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How Tech Could Help South Africa’s Economy

The South African economy is in a consistently bleak state. Analysts say extremely high unemployment rates, the inability of the country’s leaders to lead an economic reform project and pervasive inequality are some of the factors that have contributed to the current dilemma.

However, some people are hopeful technology could be the industry that helps the country turn its economy around.

An Upcoming 5G Trial

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Many people in South Africa and beyond are excited about the potential of 5G wireless networks. Experts say once the technology rolls out, the networks will be significantly faster and have more capacity than previous generations. Vodacom has envisioned being the first 5G provider in the country. Thanks to a partnership with Nokia, it plans to bring 5G speeds to more than 70 million customers during a trial period.

Plans are underway to determine how best to support users at the individual and enterprise levels. It’s easy to see how 5G technology could be especially advantageous for businesses that want to keep up with growing demands from their clients.

Help From American Investors

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In late October, Ambassador Harold Doley, Jr., governor of the African Investment Bank, made headlines when he said,

“We think that what you have done is tabled a watershed budget and as an international investor, you have sent a signal to a group of investors that I represent as a lead investor that we are going to invest over the next several months.”

Doley continued by discussing the distribution of funds, which he previously said would take place within the next several months:

“We are committing over $1 billion to invest in the South African economy in technology, education and agribusiness. Technology is the future to train young people, to employ young people and we want to be your partner.”

It’s obvious Doley and his fellow investors believe that although technology should not be the lone area of focus, it has substantial promise. During the same conversation when Doley made those remarks, current South African Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said he believed South Africa’s economic difficulties could reverse if the country could address issues affecting investor confidence. Doley’s pledge of funds might encourage other investors from the United States and elsewhere to follow suit.

South African Gold Mines Are No Longer Sustainable

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Another factor that has likely contributed to South Africa’s economic troubles is that its gold mines are shutting down because it’s too expensive to keep them operating. High electricity prices and reduced rates of production are two factors that are making it necessary to close the mines.  However, some individuals in the mining sector are demanding the government legalize small-scale mining in South Africa. Despite not being recognized as a lawful activity, small-scale, or artisanal, mining employs about 30,000 people and makes up about 10 percent of the country’s gold production.

Achieving legalization could be tricky, since small-scale mining has a bad reputation for harming the environment and employing people who use the profits to finance criminal activity. Supporters assert artisanal mining is significantly more dangerous than conventional mining. They say the individuals who engage in it lack the training and resources needed to do their jobs safely while being mindful of environmental impacts. If the practice does become legal and receives the financial backing required to explore technologies and techniques that could make this kind of mining less perilous, the result could be a boost to South Africa’s economy, too.

One interesting thing to note about this possibility is that it would not require South Africans to participate in an entirely new type of work to aid the economy. Instead, they’d take part in something familiar, but in more beneficial ways than before, thanks to assistance from technology.

These are just some of the fascinating paths for technology to stimulate South Africa’s economy in much-needed ways. All that’s left to do is wait and see if the ideas and opportunities mentioned here come to fruition and bring lasting advantages.

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