Strike in South Africa MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images

A New Deal for South Africa

At a time when populism and authoritarianism are globally ascendant, South Africa, with the ouster of President Jacob Zuma, has an opportunity to move in a more democratic direction. But to seize it, Zuma's successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, must root out corruption and deliver economic dynamism.

CAPE TOWN – A month has passed since Cyril Ramaphosa, the head of the African National Congress (ANC), replaced Jacob Zuma as South Africa’s president. Ramaphosa, a former protégé of Nelson Mandela, has reinvigorated the country with his competence and commitment to transparency. For this reason alone, South Africans have cause for optimism.

But while South Africa has taken the road less traveled – bucking the global trend toward populism and authoritarianism – the country remains at a crossroads. Zuma’s departure did nothing to address the imbalances that are undermining the economy. If South Africa is truly to turn a corner, inequality must be addressed; the majority of the country’s citizens must believe that they can achieve a brighter future.

In South Africa, poverty, inequality, and ethnicity overlap, to the disadvantage of a majority of the country’s 57 million people. With a per capita income of $13,000 last year (measured by purchasing power parity), South Africa is a middle-income country similar to Brazil, Mexico, and Thailand. But the headline figure masks a level of inequality that is particularly acute.

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