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It is painfully clear that South Africa is performing poorly, exacerbating problems such as inequality and exclusion. The economy’s ability to create jobs is slowing, worsening South Africa’s extreme levels of unemployment and inequality. South Africans are deeply disappointed with social progress and dislike the direction where the country seems to be heading. Despite its enviable productive capabilities, the national economy is losing international competitiveness. As the economy staggers, South Africa faces deteriorating social indicators and declining levels of public satisfaction with the status quo. After 15 years, attempts to stimulate the economy through fiscal policy and to address exclusion through social grants have failed to achieve their goals. Instead, they have sacrificed the country's investment grade, increasing the cost of capital to the whole economy, with little social progress to show for it. The underlying capabilities to achieve sustained growth by leveraging the full capability of its people, companies, assets, and knowhow remain underutilized. Three decades after the end of apartheid, the economy is defined by stagnation and exclusion, and current strategies are not achieving inclusion and empowerment in practice. This report asks the question of why. Why is the economy growing far slower than any reasonable comparator countries? Why is exclusion so extraordinarily high, even after decades of various policies that have aimed to support socio-economic transformation? What would it take for South Africa to include more of its people, capabilities, assets, and ideas in the functioning of the economy, and why aren’t such actions being undertaken already? The Growth Lab has completed a deep diagnostic of potential causes of South Africa’s prolonged underperformance over a two-year research project. Building on the findings of nine papers and widespread collaboration with government, academics, business and NGOs, this report documents the project’s central findings. Bluntly speaking, the report finds that South Africa is not accomplishing its goals of inclusion, empowerment and transformation, and new strategies and instruments will be needed to do so. We found two broad classes of problems that undermine inclusive growth in the Rainbow Nation: collapsing state capacity and spatial exclusion.


Hausmann, Ricardo, Tim O’Brien, Andrés Fortunato, Alexia Lochmann, Kishan Shah, Lucila Venturi, Sheyla Enciso-Valdivia, Ekaterina Vashkinskaya, Ketan Ahuja, Bailey Klinger, Federico Sturzenegger, and Marcelo Tokman. "Growth Through Inclusion in South Africa." CID Faculty Working Paper Series, November 2023.