(Getty Images)

  • The Indlulamithi SA Scenarios 2030 released a forecast of what South Africa could look like by 2030.
  • The study names three possible futures: iSbhujwa, Nayi le Walk, or Gwara Gwara.
  • Where SA ends up depends on the handling of three key driving forces, the authors say: social inequality, resistance, and  institutions.

The Indlulamithi SA Scenarios 2030 group on Thursday released its forecast of what South Africa could look like by 2030 – and it is not all pretty.

"Indlulamithi is the Nguni word for giraffe meaning 'above the trees' and the reason we went with it is because scenario planning, similarly, requires its participants to take the wide and long view - imagining possible futures beyond confining horizons," says leader of the study, Somadoda Fiken.

"The Indlulamithi process is not another sangoma process for our country," said President Cyril Ramaphosa at the launch. "Scenario planning is an important process that we could use to better plan for the future and understand threats and opportunities that lie ahead."

For the R8 million study, a diverse group of 150 South Africans were extensively interviewed on matters ranging from labour, youth unemployment, land reform, education to even investigative journalists.

The study identified three key driving forces that will influence the future: social inequality, resistance, resentment and reconciliation (RRR), and institutional and leadership capacity.

How those drivers are approached will determine which of these paths South Africa goes down, the authors believe.

iSbhujwa: an enclave bourgeois nation

iSbujwa: an enclave bourgeois nation. (Idlulamithi)

iSbhujwa is a South Africa torn by deepening social divides, daily protests and cynical self-interest. 

  • GDP growth averages 2.2% to 2030. There is slow but persistent depreciation in the rand and increasing government debt risk. Unemployment is however, reduced to around 22%. 
  • This society features a growing separation of South Africans by class and income level.
  • Land reform is rolled out, but under-investment in agriculture sees declines in food production and security.
  • There are market-led interventions in education, health with state-owned enterprises producing mixed results.


Nayi le Walk: a nation in step with itself

Nayi le Walk: a nation in step with itself. (Indulamithi)

This is a South Africa where growing social cohesion, economic expansion, and a renewed spirit of constitutionalism get the country going. 

  • GDP growth averages 4.5% to 2030. Economic growth is more solid and predictable from 2020. The unemployment rate drops to 16% in 2030. SA's debt rating is upgraded as foreign direct investment increases.
  • Early childhood development programmes and the first six years of education are improved. The promotion of civic duties in schools start to pay off. University education becomes more affordable.
  • The public sector is more capable and productive thanks to better recruiting, training and support - which increases public trust in key institutions.
  • There is faster urban and rural land redistribution, and better support for emerging farmers. Agricultural production and food security is boosted.


Gwara Gwara: a floundering false dawn

Gwara Gwara: a floundering false dawn. (Indlulamithi)

This worst case scenario is of a nation torn between immobility and restless energy. Gwara Gwara embodies a demoralised land of disorder and decay.

  • GDP growth averages 1.5% over the decade with some periods of deep recession. Unemployment never falls below 25%; the rate increases towards the end of the 2020s. Income inequalities skyrocket above high levels of the 2010s.
  • There are destructive battles within major political parties with oppositions forming a coalition government between 2024 and 2029. After the 2024 elections many public institutions are returned to functionality with the number of provinces reduced to six.
  • Many key institutions are only partially liberated and some quickly get recaptured by "newly emerging elites".
  • The newly formed coalition government become increasingly controlling with individual freedoms being curtailed. 

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