Magazine article New African

Mandela Was Also a Champion of Economic Freedom

Magazine article New African

Mandela Was Also a Champion of Economic Freedom

Article excerpt

nelson mandela understood that social transformation and economic transformation go hand in hand, recalls klaus schwab, founder and executive chairman of the world economic forum wef. as mandela explained to world economic forum participants at davos in 1999: "we should lay the scourge of racism to rest. this requires strong democratic institutions and a culture of compassion. none of this is possible without a strong economy."

OF ALL THE MANY LEADERS I HAVE met in the course of my life, none made a deeper impression on me than Nelson Mandela. His courage, compassion, humility and wisdom were without parallel on the world stage, and he himself was an enduring source of inspiration. And while he is rightly revered as a hero in the struggle for race freedom, he also deserves recognition as a champion of economic freedom who set his country and continent on the path to growth.

In 1990, when he emerged from 27 years of imprisonment, South Africa's economy was not in a position of strength. The toxic taint of a racist regime had led to international sanctions, curbing trade and investment.

Rigid foreign exchange controls, uncompetitive industries and the total marginalisation of the black workforce all hampered the country's ability to enter a new and more equitable era. The continent as a whole was struggling to find its footing, and at the time, the average African was getting poorer.

Faced with a bitter history of injustice, Nelson Mandela's first instincts were understandably protectionist. In fact, when he attended Davos in 1992, it was with the intention of explaining to those present why nationalisation was the right approach for South Africa. But based on what he learned at the meeting, he changed his mind.

Nelson Mandela once explained this conversion with his characteristic self-deprecation and humour. …

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