What happens after the pandemic?

Many people will be asking when reflecting on 2020 – what does the future look like for South Africa in a post-pandemic world? Well, that’s really going to depend on who you ask. And the pandemic isn’t over either.

For some, the pandemic has been devastating, lives have been lost and livelihoods decimated. Yet for others, opportunities for starting something new or growing and cementing existing revenue streams have arisen. South Africans are resilient and resourceful, just like its lands.

A key focus point for the South African government currently and post-pandemic (whenever that may be) is that this is an opportunity to increase government efforts toward putting the country on a path of reindustrialisation. And there are no shortages of possibilities in this regard. This was seen as an opportunity for the country as soon as President Cyril Ramaphosa came to power, and is one of his administration’s key strategies, however Ramaphosa has chosen to place emphasis on this policy as a key enabler for driving future economic growth and recovery now more so than ever.

Special attention is being given to the further development of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) so that South Africa can reposition itself in the world economy and government continues to provide a number of incentives to investors in these SEZs. These include growth opportunities via measures such as tax reliefs to aid revenue generation, the creation of jobs via employment tax incentives and the attraction of Foreign Direct Investment and international competitiveness strategies. One can’t overlook their usefulness to the country when you consider that international manufacturing regulations will only continue to get more rigorous as will the rise in the cost of labour – both key incentives to manufacture in South Africa.

Job creation strategies include aggressive infrastructure investment and redevelopment and mass employment programmes, a focus on growing small businesses, accelerating economic reforms to unlock investment and growth, and to reverse the decline of the local manufacturing sector and promote reindustrialisation through deeper levels of localisation and exports. Ramaphosa has also committed to rapidly expanding energy generation capacity, without which none of the above can actually happen effectively.

Durban’s R2.2 billion automotive supplier park SEZ will become operational in 2021, with automotive manufacturer Toyota as one of the agreed tenants. More than R4.3 billion is to be invested in the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone by 12 Ford suppliers, with a further 10 expressing interest in investing in the supplier park. These are just two hubs that form part of South Africa’s 10 SEZs, which are hoped to become global tools for social, economic and digital transformation. These SEZs in turn create numerous opportunities directly for their surrounding communities.

Certainly, as noted by Joshua van Flymen, founder of Pentagon Resources, mineral extraction is one of the key areas where South Africa can maximise its potential for economic growth via the beneficiation of these extracted minerals.

But at what cost to the environment? Take for example a stretch of coastline far up South Africa’s west coast, near the restricted diamond mining areas. Here is a place where for kilometre after kilometre one could pick a bay, pitch a tent and wild camp. You could go days without seeing another human. Access was via some farm roads and the opening and closing of farm gates meant for keeping sheep on their respective farms. It was a “secret” spot amongst the most hardened of campers and the odd surfer; a “twee-spoor” 4×4 trail along the coast – a truly remote and virtually inaccessible wilderness. It’s now a gravel highway with considerable truck traffic transporting container loads of mineral rich sand away. The area is now virtually devoid of the kind of animal and bird life it supported. You might see the odd seagull, and a drone monitoring mining activities.

All a local farmer doing his rounds and checking his fences could say to me when camping there recently was: “Die mens is ‘n ongelooflikke ding.” You can still go and camp there. But it’s not the same. That’s just one example of the opportunity costs associated with rebuilding our economy through reindustrialisation.

Damon Crawford
Online Editor