Roundtable with Ann Bernstein

On Tuesday, July 26, the Africa Center hosted a breakfast roundtable discussion with Ann Bernstein, executive director of the Center for Development and Enterprise (CDE) in Johannesburg, South Africa’s leading development think tank, who discussed the challenges of mass employment and inclusion and their impact on rising social discontent in the run-up to the pivotal South African local elections, scheduled for August 3, 2016.

Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham welcomed participants, introduced Bernstein, and, following Bernstein’s remarks, moderated the discussion.

Bernstein’s remarks focused on the key findings of a new series of CDE reports entitled “The Growth Agenda: Priorities for Mass Employment and Inclusion in South Africa.” She noted that, despite a reduction in the income gap between white and black South Africans, overall inequality in the country has not fallen—in fact, the gap between elites and non-elites within racial groups has grown larger than the divide between comparable groups across races. This persistence is due, in part, to the country’s reliance on a growth strategy that privileges a select elite. Instead, she argued, South Africa needs to move towards a more inclusive growth model that encourages the emergence of labor-intensive industries and mass employment, creates an attractive and competitive business environment for private enterprise, expands the country’s skills pool, and recognizes the importance of well-organized urban centers. She concluded that failure to achieve inclusive growth could have consequences for the South African social contract, its constitution, and its democratic political system.

Other participants at the event included senior US officials and representatives of research institutions and non-governmental organizations.