News / Africa

Study: South Africa Economy Grew Steadily Over 2 Decades

President Nelson Mandela dances at a celebration concert following his inauguration at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, May 10, 1994.
President Nelson Mandela dances at a celebration concert following his inauguration at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, May 10, 1994.
South Africa's economic growth since the fall of apartheid has been significant, according to a new report from investment banking firm Goldman Sachs.

The company combined several barometers to look at what has happened in South Africa's economy since 1994.

"South Africa in the last year has tended to have a motional, somewhat negative reaction both domestically and internationally," said Colin Coleman, managing director of Goldman Sachs in Sub-Saharan Africa. "And my view is that we needed to kind of get some perspective on the past 20 years as to what's been achieved in order to get a better balance in the debate."

Among the advances made in the economy since 1994, the gross domestic product (GDP) jumped from $136 billion to $400 billion and the number of households with electricity went from nearly 60 percent to 85 percent.

"When you look back at what Nelson Mandela inherited in May when he became president, it was really bitter pill, because you had an indebted nation that had no money," Coleman said. "There was growing below-population growth with huge unemployment, huge racial disparities, a very volatile political social environment. Effectively, that gave way to a golden period of growth, low inflation, bringing the debt down and an extraordinary performance until the global financial crisis."

Among other changes: tax receipts increased from $114 billion to $814 billion and the Johannesburg stock market cap went from $3 billion to $50 billion.

In a country where local economic forecasts are not always positive, business leaders and economists said it is refreshing to see a long-term look at improvements made.

"There's often a lot of doom and gloom talk about South Africa, but what the report did point out is some fairly of significant achievements over the last 20 years," said Joanne Yawitch, chief executive of the National Business Initiative, an organization made up of corporations and businesses that work on nationwide initiatives. "In particular, there has been an increase in productivity, an increase in employment, there has been a huge increase in the number of people in the middle class. Quite a substantial improvement in the quality of life of a great number of people, as well as some significant problems."

However, the report is not all positive. It points to the struggling education system, a consistent unemployment rate that has hovered around 24 percent, and 70 percent of the unemployed being under age 34. There are also stark racial inequalities in terms of income, with 85 percent of blacks poor, while 87 percent of whites are middle to upper class.

There have been criticisms of the report. Firstly, that the report relies too heavily on general data, rather than cultural or empirical evidence.

"I don't think that there is an adequate enough analysis or understanding of the real drivers of poverty in South Africa," said Tracy Ledger, a PhD research fellow at the Public Affairs Research Institute at Wits University in Johannesburg. 

She notes that increased wages are a result of the higher cost of living that demands the wage hikes.

Yawitch agrees, to an extent, with the criticism, noting there were some difficult-to-quantify issues that were not included, such as corruption and violence, which are key to damaging the economy. Overall, though, she said it is refreshing to get a long view.

"I think the reality certainly for me - I mean I grew up under apartheid and have spent 20 years in this democracy - is that life in South Africa is a lot better for most people than it ever was," Yawitch said. "But there are very, very big things that still have to happen. And I think that's what the report draws our attention to, is that it's a long journey and that we've made progress and must carry on."

In reaction to the report, South Africa's finance minister said the country needs to focus on providing better opportunities in education and helping young South Africans find work.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Chico889 from: South Africa
November 08, 2013 12:53 PM
Coleman seems remarkably naive. While there have undoubtedly been some positive achievements in SA since 1996, the progress has been deeply disappointing. The alleged jump in GDP is practically nullified by inflation. (If inflation is averaged at 6% over the last 20 years, there has been a decline in GDP.) Coleman ignores the devastation of AIDS, understates the extent of the educational crisis, ignores the rampant crime and the endemic corruption, the tolerance of African dictators (Zuma sided with Gaddafi, not to mention the support of Mugabe!)

Most of the problems derive from so-called Black economic empowerment. It has sidelined merit and promoted cronyism and incompetence throughout the civil service and economy. Even the much-vaunted improvement in power supply was poorly managed because of crony appointments into ESKOM, the national power supply industry. The consequences have been an undersupply of power in the country and a belated crisis management program to keep up with power supply demands.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs