Is South Africa still the springboard of choice?16/09/2015

South Africa is a country full of often little known contrasts and nuances. Of course, the inability to see the wood for the trees is the nominal success of the fight against apartheid and the successful transition by Mandela and his ANC party towards a democratic, multi-racial country with a truly progressive constitution, one which is often held up as a model. The reality is much more complex and, 20 years after the reinstatement of democracy, it is probably simplistic to look at this wonderful country through this single prism.

It is certainly a modern country, in marked contrast to its African neighbours. Its infrastructure, its state and civic structures, its banking sector and many other things besides are more like those of a developed country than an emerging economy. However, the resounding gap between rich and poor, the fact that its main revenues still come from the extraction of primary resources (mainly minerals and agricultural) rather than services or high-tech industries also demonstrate that South Africa is still a country for which even its membership of the BRICS group is debatable. Furthermore, the unrivalled position of 'springboard to Africa' which South Africa has enjoyed since 1994 is also being questioned today following the emergence of the Kenyan and Nigerian hubs, opening the way to East and West Africa respectively. Since it is no longer the privileged and indispensable platform for accessing the rest of the continent, South Africa is facing new challenges which are forcing it to surpass itself, a task which lately, it is finding it difficult to fulfil.

Having lived here since 2006 after meeting the resident from Cape Town who is now my wife, I have learned to understand and love this country. This country fascinates me, largely because it is at the crossroads of several paths, trying to forge an identity for itself, an identity which it is still seeking through trial and error. Located at the tip of Africa, it contains a microcosm of all the great challenges facing humanity. How to give a human face to an economic model constantly looking for growth without leaving too many people behind? How to embrace diversity and find a common voice and a common path despite everything? How to be an economic giant (in Africa) and actively participate in the renewal of the continent as a political and moral leader?

These same challenges are not foreign to our little Belgium, multicultural, diverse and profoundly European. Consequently, Walloon investors who are interested in the infinite opportunities provided by the 'last frontier of growth' that is the African continent will tackle South Africa with the necessary openness and a key asset: an understanding of the cultural complexity... Furthermore, there is a large community of Belgians here, some of whom have been here for a very long time, and on whom it is easy to rely in order to acquire the skills and sensitivity needed for a successful business venture in South Africa.

As an ambassador for the brand Wallonia.be, I am delighted to be available to all those keen to know more!

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