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Methods of Development | Color-Blocking the Development Process Part 2

March 8, 2012

Race is an important, and often neglected, part of the development process. It usually makes things just a bit more complicated when it comes to distribution of resources and access to education and employment. South Africa is an emerging BRICS country whose race issue has been hard to ignore because of the geographical implications of the apartheid system. However, South Africa’s efforts to counteract the effects of apartheid have been both successful and unsuccessful, creating opportunity but also allowing inequalities to persist.

Nelson Mandela and François Pienaar at the 1995 Rugby World Cup | Source: Getty and The Telegraph

South Africa’s racial inequalities took center stage in the early 1990s with the end of apartheid and Nelson Mandela’s call for South Africa to become a “rainbow nation.” This objective was portrayed in 1995 by the rugby team and Rugby World Cup, also depicted in the film Invictus. The apartheid system physically separated people of different racial origins into distinct geographical areas that limited interracial mixing. South Africa chose four categories to define its people under the apartheid system: white, Indian/Asian, coloured, and black.

Unfortunately racism persists in South Africa and leads to tumultuous political situations and violent acts. A recent example is the vocal outcry that erupted from a poster issued by South Africa’s Democratic Alliance that illustrates an interracial couple with the caption “In OUR future, you wouldn’t look twice.” Black South Africans continue to suffer disproportionately as compared with whites. As a result, affirmative action plans were implemented; helping black South Africans gain jobs and entrance to universities.

For example, “[Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town Max] Price says that without race-based admission goals, schools would be nearly as white as they were during apartheid, despite the fact that whites make up fewer than 10 percent of the population. He says that would be unacceptable.” Furthermore, whites in South Africa still own the majority of farmland, prompting the government to redistribute landto black South Africans.

Controversial ad from the Democratic Alliance | Source: DASO and The Africa Report

But interaction between blacks and whites is still infrequent and tense, suggesting that race relations have not improved as much as expected since Mandela’s presidency. Despite this, black South Africans are part of a growing middle class and have become more integrated in the work force and education system.

In addition to economic disparities that correspond to unequal access to education, food, and health services, racial issues can also limit future economic prospects. When racial tensions lead to violence and obvious discrimination, they create an unsafe environment that has people thinking twice about attending events such as the Olympics and World Cup. Allowing race to dictate economic opportunity and the success of development initiatives can cause serious consequences for the future of Brazil and South Africa in their role as emerging economies.

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