The announcement on Tuesday that South Africa is in a recession has been met with mixed feelings.
There seem to be four groups – those with an “I told you so!” attitude, those who want to run for the hills and think that the country is one step closer to a failed state, those who consider the recession as the dying breath of the Guptafication era, and a fourth group with a “wait and see” attitude.
Expendable household income has been under pressure for a long time. Consumers are questioning the high levels of wastage at state-owned enterprises – evaporating money that could have been used elsewhere.
The rest of Africa has experienced high levels of economic growth despite their own internal troubles.
Because countries such as Nigeria, Egypt and Ghana grow faster than South Africa, one has to wonder what new, fantastic excuses will be offered to explain South Africa’s slump.
The shenanigans of the Zuma regime has cost the country a significant loss of credibility. In addition, nonsensical remarks from political figures make the world wonder whether the country is a worthwhile investment destination.
But the repercussions of the recession extend beyond the politicians who have contributed to the situation.
For the youth of South Africa, news of a recession creates feelings of panic and confusion. Young people feel that they are constantly being robbed of opportunities. Access to tertiary education becomes more constrained and exclusive each time there is an economic hiccup. The youth are already restless because graduates are unable to find jobs.
A restless youth could be dangerous. There are so many emotions and hard feelings, and a wobbly economy could be the spark that creates greater levels of instability.
Slowly but surely the youth are seeing past the excuses and are demanding actions that will translate into real growth – not just an attempt to redistribute limited wealth. Economic growth stabilises a nation.
It is time to establish a “workeracy” that helps to ensure much-needed economic expansion. More than ever before, getting an affordable education that is recognised by professional bodies will be a focus for the youth.
Leaders have to ask for how long will they still be willing to play politics at the expense of developing skills that the country desperately needs.
• Peter van Nieuwenhuizen is chief financial officer at the Growth Institute, a private education provider offering a range of commercial, technical tourism and hospitality management programmes.