Is South Africa about to enter its second industrial revolution? Many say that is on the cards, others are not too sure. But, if the country's industrial history repeats itself, says Tom Nevin, South Africa could be heading for an economic hey day.
South Africa's industrial revolution started building up a meaningful head of steam after the Second World War when manufacturing blossomed and became a major driving force in the national economy. It was at this time that the manufacturing sector increased its share of the total national output, dramatically increasing employment opportunity and reducing the economy is dependency on imported goods.
Although South Africa had shaken off its colonial ties with Britain, it was a steadfast member of the Commonwealth and still regarded by Britain as one of its far-flung outposts and source of much of its raw materials. It was a position that became regarded in the rapidly rising Afrikaaner nationalist movement as intolerable.
At that early stage, years before the Afrikaaner nationalists came to political power, the seeds of industry by apartheid were being sown, primarily by shifting the black population out of the cities and into satellite locations from whence they could be bussed to work in the early morning and then transported back at the end of the working day.
Soon to follow would be Acts of Parliament such as the Jobs Reservation Act which kept plumb positions in white hands and reserved the menial tasks to blacks. The law also denied them skills training because, in the logic of statute book, they'd never need it.
South Africa swiftly advanced through the stages of secondary industry to become a manufacturing and exporting economy in its own right and took the lead as Africa's most industrialised nation. It is still classified by the IMF (International Monetary Fund), however, as being at a stage somewhere between 'developing' and 'developed', primarily because South Africa is a curious mixture of economic advancement in some areas and backwardness in others.
But progress is being made in industrialisation across the national board, albeit with recently suffered hiccups of the emerging nations crash, the most serious labour unrest in decades and an economic growth that has only just managed to avoid negative figures for the past three years.
This year, however, the government is convinced of a major upswing and is confidently forecasting real growth of 3.5%-plus.
For the first 200 years...