South Africa Jam

Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel made a poignant appeal to the younger generations at the University of Johannesburg.

Speaking to the crowd at the launch of the National Planning Commission Jam, Mr Manuel said that as he got older he would become incapable of doing his job. He said that by 2030 he would have to have passed the “baton” onto the younger generation. “In 2030 I will be too, too old to be doing what I’m doing but you won’t,” he told the audience.

It’s important for any country to immediately engage young voters and encourage young people to become politically active. Without initiatives like this, young graduates are not aware of how they can actually change politics and the situation that their countries are in. South Africa’s government has been working hard to support young people as they leave education, and the National Planning Commission Jam is one of the latest projects which organisers hope will bring greater political understanding to the government and the country’s graduates alike.

The idea behind the National Planning Commission Jam is that there’ll be a 72 hour long online discussion based on the outcome of the National Planning Commission’s report earlier this year. It will also cover and encourage debate on the vision for South Africa in 2030 – the same deadline Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel gave himself.

He also made comments about how far life, and particularly technology, had developed in Africa. He pointed out that Facebook and Twitter were not even a glimmer twenty years ago, and implored the assembled youth to think back to those days. “Life has changed,” he said.

The Jam is an award-winning communication solution from IBM. It is essentially an online brainstorming event, which brings together tens of thousands of people in a way which would be impossible offline.

The National Planning Commission Jam is going to take place from September 28 until October 1. There is an enormous amount of support for and interest in the Jam, thanks partly to politicians and radio  personalities making it known. Registration has already opened and places are being allocated on a first come, first served basis. Only the first 20,000 who register are going to be able to participate in the Jam, so hopeful applicants are advised to get their details on the website as soon as possible.

There have been plenty of other ways in which the National Planning Commission Jam has been publicised, not least in broadcasting. Alongside Travor Manuel, local radio stars have been ushering young adults towards politics. On top of this, the University of Johannesburg has been an outspoken advocate of the National Planning Commission Jam and other aspects of political discourse, and the National Youth Development Agency has also been a staunch supporter.

For more details, or to sign up for the National Planning Commission Jam, visit www.npconline.co.za/ and follow the instructions on the site. Applicants are reminded to fill out the forms carefully, and that all applications must have been received by September 28.

The Peace Corps and American Interest in Africa

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Peace Corps by President John F. Kennedy and his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver. President Kennedy founded the Peace Corps just at the moment that most sub-Saharan African states were moving toward independence, a process that was welcomed by anti-colonial Americans. He also tapped into the American idealism that flourished in the 1960′s, which included dramatic progress toward racial and gender equality in the United States.

One concrete example of the Peace Corps’ influence on Africa is former vice president Atiku Abubakar’s establishment of the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola, Adamawa state. The AUN is a secular university and based on American education models to which Abubakar was introduced by Peace Corps volunteers working in his village when he was a boy. The National Peace Corp Association, a private non-profit supporting returning Peace Corps volunteers, honored the former vice president for his contribution this past weekend.

Last spring, I participated in a program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that also commemorated the fiftieth anniversary. Present were many Peace Corps alums from the 1960′s. Many of them talked about how serving as Peace Corps volunteers in Africa was their first introduction to a part of the world largely unknown in the United States—unlike the UK, France, Germany, and Italy, the U.S. never had a significant colonial presence in Africa.

The Peace Corps, therefore, has made an important contribution to the relationship between the United States and Africa that doesn’t lend itself to quantification, but nevertheless is real.

South Africa growth Merrill Lynch

Bank of America’s wealth management division Merrill Lynch has said that South Africa has one of the world’s most promising ten-year economic outlooks of all the EMEA countries.

Alongside Saudi Arabia and Turkey, South Africa looks set to enjoy long-term growth over the next decade. Merrill Lynch suggests a rate of 4.2%, putting it considerably higher than the rest of the EMEA area (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) which will have growth of between 3% and 4%.

Merrill Lynch is the largest brokerage in the world, with $2.2 trillion in client assets and fifteen thousand financial advisers. It ceased to exist as a financial entity in its own right back in 2008 when it was bought up by the Bank of America. It has divisions globally, and the EMEA region includes 32 cities in 23 countries in three continents.

There’s been a lot going on in South Africa to boost growth and to cultivate a richer, stronger economy. Government policy has – and will continue to – encourage the creation of jobs. The government has also placed an emphasis on the building and maintenance of modern infrastructure which will speed the country’s development. High speed internet projects are connecting remote parts of the country and are making business much more viable in some areas.

The idea in South Africa has been to make the consumer growth, which has up until now been the preserve of the middle classes, become attainable by the lower socio-economic groups in the country. Merrill Lynch estimate that the rate of growth could accelerate to five percent by 2016 if enough financial commitments are made to infrastructure projects, and if there is a marked increase in consumer spending.

And the bank also suggested that if “tough” decisions are made soon, then South Africa’s economic outlook could be even better. Six percent growth is attainable, they say, although rolling out a national health service (NHI) is going to be a “headwind” to financial growth of this sort, even though the changes will probably take place over a period of at least fifteen years.

Other headwinds to growth, as Merrill Lynch puts it, might include the skills gap. Merrill Lynch support what the South African government is doing, which is alleviating the skills gap with skilled immigrant workers. This is a “short-medium” term process which will bridge the gap. Labour and product market reform are hot on the lips of economic analysts whose worries are that South Africa’s growth could drop back down to four percent – in line with the rest of the Europe, Middle East and Africa area.

Merrill Lynch’s observations and predictions are in line with a consensus within the country that the economic outlook is good. Although the rest of the world has a lot to deal with in terms of the recession, South Africa – alongside Saudi Arabia and Turkey – are succeeding where others are failing. A similar pattern can be seen throughout Africa, where many countries are thriving in a global economic situation which is crippling nations in continental Europe.