For painfully-long, South Africa was generally-acknowledged as an African 'economic powerhouse.' Outside the World of Energy - in which a powerhouse, or power plant/station, is a source or means of supplying electricity - 'powerhouse' describes a remarkable source of influence or inspiration!
So - in the context of this LUCUBRATION, anyway - RSA was a powerhouse until early this decade, exerting considerable influence and inspiration across the continent and beyond - especially in terms of economic development! That's partly why, for example, it was roped into the acronymic 'BRIC' net, comprising the exotic nation-states of Brazil, Russia, India and China; hence BRIC+S!
Never mind that South Africa'd been under an apartheid, segregationist system for decades. This called for separate social, economic and political development of the races - Bantus, Coloureds, Asians and Whites - including separate residential/recreational areas, education, medical and other socio-econo-political amenities! Apartheid was 'officially' adopted following the 1948 'electoral victory' of the all-White National Party under a former Editor, Daniel Francois Malan (1874-1959; Prime Minister: 1948-54).
What with one thing leading to another, apartheid South Africa became a pariah state in the comity of nations - with much of the world pressing for its abolishment through sanctions, etc! Oh, it's a long story... Suffice it here to say that - in due course of time, events and much acrimony all round - South Africa declared itself a Republic (RSA) following (an all-Whites) referendum, huffily withdrawing from the (British) Commonwealth on May 31, 1961.
That was exactly 51 years to the day after the British - who'd won the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boar War - cobbled together the Union of South Africa (USA) on May 31, 1910, incorporating the Cape Province, Natal, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State! RSA went on to tragically bungle its Apartheid Way down History, with an untold number of casualties falling by the wayside - the dead, the dying, the maimed, jailbirds and exiles - as protagonists and antagonists struggled against each other to gain the upper hand!
Among the more notable protagonists were Smuts, Malan; Verwoerd; Vorster; the Botha's (Louis, Pik and PW); d'Klerk... On 'this side' of Apartheid were the likes of Albert Luthuli; Mahatma Ghandi (!), Bishop Tutu; Steve Bantu-Biko; Chris Hani; Govan Meki, Kathrada, Chief Gatsha Buthelezi; Tata Nelson Rolihlahla Madiba Mandela... To cut a long story short, there was no way that the apartheid system'd be sustained!
As the Sisters of Fate'd have it, Protagonists de Klerk and Mandela collaborated - in a most noble way, I must hastily add - to honourably end the system. That was how and when RSA conducted its first general elections under the universal suffrage system which involved all South Africans who were finally statutorily empowered to vote! The April 26-29, 1994 Elections saw to Mandela's African National Congress (launched in 1912) win power by 62.7% of the total votes cast! The 'Apartheid' National Party garnered 20.4% of the votes.
Mandela (1918-2013) was crowned President - Head of State & Government and C-in-C of the Armed Forces - on May 10, 1994. Magnanimous as the man was even after 27 years in apartheid jails, 'Tata' reigned for only five years, refusing to vie for a second bite at the Presidential cherry in 1999 - unlike many an African President elsewhere in much of Africa! Oh!
Tanzania's very own socio-political icon, the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere (1922-99; President: 1962-85) also positively factored in no mean measure in the struggle against South African apartheid as well - doing so effectively, albeit by remote control, so to speak. But, that's a tale fit to be told another day...
The story here today's really about Tanzania vis-a-vis South Africa in the socio-economic developmental stakes. It's most comforting that South Africa is no longer the hydra-headed apartheid demon which it was nearly a generation ago; that the country's something of the Rainbow Nation which Mandela sought to make it.
But, oh...! It's somewhat consternating to learn that South Africa is no longer the continent's leading powerhouse it'd been for generations!
Today, we're told, Nigeria is Africa's Biggest Economy - boasting a nominal GDP of US$568.508bn in 2014! By comparison, South Africa's GDP was US$349.817bn - all else being equal. Tanzania's: US$43.647bn!
But, when you realize that Nigeria shot to the 'head of the queue' as a result of what econo-statisticians laud as 'economy rebasing,' then that 'powerhouse' status is on 'trash-able' paper than in impregnable reality on the ground! Before rebasing in 2011, Nigeria's GDP was $411.713bn; South Africa's: $416.596bn, and Tanzania's: $33.878bn!
So, if Nigeria's econo-growth during 2011-2015 averaged 6.3%, South Africa's: 1.5% and Tanzania's: 7%, does this mean Tanzania's on the way to beating both RSA and Nigeria to become the continent's economic powerhouse?
Don't be fooled, friend! A statistical economic growth rate isn't the whole story! It must be related to the size of the economy to portray the True Picture, Stupid... Cheers!