Above: Frans Cronje speaks about the future of South Africa at the Cato Institute in Washington DC.
In this article we will look at two different sets of scenarios that show the future of South Africa up to 2030.
The Future of South Africa
Indlulamithi South Africa Scenarios
iSbhujwa – an enclave bourgeois nation
This scenario is based on a ‘nation of protests’ due to a deep sense of historical injustice and resentment at their exclusion.
South Africa’s future in this scenario:
- GDP growth averages 2.2% to 2030.
- Social grant recipients numbers substantially increase.
- Slow but relentless currency depreciation and increased sovereign debt risk.
- A decent increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) and higher levels of domestic capital formation.
- Further erosion of trust in key institutions, even as many improve their capacity and competence.
- Some improvements in schools and overall education levels.
- Faster land reform is implemented, but under-investment in agriculture causes long-term declines in food security and production.
- Implementation of market-lead interventions in education, health, state owned enterprises but with mixed results.
- Growing separation of poor and mostly black South Africans, and the wealthier middle class.
- A dramatic increase of social protest.
- Unemployment reduced to around 22%.
- South Africans feel less and less part of one nation, and don’t feel united by a common national vision.
Nayi le Walk – A nation in step with itself
Under this scenario researchers still expect many South Africans to grapple with the generational burdens of unemployment, lack of property rights and inequality.
South Africa’s future in this scenario:
- Increased promotion of civic values and conceptions of Ubuntu and other ethical behaviour.
- Early childhood development programmes are expanded and more resources devoted to early education.
- Colleges are overhauled to produce many more artisans and university education is made more affordable.
- Young people are increasingly entrepreneurial and pursue livelihoods independent of the government and big corporations.
- Various social compacts, civil society initiatives and new programmes connect people and social and political processes.
- More social housing and multi-income suburbs are developed and rapid urban transport systems are expanded.
- National health insurance is implemented in the face of steep opposition by those with some access to private medical care.
- The country recalibrates its multilateral alliances to achieve a better balance between BRICS and traditional Western allies for growth and development.
- Intra-African trade increases as the economies of our neighboring countries improve at more rapid rates than ours.
- Prosecutions are more successful and the sense of lawlessness in South Africa decreases.
- There is higher domestic economic confidence and investment.
- South Africa is upgraded by global credit rating agencies as foreign investment levels improve.
- Faster urban and rural land redistribution and better support for emerging farmers boost agricultural production, food security and urban integration.
- From 2020, economic growth is more solid and predictable: GDP growth averages 4.5% to 2030.
- The unemployment rate is reduced by about 1% per year between 2020 and 2030, ultimately reaching 16% at the end of the decade.
Gwara Gwara – The ups and downs of a false dawn
In this scenario, despite the state’s best efforts before and after the 2019 elections, many records have been erased, and many tracks are long covered.
South Africa’s future in this scenario:
- Social cohesion is in steep decline as people retreat to their linguistic and cultural identities.
- Rising xenophobia, and South Africa’s low-level gender civil war deepens as women become more empowered and more targeted by men who feel left out of the mainstream.
- Trust and belief in other South Africans, immigrants and the state and social institutions declines to very low levels.
- Many institutions are only partially ‘liberated’ and some quickly get ‘recaptured’ by newly emerging elites.
- Internecine battles within ANC continue and other parties also fray, but retain enough coherence to form a coalition government between 2024 and 2029.
- Foreign investment dries up and inflation increases steadily over the 2020s.
- After prolonged debate and fierce contestation, the number of provinces are reduced to six.
- Capacity declines in key areas of governance, and the reduction of provinces and the consolidation of municipalities into fifty administrative areas only partially alleviates the decline in services at local levels.
- Ethnic and inter-generational tension and conflict increase.
- Land grabs and highway blockades become regular occurrences and illegal mining spreads.
- Unemployment never recedes below 25% – and then increases towards the end of the 2020s.
- GDP growth averages 1.5 % over the decade with some periods of recession.
- Attempts to improve state revenue through tax increases results in declining tax morality and compliance.
- Debt to GDP increases to 80% by 2030 and South Africa’s debt is downgraded to junk status.
A Time Traveller’s Guide to South Africa in 2030 Scenarios
Taking into account of the changes that have taken place in the country since 2014, the book from IRR CEO Frans Cronje introduces four scenarios for the future of South Africa one year after the 2029 election. The outcome of these scenarios depend on many factors, one of which is the specific public policies taken by government.
The first of the scenarios suggests that the state will grow more powerful and authoritarian and use that authority to force pragmatic economic policies along the lines of the model followed by Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore and Paul Kagame in Rwanda.
Coinciding with a global economic recovery and commodity price bounce-back those reforms will take the economic growth rate to record highs and trigger massive new job creation and entrepreneurial activity.
By the early 2020s South Africa emerges as a stable and increasingly prosperous society. The future of South Africa looks promising and true prosperity and success seem achievable.
This is seen as a remarkable turnaround that shapes the evolution of high growth economies across the continent.
The Tyranny of the Left
In this scenario the state has become extremely authoritarian but uses that power not for reform but to extort wealth out of the tax base and the private sector while suppressing political dissent and civil rights.
Land and businesses are nationalized and property rights destroyed.
In this future the economy will stutter and stumble along, foreign and domestic investment will dry up, and living standards will fall. The future of South Africa is bleak and harsh.
South Africa collapses into the grip of a cruel dictatorship and all hope for a better future is lost.
In this scenario the state weakens as the economy stalls and amidst rising levels of internal conflict South Africans drift apart into enclaves.
The future of South Africa is that of division and separation. We can see the seeds of this scenario with the movements for an independent Western Cape and threats that KZN will break away from the rest of South Africa.
Behind their high walls the more prosperous enclaves become de-facto private countries with high standards of living.
Outside of the walls the rural poor will fall under the control of tribal leaders while an emerging gang culture becomes the de-facto government in urban slums.
As South Africans turn away from each other the country splinters irreparably along lines of race and class.
Rise of the Rainbow
In this future the ruling party and the opposition will enter into a coalition.
Government allows the private sector to take the lead in the economy, which returns economic growth rates to levels above 5%.
Unemployment rates fall and living standards increase.
South Africa emerges, against all the odds, as a free, open, stable, and prosperous society.