/ 1 August 2022

There are reasons South Africa is one of the most desired countries to relocate

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The daily news briefing waiting for me in my inbox every morning is a mixed bag. Opinion pieces touting a hopeful outlook on the future of South Africa are infrequent, but they still manage to creep into the headlines in a news cycle that only is worsening. This morning, one such headline caught my eye. It proudly named South Africa as one of the most desired countries to relocate to in the world.

As it appeared alongside articles covering the unprecedented drought in the Eastern Cape, the vandalising and theft of key South African infrastructure, the ongoing energy crisis and calls for education reform, the headline seemed far-fetched to say the least.

These issues are all outlined and dissected in the Institute of Risk Management South Africa (IRMSA) 2022 Risk Report, which details the following: “Due to longstanding structural impediments, execution failures, failing SOEs [state-owned entities], poor basic education outcomes and high unemployment, S[outh] A[frica] declines into complete economic collapse, creating a spiral of poverty and debt from which it is unlikely to recover in the next decade.”

These headlines continue to support the prospect of “complete economic collapse”. If we continue on this path, how could we possibly be one of the most desired countries to relocate to in the world? The state of our nation is worse than when the 2022 IRMSA Risk Report went to print. How could we recover?

The article does not give much detail as to why South Africa is such a desirable country to relocate to. The research, by Compare the Market Australia, was based on the annual search volume for phrases that involve inquiries about relocating to a particular country. Perhaps not the most telling of data sets when it comes to the state of the country in question but any positive accolade is worth celebrating.

Although most sections of the risk report detail a series of dire outcomes for South Africa, there is a recurring segment in each risk scenario that’s worth mentioning. These are the success stories included just below the often devastating descriptions of decline.

For example, just underneath the description and warning of “Complete Economic Collapse” in section 3.4, a short paragraph looks at how the South African Revenue Service was emaciated by state capture. It goes on to describe its restoration through the appointment of new management, and system improvements to collect more taxes compared to the 2021 tax year. Telkom is mentioned as a standout public-private sector partnership as it transformed itself from a landline telephone company to a supplier of broader mobile and data networks.

These short paragraphs are a definite reprieve from the very real risks we face, and they may seem diminished by the severity of our situation. But I believe that there’s hope simply in the fact that they exist. In reading some of these exemplary success stories I can start to understand why South Africa made the list.

Although optimistic headlines seem out of place in South Africa’s news cycle, there is still good reason for them to appear in a daily news briefing. There is still hope but positive stories of incremental change get lost in the dismay. Stories such as South Africa building one of the world’s biggest solar and battery power plants in the Northern Cape; or an inspiring initiative that decreases premiums based on community service hours from Hollard.

Although the risk report outlines the factors contributing to complete economic collapse, there are also solutions provided to mitigate these risks. These solutions look at how private strategic partnerships and private sector investment in structural reforms, curriculum adjustments, and the adoption of coalition governments can steer us away from complete economic collapse.

While some of the solutions do address the need for transformation at state level, it is the solutions concerning private partnerships that are the most promising. While we must still hold the state accountable, now more than ever, the private sector has the responsibility to step up to the plate and intervene in the issues that plague our country.

Pat Semenya is the chief executive officer of the Institute of Risk Management South Africa.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.