The long walk to economic freedom after apartheid, and the road ahead
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As South Africa moves further away from the political transition of 1994, the economic history of the post-apartheid era is coming up for debate. The optimism generated by the ANC’s early successes must now, after more than two decades of democracy, be tempered by its conspicuous failures. Over the last eight years in particular, the material welfare of South Africans have declined across large parts of the income distribution and the most damage was done to the poorest. Not all is lost though. African growth, technological innovation and private-sector participation in public sector services offer credible opportunities for accelerated development, but will only be effective if policy-makers are cognizant of the political realities. Well-directed and cheap policy interventions, like family planning, early-childhood education, free Wi-Fi in urban centres, and work visas and citizenship to highly-qualified foreigners can have dramatic and long-term effects. Policies, such as a youth subsidy, free tertiary education and charter schools would be more expensive – and more difficult, politically – but they would clear some bottlenecks in the labour and education sectors. Unfortunately though, the long walk to economic freedom for many will continue along a road full of potholes.