I have never met a successful person who didn’t make use of role models. In fact most successful businesses are “me too” businesses. Often the entrepreneur starts their business by shamelessly copying another company. McDonald’s certainly didn’t invent the hamburger. Apple wasn’t the first company to make the personal computer or the cell phones. Countries are no different.
Lets start with a modern history lesson; in 1957 Ghana gained its independence from Britain. At this point, the per capita income of Ghana was $490, at the same point in time the per capita income of South Korea was $491. South Korea had been destroyed by the crushing Korean War and was dependent on US aid. Ghana was blessed with ten percent of the world’s gold. It had diamonds, bauxite, manganese and mahogany. It also exported more cocoa than any other nation in the world. Its reserves were more than $532m and its liquid assets were seven times larger than its long-term debt. And then they elected Kwame Nkrumah as their first President
Under the socialist leadership of Nkrumah, the Ghanaian riches were squandered on patronage and tribalism. Heavy regulations and tariffs hurt the economy and the corruption within the government did the rest. Bad policies encouraged a massive brain drain and by the time Nkrumah was overthrown in 1966, Ghana was over $1bn in debt and five military coups followed.
South Korea was established after the Korean War and had almost no economy to speak of. The economy was floundering until Park Chung He became president in 1962. President Park decided that his war torn country should copy the economic miracle implemented by Japan following the devastation of the Second World War. He started, as the Japanese did, by creating a massive ship building industry and this was followed by the production of basic consumer goods like TV sets, fridges and radios. Korean products were cheap and nasty at the beginning but try to explain that to your teenager with their new Samsung phone or Hyundai car.
In addition to tackling the economy, President Park also revolutionised the education standards of South Korea. Illiteracy fell from 80% to less than 10% and by the end of the 1980s 37% of South Korean students had some form of higher education. By 1990, the per capita income of South Korea was ten times larger than Ghana – $4832 v $481 and by 2019 the per capita income of South Koreans was $43520 while the per capita income of Ghanaians was $5530. One country in the first world and the other firmly in the third.
All of this ready information, must raise the inevitable question, why would any developing country behave like Ghana and not like South Korea?
Is there anybody out there who understands how South African politicians think?
Is there anybody out there who knows whether South African politicians think?
Being successful takes hard work and discipline and I am not sure that the average politician or their supporter is keen on either. It is just easier to settle for mediocrity and I think that this is the reason that South Africa is hurtling down the road followed by Ghana.
I am not a fan of the ANC. They are stuck in an ideological time warp and they keep on listening to their old leaders who were schooled in the old Soviet Union. This is why our government still speaks as if the cold war is still raging. They have doubled down on their forty year old beliefs and still believe that the Berlin Wall is in place and Leonid Brezhnev is still in charge of the USSR. The ANC still believes in the second coming of communism despite the fact that China is now the biggest open-market in the world. It must be terrible to have devoted your life to a failed theory.
If it wasn’t so sad for the citizens of South Africa, it would be quite funny. But nobody is laughing.