We hit on the upcoming elections a bit during the presentations, but see the attached NYT article on Mamphela Ramphele’s decision to run as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Alliance, the main opposition party in South Africa.
In the spirit of Macroeconomics, here is a quick and dirty on South Africa’s economy. Most numbers are from 2012 data and pulled from the sources provided below.
- CIA World Fact Book – https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sf.html
- The World Bank – http://data.worldbank.org/country/south-africa
- Statistics South Africa – http://beta2.statssa.gov.za/?page_id=735&id=1
Table 1 South Africa At-a-Glance – numbers are estimates
|Top Regional Contributors to GDP||
|GDP by Sector||
Also, South Africa’s Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, recently just discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland how the country should report its economic growth potential using other things besides GDP . For more, see http://ewn.co.za/2014/01/22/Gordhan-GDP-not-the-only-measure-of-growth.
In the spirit of following up on Mr. Martz’s amazing from-the-ground reporting, a new article this morning from Reuters that indicates half of global world supply of platinum is about to be stopped. The article is especially interesting – it goes a little bit into the living conditions of most workers (apparently the average number of dependents is EIGHT) and touches on the social tensions with the government. Also, the Rand is at a 5 year low (so change all your money now?).
News on Dr Mamphela Ramphele. (this is partly a test to see if my blog post works)
It has come to my attention that many of us will be traveling on safari during our pretrip! I, for one, am really excited about meeting some animals, particularly lions. Here are some fun facts about our friend the lion:
- Did you know that lions are known as a social cat?
- They roam in groups called prides which are usually led by the females.
- Males can weigh as much as 550 pounds, while females weigh nearly 395 pounds.
- A lion’s roar can be heard 5 miles away.
- A mane is used for protection in a fight.
- Lions can run at a speed of 50 mph and jump 36 feet.
It is feared, however, that lions are a soon-to-be endangered species. Kevin Richardson, an animal behaviorist in South Africa, is known as the Lion Whisperer, for he has had a unique relationship with two lions since their birth 10 years ago. If you have not seen this cute article/video, I encourage you to check it out!
(fun facts sourced by LiveScience.com)
In Sunday’s travel section of the New York Times, Cape Town was named the top place to visit in 2014. This probably isn’t that surprising given the recent death of Nelson Mandela – what I found surprising, however, was that the editors mentioned they had a strong feeling that Cape Town would be #1 months before that. They picked Cape Town because it is a destination that “has its own transformative story to tell” and that is “again reinventing itself.” I’m excited to learn more about this transformation with all of you and to ultimately see it for myself!
I recently read this article about a unique New Year’s Eve tradition in one of Johannesburg’s rapidly changing neighborhoods. Hillbrow is an area in Jo-berg that was once a “fashionable” neighborhood, but has decayed into one of the roughest neighborhoods in the city. Residents there started a New Year’s Eve tradition in the 1990s (after the end of apartheid) of throwing large furniture and appliances out the windows and off the balconies to symbolize a fresh start for the New Year. As you can imagine, this tradition is dangerous and runs counter to initiatives to revitalize the neighborhood and make it safer. Tension over this unusual tradition points to larger problems I think we’ll see in Jo-berg: the remnants of racial oppression and wealth disparity can play a real role in large and small cultural events in South Africa.
Hey 2014 SA International Experience trekkers! I’m excited to travel to South Africa with you all and learn more about this rich, diverse, and dynamic country in March.
I have been working through Mandela’s autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom, to learn more about the political struggle for freedom that South Africa endured through the majority of the 20th century. His story is one of deep determination, excruciating trial, and, ultimately, triumph over an unjust system; I suggest you pick up a copy if you can.
After Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, passed away on December 5th, 2013, I searched for hours to find the most poignant tributes of his legacy and influence on the shape of global affairs. It was not difficult to find tributes; in fact, the outpouring of support was overwhelming! Thousands of videos, essays, and blog posts were produced in honor of Madiba. I thought I would pull together some of the best and most thoughtful pieces that I found. And since we are a generation that loves videos, these are mostly clips!
Soweto Gospel Choir Flashmob performs Johnny Clegg’s “Asimbonanga,” a song written for Mandela in the 90s:
Young poet Bothale Boikanyo offers a moving tribute to Mandela over a year before his passing. Keep the Kleenex nearby for this one:
Maya Angelou was commissioned by the US State department, to pen a poem to Mandela from the American people. It is really beautiful. My favorite line: “Although born into the brutal embrace of Apartheid, scarred by the savage atmosphere of racism, unjustly imprisoned in the bloody maws of South African dungeons. Would the man survive? Could the man survive? His answer strengthened men and women around the world.”
And finally, a powerful take on a photo of Mandela taken in 80s while he was imprisoned. The author, Teju Cole, nails it with this passage: “White supremacy has its uses. Because of its great care and its thoughtful strategy, because of the tireless way it hoards its hatred, it is good at making heroes. Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Desmond Tutu: what would our lives have meant without theirs? No wheel moves without friction.”
I look forward to learning more about the man and the nation he helped to create. Happy new year, all!
Each spring, Jews celebrate the holiday of Passover, which commemorates the Jewish slaves’ escape from Egypt as documented in the book of Exodus. We celebrate by attending a Seder, a ceremonial meal that includes telling the story of Exodus and musings on its meaning from a book called the hagaddah. My familial Passover celebration isn’t exactly traditional. My aunt creates her own hagaddah from a variety of sources, so not only do we discuss when the Jews were enslaved, but current forms of injustice. Sometimes the readings get a little heavy-handed; for example, I’m not sure I see the connection between hydraulic fracturing and being slaves in Egypt, but in general I appreciate her efforts to make the story and the celebration relevant for today.
This year, we had our Seder four days after I got home from South Africa and I could not stop thinking about the trip throughout the entire meal. Each reading or section caused me to have one of two reactions. In many ways, the story and themes resonated with me because of the inequality and social problems I had just experienced, so I spent a lot of the Seder agreeing that we need to fight the injustices in our world. On the other hand, some of the references to modern issues struck me as “first-world problems,” or problems we can afford to complain about because a group of middle-class liberals in suburban Philadelphia don’t have bigger ones about which to worry. In many ways, that reaction is unfair, as most people present had spent their careers and their lives advancing various social causes and weren’t whining about trivialities. On the other hand, I wanted to bring them all to a township, show them the all-white workplaces throughout Cape Town, or have them meet the amazing crèche owners that work with Asha Trust, to open their eyes to the problems of the rest of the world.
I had this same reaction of feeling like the problems of one population were less valid because there are others worse off while we were in South Africa. I spent the weekend before the trip started in Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest countries, seeing villages of thatch-roof houses without plumbing and electricity; currency was a new concept to these subsistence farmers. While we were in Soweto, my reaction was that the township residents weren’t that impoverished because they seemed to be doing better than most people in Mozambique. Most of the houses were concrete with tin roofs, most of them had walls around the yards, and they all seemed to have running water and electricity, so it looked to me like the residents were better-off.
I’ve spent the last few weeks ranking problems based on the relative poverty of each group suffering. These valuations haven’t significantly changed my reactions; I was still very impressed with the Asha Trust team and I still recognize that gender inequality is an issue in the United States. And I recognize that the world faces a myriad of complex issues various people should work to alleviate – I’m not suggesting that we all go fight poverty in Mozambique. Remembering that others are worse off is important, but it doesn’t negate the importance of addressing these “less pressing” issues. So, as I felt at the Seder, the trip to South Africa reminded me about the massive injustices that we should collectively work to solve, but we also need to keep a healthy perspective about the relative severity of these issues. As the book of Exodus reminds me each year, just because the Jews were no longer slaves, it didn’t mean that they stopped having problems.