Debating historical inequalities and economic transformation in South Africa

27 May 2021
27 May 2021

Contrary to the usual practice, the 28th Africa–France Summit will not gather heads of states. Instead, this summit will be largely devoted to African youth and entrepreneurship. As such, it will put the younger generation centre stage in taking a fresh look at the relationship between Africa and France. The event will be held in Montpellier, France, in October 2021, and a highlight will be President Emmanuel Macron’s discussion with youth representatives from Africa, France, and the diaspora to exchange “freely and without taboos”.

To feed into the discussion with the French President, philosopher and historian Prof. Achille Mbembe (University of the Witwatersrand) was asked to direct a series of debates across Africa and to identify and summarise operational proposals emerging from these debates.

On 20 May 2021, ACEIR co-hosted, with the French embassy in South Africa, one of the four debates to take place in the country, focusing on inequalities, which are severely constraining the life possibilities for South Africa and Africa’s youth. 

The event aimed to provide stakeholders with an opportunity to share their perspectives on South Africa’s inequalities and to motivate for priority action areas and policies in overcoming these inequalities. Proposals emerging out of the discussions will be taken to the Summit event between President Macron and youth representatives and may contribute to reshaping the relationship between Africa and France.

Panellists were asked to reflect on the effectiveness of public policies implemented in South Africa to eliminate historical inequalities and improve social mobility, with a particular focus on the productive assets of: 

  1. Labour: to assess progress in equalising education since 1994, given the current state of the education system and the labour market.

  2. Financial capital: to assess both progress in transforming the finance sector, through Broad-based Black Economics Empowerment, and access to finance for all South Africans.

Speakers included high-profile business leaders, a prominent student activist, academics and the head of South Africa’s Youth Employment Service. 

Read more: Inequality in South Africa is a ‘ticking timebomb’. UCT News, 21 May 2021.