Thus far in 2015 South Africa has experienced an electricity supply crisis, labour unrest, a slump in commodity prices, a substantial depreciation of the rand, significantly low producer and consumer confidence ratings, increased crime, and a downward revision of gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecasts from an already low 3% to 2%.
On various levels such a bleak outlook does not bode well for South Africa, who after 21 years of democracy still fights extreme poverty and unemployment, and remains characterised by some of the highest levels of income inequality in the world. The low level of economic growth is unlikely to bring rapid relief to an increasingly impatient society, and there is an urgent need to explore new paradigms of thinking and solutions for South Africa’s challenges.
Against this backdrop the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) invited Professor Thomas Piketty, a well-known French economist, to present the annual Nelson Mandela lecture and participate in a Social Partners Dialogue with business, government and labour on inequality and poverty in South Africa.
The Dialogue aimed to explore issues that underpin inequality and strategies to address this deep seated problem. The NMF is in the process of launching an inter-sectorial project which aims to explore ways to shift societal patterns through four dimensions: mitigating strategies against poverty and growing inequality; a dynamic state, society and private sector; understanding the education sector through deep analyses supported by data; and a commitment to community level dialogue.
It is keen to not only work with the academic community and civil organisations, but also with labour and government to address South Africa’s difficult issues.
This document aims to provide an overview of The Dialogue that took place on Friday the 2nd of October. The document is not meant to be an exhaustive account of the factors that underpin the issues that were discussed, instead it focuses on contextualising key issues and themes within Professor Piketty’s work, highlights key strategies and solutions proffered by panellists and participants; and highlights areas for further research.