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By Editorial staff

Journalist


South Africa, a far cry from being competitive

South Africa's struggle for global relevance isn't just political—it's geographical.


Even if South Africa was blessed with an efficient and uncorrupted government, the country would still be handicapped by one factor in getting to the starting line of global competitiveness. And that factor is distance. South Africa is an “end-of-hemisphere” country – one which is far away from the major markets in the globe, be they tourist, business or finished goods. Distance is less of a problem for our minerals because they are still in demand – although our fabled image as a storehouse of strategic minerals is no longer valid. ALSO READ: What’s Mmusi got to do with it?…

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Even if South Africa was blessed with an efficient and uncorrupted government, the country would still be handicapped by one factor in getting to the starting line of global competitiveness.

And that factor is distance.

South Africa is an “end-of-hemisphere” country – one which is far away from the major markets in the globe, be they tourist, business or finished goods.

Distance is less of a problem for our minerals because they are still in demand – although our fabled image as a storehouse of strategic minerals is no longer valid.

ALSO READ: What’s Mmusi got to do with it? – BOSA jumping on De Ruyter bandwagon in quest for relevance

Our gold is, to all intents and purposes, no longer the mainstay of mining. Coal still sells abroad but its days are numbered because of climate change.

The new strategic, wonder elements are those which drive the electronic and communications revolution: minerals like cobalt, lithium and phosphorous – which we do not have.

We have slipped to third place in Africa in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) but are still, after Egypt, the most industrialised country on the continent.

Despite the ANC’s plan to bring the “4th industrial revolution” to the country and insist on beneficiation of our resources through value-added manufacturing, factories are closing countrywide. And imports are increasing.

ALSO READ: SA’s trade unions must get their act together or risk total irrelevance

Other African countries are eating our lunch. Ethiopian Airlines is now the biggest and most profitable airline in Africa, after the collapse of South African Airways.

Ports in Mozambique and Tanzania are going to be the main conduit for imports and exports for southern and central Africa.

When distance is against you, you need to have a fast and efficient transport system and bend over backwards to accommodate industrial investors who need to move product.

Even if we clean up corruption and cadre-deployment incompetence, we’ll still have to deal creatively with our biggest handicap, distance.

ALSO READ: Brics cannot be wished away by rich Western countries

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