By Victor Ochieng
For years, there has been widespread outcry over economic imbalance in South Africa, one of Africa’s most developed nations. Efforts have been laid down to empower the black community, but no notable success has been registered.
Thomas Piketty, a French Star Economist and author of the widely referenced best seller, Capital in the 21stCentury, recently said during his Nelson Mandela lecture that South Africa’s strategies to empower the black South Africans haven’t been successful in spreading the wealth. The sad reality about the country is that a whopping 60-65% of the country’s wealth is controlled by a mere 10% of the population, with up to 80% of that 10% being white. Comparing these figures to other countries draws a stark reality in the sad economic state that the country is going through. In Brazil, for example, the country’s wealth is controlled by 50-55% of the population, while 40-45% of Americans control the U.S. wealth.
The fact that whites only account for 9% of the South African population, yet they’re the ones who control the country’s economy even adds more insult to the injury. Currently, South Africa ranks high among the world’s most imbalanced nations, economically.
Why are efforts to bridge the gap not being successful?
According to Piketty, skin color is a factor. Citing France as an example, he says that a majority of the French population is white and they’re the ones who control the economy, making it easier to address economic inequality. He clarifies that after generations, people tend to forget who came from what group, which isn’t possible where skin color defines the difference.
The state of economic imbalance in South Africa is saddening to say the least. In fact, there is a general feeling that the inequality has to be addressed, now. A number of programs, including Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE), that have been formulated to address the issue haven’t yielded demonstrable results and so a more effective approach has to be devised. A big chunk of the South African labor force still remains unskilledand education is also imbalanced as a result of the same economic inequalities.
Former South African finance Minister Trevor Manuel said that the issues aren’t necessarily economical, but are political.
“We’ve got the framework in place but I think the problems are not in the economics: it is not even in the tax law. Our problems are in the leadership and how we convene society to understand we’re in this together,” Manuel allegedly said, according to a South African media report.
In his Mandela lecture, Piketty floated a few suggestions that he believes would go a long way in addressing the imbalance: “a national minimum wage, workers on corporate boards, and accelerated land reform.”