What will the South African WC ‘legacy’ deliver?

Much has been talked about the ‘legacy’ of the World Cup being a catalyst for future social and economic improvement in South Africa. But little has been given in evidence as to the real investment or projects that this ‘legacy’ will turn into. Instead, all one hears about is the ‘legacy’ – relating to the ‘spirit’ of the WC that will somehow improve South Africas still poor social situation.

There is only so much which a nations success at delivering an international sporting event can do for its future economic and social growth. What it does prove is that South Africa has excellent infrastructure such as stadia, transport, and most importantly security – something which the tabloid press in the UK claimed would ruin the tournaments success. But as for the ‘legacy’ of the WC being relied upon as a catalyst for wider social and economic improvement, there is little real evidence beyond the rhetoric.

The only evidence I remember seeing throughout the coverage of the WC focussing on the so called ‘legacy’ – which was almost entirely covered by the BBC and not ITV – was a small piece Clarence Seedorf gave to camera before one of the games about a foundation he was setting up aimed at providing young people with safe playground facilities. This was given as evidence as part of the WCs ‘legacy’ after the tournament. Somewhow, I dont think Seedorfs playgorund will deliver the remedies to one of the worlds highest unemployment rates, and the worlds second highest number of HIV/Aids patients.

No doubt Clarence Seedorf is doing something honourable in his efforts through his foundation Champions for Children, and obviously this piece is not a diatribe against the man. But, the press has not offered any tangible evidence regarding real investment and nationwide projects in South Africa which will deliver social and economic improvement on the back of the World Cup – as its ‘legacy’. And this begs the question, will the World Cup deliver a ‘legacy’ at all? Of course, if a WC, or other major sporting event, doesnt lead to further social and economic improvement (think the Olympics in Athens) this shouldn’t be seen as a failure of the event itself. But if ‘legacy’ is emphasised to such a blatant degree as it has been with the South African WC, yet there seems to be no real evidence of investment or projects forming a ‘legacy’, then this is a failure. Especially when you are raising the hopes of people suffering from problems such as unemployment and HIV/Aids which would benefit from real direct investment into alleviating these problems.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “What will the South African WC ‘legacy’ deliver?

  1. You raise some valid issues and the whole debate has been going on here in South Africa for a few days.

    I wrote a letter last Friday to the editor of SA’s premier business newspaper:
    http://www.businessday.co.za/Articles/Content.aspx?id=114296

    As a result of it, I was party to a major regional radio station’s phone-in this morning, as well as being quoted in several newspapers around SA today.

    I am absolutely amazed at the commercial benefits already under way as a result of this event, from multinationals to SMME’s. (Unilever today announced that Africa was their new major global target and are currently planning substantial new investment…just one example.)

    Like you say – we have massive challenges in the fileds of unemployment and AIDS, to name but 2. As I say, our challenge, as business leaders in SA, is convert this month-long spectacle into a social and economic legacy.

    I think we have the heart and the drive here. So – until some reasonable time hence – can we please keep the jury out?

  2. Louis JR Connor

    I dont doubt for one second that the poeple of South Africa have the ‘heart’ and ‘drive’ to build a legacy for the WC and to improve their social and econmic situations. But again, this is just rhetoric. Where are the actual investments coming from into SA?

    I know you point out Unilevers announcement which is great! but beyond providing jobs, how will this turn into the vast social investment needed to overcome problems such as Aids/HIV and the huge social disparities between rich and poor?

  3. Books, conferences and tomes of research have been written around the key issues you raise, so for me – an ordinary businessman – to answer these points in a few lines is a challenge. I have only some answers, but they need ‘space’.

    Firstly, I am not sure your political persuasion, but I am passionate about the fact that the tragedy we face here now is directly linked to 2+ centuries of British rule. Nothing will deter my thinking that Britain, Europe and North America have collectively ‘raped and pillaged’ South Africa (and Africa) for their own beneficial gain. So to place such a singular responsibility as to which you aver on our nation creates an ‘ad hominem’ situation entirely. Frankly, it is unfair.

    Secondly, after we created a new democratic in 1994, only superficial social re-development was actually put in place for the next 5 years, because Mandela’s presidency was all about restructuring government, our constitution, etc. That means we are only a mere 11-12 years down a developmental agenda. Most of us at that time believed it would be at least a generation before substantial inroads in social imbalances could be seen and economic impacts felt, if not TWO generations, at least. (You cannot take 2-3 centuries of human injustice and wash it away in a few years!)

    Thirdly, we compete with developing nations for scarce investment capital. FDI is all about returns. The fact that we’ve been a strong emerging market destination for such investment for over the past 6-12 months – on a global comparison – means we have a better chance than many other nations of attracting such inflows. Our latest Reserve Bank stats of a few days ago show an unexpected positive in our balance of payments, mainly due to foreign investment. Our stock market indices are up and a survey of fund managers places new records on foreign investment over this past fortnight, seemingly attributable to the ‘euphoria’ and ‘positivism’ of the WC.

    Fourthly, after my comment about Unilever, VW and several other multinationals (including WalMart) have announced new or pending investment. In my own little business, I’ve now secured – singularly through the World Cup – new investment from Australia (unexpectedly) and that will create 2 new quality, sustainable jobs. I’m working with an Indian company, likewise, that could add another 2 here and 2 in each Ghana and East Africa. There are several thousand entrepreneurs out there in SA experiencing what I am right now!

    Fifthly – the scourge of HIV and AIDS. I have a friend who is the Provincial Director for the AIDS programme in her province (includes Johannesburg and Pretoria) and her reports are now starting to show signs of traction in this horrendous fight. New programmes planned in the past 2 years (and now in full roll-out) are bearing fruit at last. Not only has the WC led to increased donor funding commitments, but these important strategies have been reviewed and are to be implemented outside SA, within other African regions. So that alone is one single positive sign.

    Sixthly – the collapse of ‘apartheid’ brought a far greater than expected migration of rural citizens into cities and peri-urban areas. For decades, these people had 3 key social needs (Maslow) – food, shelter and family support in their ‘home’ areas. Now they have nothing, but a government that is stretched to its limit. This happened in Europe in the 18th and 19th century, it happened after the Great Depression and both World Wars and is happening in China right now. Every single community and business leader in SA faces this challenge daily, so please don’t talk ‘rhetoric’, as I don’t believe you’ve properly applied your mind or researched circumstances. As a widely travelled and engaged business person, I know of few economies where corporate capital is so actively engaged in social issues. And – it is growing. This will be another World Cup legacy as more providers of capital will seek to re-invest locally rather than to divest because of the positivism. Mainly because it makes good business sense, but – critically – it makes socially responsible sense, given a new spirit of national unity that prevails here.

    Seventhly – you place the obligation squarely on South Africa to address these key social issues, but you ignore the wider African issues of poor governance, war, etc. We now have an estimated 6 million foreigners here as refugees and asylum seekers. We are facing the same challenges that the USA did in the 1960’s when – primarily California (many times the size of the SA economy!) – Mexicans and other Latin-Americans sought refuge and hope there. This can somewhat be paralleled on employment terms with the potential 1million Eastern European, new migrants now in the UK, post the expansion of the EU, although this is ‘legitimate’ migration. Our African migrants (including over 2 million from Zimbabwe – which is another debate entirely) are generally skilled, better educated and work harder than unionized locals (another debate, too!), primarily because of the legacy of ‘apartheid’ and colonialism here in SA. This problem is born by South Africa, when in fact it is an African problem, as well as an African-colonizing-nation problem, plus that of the world. When a nation has 10-15% of its residents dependent on it for some level of social security, this diverts scarce resources on an unparalleled basis.

    To round off – South Africa today is a vastly improved country from a social, economic and humanist perspective compared to when Her Majesty’s government exited here in 1961. Damn right it could be better. Vastly so. Our challenges today are directly as a result of that undeniable and proven legacy of one nation exploiting the riches of another.

    If you are truly serious about entering a socio-political arena in the British economy or government, then a really great starting point is to actually experience first hand the damages caused by exploitation and an on-the-ground review of the long-term remedial challenges currently underway.

    A random internet blog topic such as this one of yours not only smacks of some elitist thinking and arm-chair criticism…but it is also somewhat de-humanizing.

    In my humble opinion anyway. (And I’ve tried, where possible, to be fairly objective, given my limited knowledge and space, on such emotive issues that you raise, in what is quite frankly a biased and confrontational piece.)

  4. Louis JR Connor

    Frankly, I could have been saved the historical diatribe you just gave.

    You have given me an historical overview of South Africa which began with you blaming imperialism for SAa ills, and ending on accusing my piece as ‘de-humanizing’ – an allegation which is absurd to say the least.

    The truth is, and as your piece rightly points out, the social and economic investment in SA has pre-dated the WC and will continue regardless of the outcome of the WC.

    My point is – and always was – that the ‘legacy’ of the WC is not alone going to suddenly signal a seismic increase in FDI – and to be honest you are naieve to think that a ‘legacy’ of a international footballing event could do so.

    You seem to take great offence to my piece, and use it as a catalyst to suggest I dont recognise the vast improvements underway, and still going on, in SA. Again – and I feel I must re-iterate – my point is that the ‘legacy’ of the WC is not alone going to suddenly signal a seismic increase in FDI/seismic social improvements.

    My point was never to criticise SA – and I never have. You talk of ‘random’ internet blog, but it seems you are missing the point of blogs per se – to foster a debate.

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