SA can learn lessons from China, but let’s make sure they’re the right ones
We fixate on the first-world parts of our economy, whereas it’s in the informal sector that growth potential really lies
Some years ago, on a Chinese Communist Party propaganda tour of the sunnier parts of China with fellow African journalists, we were taken to a factory that manufactures a best-selling refrigerator brand, one of which may well be humming in Cantonese in a kitchen close to you right now.
On a Sunday afternoon, the production line ticked along, staffed by young men and women who went about their tasks with noted resolve, assembling plastic and aluminium shapes into brushed-grey appliances, some of them with TVs, Bluetooth and the now-standard cold-water dispenser built into the door.
Later, during a presentation by the company’s short-sleeved managers, one of our party, Liberian I think, asked how the company’s founder had got into the fridge racket in the first place. Well, explained a manager, the founder went to America a few years after the war and saw a fridge he really liked. He had it shipped back home, and he pulled it apart and figured it all out, and started making them as well. This handy shortcut through research and development was in no way a shameful secret; instead it was celebrated as the most cost-effective and logical way to get into the fridge business...