IOA Position Papers

South Africa must modernize its manufacturing industry to mutually benefit from its partnership with China


Analysis in brief | South Africa (SA) has long endured an unequal trade partnership with China that has significantly impacted its manufacturing sector. China on the other hand has initiated plans to elevate its manufacturing industries over the coming decades by means of implementing innovative technologies to create the smart factory. Given China’s move, SA cannot afford to miss out on this opportunity to follow suit. By adopting industry 4.0 technologies, SA stands to even the playing field with China that has long been overdue.

Key points:

Industry 4.0 provides a vision for the digitalisation in future manufacturing creating a new customer-oriented, automated, flexible and faster industry. Image courtesy: Aethon, available at:

  • SA needs to change its current course of trajectory of exporting its natural resources to China in order to create jobs and see its economic growth thrive.
  • The ‘Made in China 2025’ initiative outlines China’ plan to elevate its manufacturing industry by implementing innovative technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, cloud computing, 3D printing and artificial intelligence to create the smart factory.
  • To prepare SA to compete with the likes of advanced countries, SA businesses intend to invest approximately US$ 459 million annually over the next five years to ready themselves for the impact of the fourth industrial revolution.

South Africa’s manufacturing sector is at risk given China’s monopoly of South Africa’s natural resources

For decades, China has purchased South Africa’s natural resources for its own production industry. This has led to an increase in South African exports, resulting in the commodity boom. China imports South Africa’s primary goods, but sells manufactured products to the global market. China can rapidly produce cheaper manufactured goods, given the country’s larger and cheaper labour workforce. This is one of several factors that has contributed to South Africa’s de-industrialisation and shrinking manufacturing sector, negatively impacting upon the country’s economic growth.

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African Leadership Matters – An IOA Position Paper Series

Thuli Madonsela, South Africa’s former Public Protector

By Prof Jo-Ansie van Wyk (1)

Madonsela – The woman responsible for the transformational change of the Office of the Public Protector in South Africa. Image Courtesy: WaAfrika Online. Available at:

Key Points:  

  • During Madonsela’s tenure, she significantly transformed the Office of the Public Protector and led the strategic re-orientation and organisational renewal of her Office with the conclusion of the Office’s seventh Strategic Plan review.
  • Madonsela also re-organised the Office’s triaging process to improve its efficiency in the handling of cases which resulted in an increase in public access to the Office and the high number of investigative reports initiated by her Office.
  • In order to maintain the integrity of the Office, no performance bonuses were paid to staff, which in addition to the other changes made, led to an improved overall public trust in the Office.

Founding of the Office of the Public Protector

With the advent of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1995 (hereafter the Constitution) in 1996 came the creation of “Chapter 9 institutions”. Chapter 9 of South Africa’s post-apartheid Constitution contains the list and mandate of state institutions established to support constitutional democracy in South Africa. These so-called Chapter 9 institutions include the Public Protector (i.e. Ombudsman); the Human Rights Commission; Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities; and more.

According to the Constitution, all Chapter 9 institutions:

  1. Are independent and subject only to the law of the land;
  2. Must be assisted and protected by other organs of state;
  3. Are free from interference by any person or organ of state;
  4. Are accountable to the National Assembly.

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Africa’s landlocked countries’ perpetual disadvantage

Analysis in brief | Africa’s 17 landlocked countries have built-in geographic disadvantages that contribute to poor performances in economic, social and even political growth. Some landlocked nations have overcome these disadvantages, providing templates for others to follow.

Key points:

  • Transhipment of goods through neighbouring countries with sea access has inhibited landlocked countries’ export growth
  • Botswana and Rwanda have overcome landlocked disadvantages with sound business growth policies
  • African integration that opens borders and allows free-flowing goods and people will assist landlocked countries’ development

In the real estate industry, property values are famously determined by ‘location, location, location’. Among African countries, nations’ economic prospects and even successful governance can be determined by their geographic locations within the continent, specifically their access to the sea. Africa’s landlocked countries are among the lowest scoring nations in IOA’s 2017 Africa Country Benchmark Report (ACBR) overall and in the four quadrants of business, economics, politics and society.(1) Noting the index’s highest scores belong to island nations like Mauritius and Seychelles or countries with long coastlines like South Africa, Nigeria and the Mediterranean nations, there is a temptation to say that the more a nations’ borders are constituted by water, the more successful that nation becomes in all respects. Of course, there are exceptions. Madagascar, with its political crises and struggling economy, is one. Similarly, Botswana is a landlocked nation that is doing relatively well, while landlocked Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia score in the upper half of African countries on the ACBR.

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Africa’s space race is a serious pursuit

Analysis in brief | Africa’s most advanced economies have invested in space programmes, from satellite launches to full-fledged agencies dedicated to putting Africans into orbit.

The building of an Ethiopian observatory assists in the country’s aim to put a state-of-the-art satellite into orbit as part of its plans to improve communications. Image courtesy: Getty Images. Available at:

Key points:

  • Nigeria and South Africa have been operating space agencies, and Egypt and Ethiopia have announced their own space programmes
  • Algeria and Morocco have also launched satellites for military and civilian purposes with assistance from China, the European Union and Russia
  • Some satellite applications can now be done by drones, requiring cash-strapped African nations to invest cautiously in ever-evolving space technology

Space exploration is seen as a way for Africa to advance its communications agenda, via locally built satellites boosted by homemade rockets from African launching complexes. Space technology has become more universal, evolving from its Cold War origins where the US and Russia vied for strategic advantages and prestige with their space programmes. As part of goodwill programmes, Africans have ridden into space, courtesy of the US and Russia, and African scientists and technicians have trained overseas in space applications. Some mechanical components, used by the East and the West, have been assembled in South Africa and other African states, domesticating this technology and laying the groundwork for Africa’s own space programmes. The effort has been costly and at times cost-inefficient, as the learning curve ascends like the arc of a rocket’s trajectory.

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The digital divide in South Africa’s higher education sector: why public internet access is important in the context of tertiary education

Analysis in brief | Information and communication technology integration into South African higher education teaching makes internet access crucial for students. Government has made progress in pioneering public internet access initiatives, but more must be done to ensure their sustainability.

Source: General Household Survey of Statistics South Africa, 2015. Graphic designed by IOA.


Key points:

  • With higher education institutions integrating ICTs as a means for teaching and sharing of educational resources, internet access is vital for student success. Without it, they face exclusion from opportunities for learning, research and employment.
  • South Africa’s high data costs mean free public internet access must be made a priority.
  • Government needs to engage in innovative and sustainable partnerships, if universal internet access is to be achieved for all South Africans.

The face of higher education in South Africa has changed radically. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have expanded access to information across a myriad of geographic areas. Institutions are investing heavily in ICTs, increasing reliance on online portals for access to vital study information and ‘open’ educational resources. This facilitates ‘’distance learning’’, remotely enabling students to access course material and assignments and allowing students to work during the day and virtually “attend’’ classes afterwards. Internet-based learning also fills a clear need for students in remote areas, providing a platform for student-lecturer interface in spite of geographic limitations. Internships, graduate schemes and scholarship notifications can be posted on educational sites, thus extending access to post-university opportunities across a wider audience.

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