more generally. And 91% of European investors surveyed in the second half of 2014 identified the volatility of the rand as a major constraint to doing business in South Africa.
The year 2016 was difficult for many countries. We estimate that global economic growth slowed from 2.7% in 2015 to 2.3% in 2016. High-income economies struggled with subdued growth and low inflation amidst increased uncertainty about policy direction in light of rising populism. Among emerging markets and developing economies, commodity exporters were most affected by the end of the commodity price boom, growing by only 0.3%—much in line with our estimate of 0.4% growth for South Africa, the lowest growth rate since the 2009 recession after the global financial crisis. By contrast, commodity importers carried the torch of global growth in 2016, expanding by 5.6%.
There has been an increase in attention on Africa’s changing population. Academics, development organizations and the media (among others, BBC, The Guardian, Financial Times, The Economist) have highlighted Africa’s late demographic transition – the population is young and will remain so for a long time, as fertility rates are not falling there at the same rate as they have fallen in the rest of the world.
Concerns about South Africa’s economy have been rising, after years of slowing growth following the post-financial crisis peak of 3.2% in 2011. South Africans lament the plunge of the Rand—a 30% depreciation against the U.S. dollar over the year 2015. They fear the potential of South Africa losing its high-prized investment grade credit rating. Many, especially the youth, live with high and largely chronic unemployment, currently at 25.5%, or 36% when including those who have given up looking for a job. Not surprisingly unemployment is the top concern for 72% of South Africans according to the 2015 Afrobarometer. Growth and job creation are crucial for sustaining the impressive economic and social progress the country has achieved since the end of apartheid—and to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030, as envisioned by the National Development Plan (NDP).
Much of the media coverage of children during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic has been focused on orphans. Repeatedly, we have read heartbreaking stories of children who have lost parents to the disease and even been rejected by their communities. These children deserve our attention: We know that losing a parent has both short-term and long-term impacts. Evidence from Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and across Africa demonstrates significant reductions in educational outcomes for orphans in the short run. Evidence from Tanzania shows that adverse education and health effects persist into adulthood.
This peculiarity cannot be explained only by the fact that the region is poor. The company has found a market in about 30 countries with GDP per capita of less than US$ 3,000 (in constant 2005 US$) at the time of their first McDonald’s opening. Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, and Big Macs are also on offer in a dozen of low-income countries as well. When the first McDonald’s opened in Shenzhen in 1990, China’s GDP per capita was less than US$ 500 per person. Of course, Shenzhen’s per capita income was several times higher, but the company has also found a market in Moldova since 1998 when the GDP per capita of the 3 million person country was less than US$ 600 per capita. There are many cities in SSA today that have higher income, population concentration, and tourists than what Chisinau had in 1998; yet they do not have a McDonald’s. As a matter of fact, 22 SSA countries today have higher income per capita than what Moldova or Pakistan had when the first McDonald’s opened there, and 15 of them have higher income per capita even than what Indonesia or Egypt had at their McDonald’s openings (see chart).