South Africa's Lack of Economic Complexity Is Our Real Problem, and It's Driven By Cadre Deployment and the Unions


South Africa needs to build a resilient and productive economy that fosters rapid learning, adaptation to new conditions, technological innovation and the expansion of goods and services to an ever-widening group of products. This can only happen with the assistance of the state, rather than despite it.

Thomas Koelble is Professor of Business Administration at the UCT Graduate School of Business.

There is remarkable consistency in the South African debate on the political economy. The refrain since 1994 has been the same -- we must create jobs, we must create employment, we must create opportunities for upward socioeconomic movement.

The famous Reconstruction and Development Programme, despite being criticised as a "laundry list of wishes and goals", set the tone for more than 25 years of repetitive and increasingly shrill demands. South Africa urgently needs leaders who do not just mouth off these mantras to get elected but move towards a coherent plan to actually achieve any of these goals.

Of course, the little phrase "we must" contains a mountain of assumptions. The collective "we" points to someone else who is just not doing what "they must" do -- rapacious capitalists, greedy owners of business, the neocolonial global economy, the oppressed...

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