One of the first things I ask people I meet overseas is:
“What do you know about
The answers range, but the most common have something to do with:
- high crime rates
- land redistribution
Of course, these answers are completely true and relevant. But, I find it surprising that foreigners know about these things without knowing about the severe poverty our country faces.
Who is to blame for this? To an extent – the media. But they’re not the only ones. When South Africans meet foreigners, we give them a one-dimensional viewpoint on some very complex issues. Those of us who emigrate or want to emigrate often blame it on the high crime rates and the unstable economy. This might be true, but it’s also highly problematic to give this reason without elaborating on its cause – which is poverty.
Our crime rate isn’t high because South Africans are inherently bad people.
Our crime rate is high because of poverty.
Our economy is unstable for many reasons, but one of them is because of lack of investor confidence due to high rates of corruption. Corruption thrives in our country partly because of high levels of inequality – which is synonymous with poverty.
By telling the foreigners you meet about our crime rate and corruption ONLY, without linking it back to poverty, you are doing our country a severe injustice.
That may seem a little harsh, but think about it like this:
When foreigners only hear about crime and corruption, they don’t want to invest in South Africa and they are less likely to visit it. But when they hear about the poverty causing these issues, they may feel differently about traveling and investing here.
Remember, us South Africans who do have the opportunity to travel or emigrate are part of a privileged minority. If you truly want the poverty in South Africa (and all the issues linked to it) to be addressed, then encouraging tourism and investment here should be of great importance to you.