This is what South Africa could look like in 2030

 ·21 Jun 2018

Indlulamithi South Africa has released a new report on three possible scenarios facing South Africa in the lead up to 2030.

The report is the result of a multi-stakeholder, research driven initiative that seeks to reinvigorate our search, as a nation, for ways to create a society where all people experience a sense of belonging and solidarity.

It includes formative research, desktop study and extensive interviews with both individual experts and focus groups representative of South Africa’s diversity in terms of gender, age, race and class.

The year 2030 was chosen to coincide with the National Development Plan (NDP) timelines as well as those of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It also covers three national election cycles in South Africa – 2019, 2024 and 2029 – and two local government election cycles – 2021 and 2026.

The project was initiated by academic Dr Somadoda Fikeni, multinational Anglo American, and the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA).

Contributors include Frans Baleni, the deputy chairman at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Cas Coovadia, MD of the Banking Association of South Africa, and Jabu Mabuza, chairman of Telkom and president of Business Leadership South Africa.

You can find the three scenarios detailed below.

iSbhujwa – an enclave bourgeois nation 


This scenario is based on a ‘nation of protests’ due to a deep sense of historical injustice and resentment at their exclusion.

It predicts that in 2028 alone, South Africa will experience almost 3.000 serious protests.

Initially peaceful strikes and ‘service delivery’ protests often become mini-uprisings: blockades of highways, barricading of streets, torching of trucks, firebombing of councillors’ homes and destruction of state property become routine in Isbhujwa South Africa.

For ordinary people, these seven or eight urban revolts per day are the most effective way in getting attention from the authorities, before the state and its security apparatus are called to focus their attention elsewhere.

There is always a bigger fire, with more smoke. In 2022/3 and again in 2027/8, campuses are sites of fierce struggle, resulting in millions of rands worth of damage to property and disrupting academic cycles and many students’ exams.

Everywhere, citizens retreat into their own enclaves of privilege or poverty. For the wealthy elite, their islands of voluntary isolation offer luxury, comfort, and a high degree of autonomy.

Key possibilities under this scenario include:

  • A rapid escalation of social protest;
  • Growing separation of poorer and mostly black South Africans, and a wealthier and increasingly cross-racial middle class;
  • Implementation of market-lead interventions in education, health, services of state owned enterprises – with mixed results;
  • Faster land reform is implemented, but under-investment in agriculture causes longer-term declines in food production and food security;
  • Some improvements in schools and overall educational performance;
  • Further erosion of trust in key societal institutions, even as many improve their capacity and competence;
  • 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;
  • GDP growth averages 2.2% to 2030;
  • Unemployment reduced to around 22%, at the narrow definition;
  • South Africans feel less and less part of one nation, united by a common national vision.

Nayi le Walk – A nation in step with itself


Under this scenario the researchers still expect many South Africans to grapple with the generational burdens of joblessness, landlessness and inequality – however, for the most part life is better for some.

The 2019 elections, although fiercely contested, are mostly peaceful and they shift the mood of the nation.

The ANC retains power with a reduced majority, and for some this is enough to unleash a wave of optimism.

Foreign investors, entrepreneurs, NGOs and small businesses seize the initiative to invest in South African infrastructure, people and enterprises.

The opposition, although more diffuse and confrontational, remains committed to constitutionality and the rule of law, working with re-configured Chapter 9 institutions to ensure more
transparency and better governance.

Key possibilities under this scenario include:

  • Early childhood development programmes are expanded and more resources devoted to first six years of education;
  • Increased promotion of civic values and conceptions of Ubuntu and other communitarian ethics – start to pay off;
  • TVET colleges are overhauled to produce many more artisans and university education is made more affordable;
  • Young people are increasingly entrepreneurial and – keen to pursue livelihoods independent of the government and big corporations;
  • Various social compacts, civil society initiatives and new programmes connect people and social and political processes;
  • More social housing and multi-income ‘blended’ suburbs are developed and rapid urban transport systems are expanded;
  • National health insurance is implemented in the face of steep opposition by those with some access to private medical care;
  • The country recalibrates its multilateral alliances to achieve a better balance between BRICS and traditional growth partners;
  • Intra-African trade increases as the economies of our close neighbours improve at more rapid rates than ours;
  • Prosecutions are more successful and the sense of impunity in South Africa decreases;
  • Better recruiting, training and support create a more capable and productive public service and public trust in key societal institutions grows;
  • There is higher domestic economic confidence and investment;
  • South Africa is upgraded by global credit rating agencies as foreign investment levels improve;
  • Faster urban and rural land redistribution and better support for emerging farmers boost agricultural production, food security and urban integration;
  • From 2020, economic growth is more solid and predictable: GDP growth averages 4.5% to 2030;
  • The unemployment rate is reduced by about a percentage point a year between 2020 and 2030, to reach 16% by 2030.

Gwara Gwara – The ups and downs of a false dawn

In this scenario, despite the state’s best efforts before and after the 2019 elections, many records have been erased, and many tracks are long covered.

Even in the most severe and clear-cut cases, the prosecuting authorities, often themselves deeply compromised, are unable to mount and sustain legal action.

In a much remarked-upon irony, it became clear that the more corrupt and enriched ex-officials became, the better the legal defences they could now afford.

Key possibilities under this scenario include:

  • 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;
  • Internecine battles within ANC continue – and other parties also fray, but retain enough coherence to form a coalition government between 2024 and 2029;
  • Foreign investment dries up and inflation increases steadily over the 2020s;
  • After prolonged debate and fierce contestation, the number of provinces are reduced to six;
  • Capacity declines in key areas of governance, and the reduction of provinces and the consolidation of municipalities into fifty administrative areas only partially alleviates the decline in services at local levels;
  • 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;
  • GDP growth averages 1.5 % over the decade with some periods of recession;
  • Attempts to improve state revenue through tax increases results in declining tax morality and compliance;
  • Debt to GDP increases to 80% by 2030 and South Africa’s debt is downgraded to junk status.

Read: Economists see South Africa’s growth at 1.7% in 2018

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter