Three stories of how South Africa’s future might unfold by 2030

A multi-stakeholder research paper, titled “Indlulamithi South Africa Scenarios 2030” was published which goes into three possible scenarios how South Africa’s future might unfold by 2030.

The paper covers three national elections (2019, 2024 and 2029) as well as two local government elections (2021 and 2026). The stakeholders providing input consisted of representatives from government, labour, academia, business as will as traditional leaders.

The report arrived at three scenarios / stories and as a South African reading through those, you will notice that we already have many of those issues now (daily strikes, sabotage, infringement of basic and constitutional rights), but bundled with increasing unemployment and depreciation of the Rand and withdrawal of foreign investment, a combination of those three stories is certainly a reality.

iSbhujwa – An enclave Bourgeois nation

TL;DR: A South Africa torn by deepening social divides, daily protests and cynical self-interest

Anyone living in South Africa reading the above will say “This is now, we live in gated communities and face daily service delivery protests).

The take-away:

  • A rapid escalation of social protest
  • Growing separation of poorer and mostly black South Africans, and a wealthier and increasingly cross-racial middle class
  • Faster land reform is implemented, but under-investment in agriculture causes longer-term declines in food production and food security
  • Moderate increase in foreign direct investment and higher levels of domestic capital formation
  • Slow but relentless currency depreciation and increased sovereign debt risk
  • Social grant recipients numbers increase substantially
  • Unemployment reduced to around 22% (from currently around 31%)


Nayi le Walk – A nation in step with itself

TL;DR: A South Africa focusing on “Ubuntu” – high social investment and free services for a mostly unemployed population.

The key focus is the riddance of corruption and the upliftment of communities via social services (free education, health care, pension and land). This will come as an enormous tax-burden and will invariably result in an initial skill-drain (highly skilled individuals will leave South Africa due to financial tax-burden)

The takeaway:

  • Increased promotion of civic values and conceptions of Ubuntu and other
    communitarian ethics – start to pay off.
  • Tertiary colleges are overhauled to produce many more artisans and university education is made more affordable
  • More social housing and multi-income ‘blended’ suburbs are developed and rapid urban transport systems are expanded
  • National health insurance is implemented he face of steep opposition by those with some access to private medical care
  • There is higher domestic economic confidence and investment
  • Faster urban and rural land redistribution and better support for emerging farmers boost agricultural production, food security and urban integration
  • The unemployment rate is reduced by about a percentage point a year between 2020
    and 2030, to reach 16% by 2030

Gwara Gwara – A floundering false dawn

TL;DR: South Africa retreats into “cultural pockets” and Xenophobia will flare up worse than in 2008. “Capture” of government entities and corruption will continue. We will see “junk” status.

Images like the below have gone mostly unnoticed by the international community, but during the worst of times are hardly unusual:

The takeaway:

  • Social cohesion is in steep decline as people retreat to their linguistic and cultural identities
  • Rising xenophobia, and South Africa’s low-level gender civil war deepens as women become more empowered – and more targeted by men who feel left out of the mainstream
  • Trust and belief – in fellow South Africans, immigrants and the state and social institutions – declines to new lows
  • Many institutions are only partially ‘liberated’ – and some quickly get ‘recaptured’ by newly emerging elites
  • Foreign investment dries up and inflation increases steadily over the 2020s
  • Ethnic and inter-generational tension and conflict increase
  • Land grabs and highway blockades become regular occurrences and illegal mining spreads
  • Unemployment never recedes below 25% – and then increases towards the end of the 2020s
  • Debt to GDP increases to 80% by 2030 and South Africa’s debt is downgraded
    to junk status

Is all hope lost?

The harsh reality is that a large number of predicted events are happening at the moment:

  • Just last week our national electricity provider, Eskom, forced the country into national blackout due to wage disputes and sabotage of infrastructure by staff
  • Over the last 2 months land grabs occurred
  • Strikes and torching of government facilities (Charlotte Maxeke hospital 2 weeks ago) have become an almost weekly event

How South Africa will shape itself will largely depend on the outcome of the 2019 elections and the civic duty of all citizens to challenge government leaders.