Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Final Thoughts from Africa

We were enchanted by our 10 days in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Perhaps that should rather read…enchanted by South Africa and alarmed by Zimbabwe.

South Africa really appears to be booming, especially as we compared it to our visit of five years ago. There was a vibrancy and optimism in the air when we spoke with people on the street and in their homes. The future looks bright to them.

South Africa is experiencing the global commodities boom with the prices of many of its main industry mining (gold, diamonds, platinum, chromium, vanadium, manganese, uranium, iron ore and coal) being in a price escalation phase. The country is also a rich agricultural one and demand-led ethanol and food sectors are also very attractive.

South Africa’s next president is expected to be Jacob Zuma whose past leanings and support comes from the Communist Party. He has taken a particularly strong populist position on the issue of land reform, calling for the transfer of 30% of white-owned farms to blacks by 2014. South African experts warn that adherence to these rigid goals will lead to abandoned farms, rural poverty and a dramatic increase in food prices.

I hope that Zuma spends some time in Zimbabwe to see what 20+ years of what he is proposing can do to a country before he fully implements his plan.

The future of South Africa and the hope that its success brings to the rest of the continent could hang in the balance.

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