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What should South Africa be doing to prepare for the ‘new normal’ after Covid-19?

That is the overarching question that a new book from Jacana Media, Recession, Recovery and Reform: South Africa after Covid-19, seeks to tackle. Edited by prominent economist, Raymond Parsons, the book comprises a fascinating collection of essays by some of South Africa’s top intellectuals and thought leaders.

To grow or not to grow? That is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged investors or take arms against a sea of economic troubles and, by opposing, end them?

With apologies to William Shakespeare

‘Not another book on South Africa’s economic future!’ some potential readers may exclaim. But this is a book with a difference, as it offers a colourful cross-section of perspectives. And the views and recommendations appearing in the various essays are even more compelling in the face of Covid-19, South Africa’s downgrading to ‘junk’ status and the far-reaching consequences that these developments will have for the country and the economy especially.

“The advent of Covid-19 was so rapid and unexpected (a ‘black swan’ event, like the 2008 Great Recession) that this book was already in the final stages of production when the virus became a global pandemic and countries started to go into various forms of lockdown. Therefore, with the exception of the Preface and the final essay in the book, the contributions from the other authors do not specifically refer to Covid-19. Yet their messages are even more pertinent given the implications of the virus for South Africa’s ongoing growth prospects and socioeconomic wellbeing. The main order of business in South Africa is therefore not only to contemplate what lies ahead in the distant future but urgently to set about restoring certainty and stability so that the country is able to weather this latest, most unprecedented peril. To this end, each essay makes an important contribution.

  It has become fashionable to take a gloomy view of South Africa’s economic prospects and now, in the face of a global health crisis, they look even worse. Indeed, there is enough wrong in the country for many South Africans to be deeply concerned about what lies ahead. The prophet of woe is always assured of an attentive hearing, for fear (as the saying goes) ‘has big eyes’. Yet there is nothing new in this fashion. In the long story of South Africa, waves of despondency and buoyancy have followed each other in an unfailing sequence. The current phase of ‘economic defeatism’ in South Africa should therefore not come as a surprise, as this is the cumulative outcome of previous economic and political events. And Covid-19, together with ‘junk’ status, has deepened the sense of doom and gloom. Nonetheless, these setbacks and new socioeconomic challenges must be properly and sensibly managed if South Africa is to turn its economy around.”

Recession, Recovery & Reform

South Africa after Covid-19.
Edited by Raymond Parsons. Published by Jacana Media.
Available in all good bookstores and online. Recommended Retail Price: R240.

About the authors

Antony Altbeker is a research professional and public policy consultant, specialising in economic and development policy.

Ann Bernstein is the executive director of CDE (Centre for Development and Enterprise). Previous positions include executive director of the Urban Foundation, a board member of the Brenthurst Foundation, a Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (USA) and a Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center (USA).

Tanya Cohen was until recently the chief executive officer of BUSA (Business Unity South Africa) and is now with the Public Private Growth Initiative.

Cassim (Cas) Coovadia is the chief executive officer of BUSA (Business Unity South Africa) and the former managing director of BASA (Banking Association South Africa), a position he held for 15 years.

Dennis Dykes was Nedbank’s group chief economist from mid-1994 until early 2020, having first joined the bank in 1983. He is a council member of the Economic Society of South Africa, sits on two academic advisory boards and is a long-standing member of the ICCBE(International Conference on Comparative Business Economics) UK.

Tinashe Kapuya, an agricultural economist, currently works for the USAID Southern African Trade and Investment Hub. Prior to that he was the head of international trade and investment intelligence at Agbiz (Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa).

Thulisile (Thuli) Madonsela is the former Public Protector of South Africa and currently Professor of Law and Chair in Social Justice at the University of Stellenbosch. An advocate of the High Court of South Africa, Thuli has been a lifelong activist in social justice, human rights, good governance and the rule of law and was one of the drafters of South Africa’s Constitution. Thuli was listed among TIME100’s most influential people in the world in 2014 and was named Forbes Africa Person of the Year in 2016.

Mthunzi Mdwaba is the vice-president (the first from Africa) of the IOE (International Organisation of Employers) to the ILO (International Labour Organization) and the employer vice-chairperson of the governing body in Geneva, Switzerland. He also chairs the Business Human Rights and Responsible Business Conduct Policy Working Group of the IOE, whose members comprise business/employer organisations in 150 countries.

Lukanyo Mnyanda has been the editor of Business Day, one of South Africa’s leading daily newspapers, since 2018. Prior to that, he lived in the United Kingdom for more than a decade, working as a financial journalist for, among others, Bloomberg News.

Bonang Mohale is professor of practice at the JBS (Johannesburg Business School) College of Business and Economics and the chairperson of the Bidvest Group. A chartered marketer, Bonang has received numerous awards, including the Free Market Foundation Luminary Award and the BMF (Black Management Forum) Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lumkile Mondi is a senior lecturer in the School of Economics and Finance at the University of the Witwatersrand, chairperson of Thelo Rolling Stock Leasing and non-executive director of Gemfields Ltd and Safal Steel. He is a columnist for Business Day and a regular radio and television commentator on the political economy.

Mothunye Mothiba has held several management and executive positions in his 26-year career, spanning sectors such as education, public administration, management consulting and gaming. He is currently the chief executive officer of Productivity SA, the general secretary of PAPA (Pan-African Productivity Association) and a board member of SABTIA (Southern African Business and Technology Incubation Association).

Fulufhelo (Fulu) Netswera is the executive dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences at the Durban University of Technology. Before taking up that position, he was the director of the North-West University Business School.

Temba Nolutshungu is a director of the Free Market Foundation and a council member of the South African Institute of Race Relations. Temba’s political activism and his own oppression during the apartheid era instilled in him a determination to advance the individual liberties of all people, particularly in the face of authoritarian rule.

Raymond Parsons is a prominent economist and a regular analyst of the political economy and the role of business in South Africa. Raymond studied economics at the universities of Cape Town, Oxford and Copenhagen and is currently a professor at the North-West University Business School He holds an honorary doctorate from that university. To date he has written or edited six books, including Manuel, Markets and Money, Zumanomics: Which Way to Shared Prosperity in South Africa? Zumanomics Revisited: The Road from Mangaung to 2030 and Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism: The Role of Business in South Africa (all Jacana Media). In 2017 he was conferred honorary life membership of the Economic Society of South Africa (of which he is a past president) in recognition of his distinguished contribution to the economics profession.

Wandile Sihlobo
, an agricultural economist, is the chief economist at Agbiz (Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa), having previously worked at Grain SA as an economist. He is also a member of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture.