South Africa Can Learn From Costa Rica's Track Record of Good Decisions

Boulevard in Central Avenue, San José, Costa Rica (file photo).

Costa Rica is a top performer in Latin America, an example of rapid economic growth and diversification from coffee to computer chips. Its record of investment promotion and inclusive growth should be an example to South Africa.

Costa Rica's economic progress has translated into a positive outcome for its people. It is consistently ranked as one of the world's happiest countries.

Back in the 1980s, devoid of natural resources and located in Central America, then notorious for armed conflicts and criminal networks, this small country of just under five million people was expected to succumb and track a course similar to its beleaguered neighbours.

Bucking the trend with impressive economic growth, the Costa Rican economy is now five times its size in the mid-1980s. Instead of relying on its traditional agricultural exports, it has diversified by attracting new industries. The trickle quickly turned to a flood with the arrival of Intel in 1997, the company's solicitation being a priority of President José Figueres.

From a relatively rural and underdeveloped background, it quickly emerged as an investment destination of choice for services and sophisticated technologies.

Thirty years ago, two-thirds of Costa...

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