ABOUT THREE YEARS ago, if I’m not mistaken; NewsNow, a South African international news magazine published by News24 was terminated. It would no longer be found on newsstands across the country. According to the magazine’s website, this was due to low circulation.

I was disappointed by the revelations. I recall telling my friend, a PhD holder, that, I wish things never turned out the way they did with NewsNow. Because I had hoped that the magazine would be a success, and become a platform where South Africans can engage on issues that continuously shape the world we live in today.

I had seen the magazine a couple of times. It was well-edited; well-designed for readers interested in understanding the news that resonate across continents, for those well-aware that what happens out there, does affect us here at home.

I thought a lot about this, asked myself questions: Why, in this modern age, can’t NewsNow gain traction within the South African society? I did come to a conclusion – South Africans, sadly, aren’t really interested in understanding what is happening beyond their borders, especially on issues related to economics and politics.

When I was a student at Rhodes University, and later at the University of Cape Town, I was perhaps the most informed about the world of politics and economics among my peers. They knew that well. I guess in a sense I was a very strange teenager. What I noted with them though, was that such news were of little interest to them.

In retrospect I am not upset with my friends. To be frank, I do not think most people have yet understood what a village the world has become. We always think that what happens in the Middle East has nothing to do with us; when in fact, it does. We import oil from the Arab world, so any instability there will have a negative impact on our economic needs. An understanding of the current developments and what’s likely to happen will help us make informed economic decisions.

Instability in Europe results in a downward trend on our trade with that continent. We need their goods and services, while they also need ours.

Since 2004, South Africa’s trade with the European Union (EU) has increased by 128%, according to the European Commission Memo released on July last year. In 2012, exports to the EU accounted for 17.6% of the country’s total exports; while imports from the EU accounted for 24.4% the same year.

These statistics show how important Europe is to South Africa. We need to further strengthen the trade relations for the benefit of the two regions. It is therefore vital that we understand the current political and economic dynamics across the European countries.

So true with the United States, Latin America, Asia and so on. We can not afford to isolate ourselves from these continents. They will shape the course of our economy and our future.

I think what will be of detriment to South Africa is the current rise of nationalism that I have noticed. Most of us seem so determined not to learn anything from other countries. We always think that we have our own way of addressing issues, even though the results of our solutions cannot keep up with the competition we face from other emerging nations.

A perfect example I can think of at the moment is basic education. It seems to me the higher the matric pass rate, the more proud we are of ourselves. Yet in comparison to other developing countries, we do terribly in mathematics, science, and reading. I am not really sure what measurements South Africans use to make sense of the quality of their education. I don’t think they have given themselves enough time to look at the tools they could use to effectively assess the quality of their basic education.

We are so hesitant and unwilling to match ourselves with other developing nations in order to take lessons from them – which is not at all a wise action. Because they will continue developing rapidly while we lag behind.

Though given the above realities, most people don’t spend time understanding what shapes the world we live in today. They don’t ask themselves how the changing world order affects South Africa, and what could the country do to thrive among the rising giants of the world. The closure of NewsNow was testament to this. And even when I talk to people, be it at work, or at the gym, or at the mall, I always feel there is so much they need to do to familiarize themselves with the economic and political world we live in. I hope they start sooner.

One of the internationally acclaimed journalists, Fareed Zakaria, once said that the world has become truly global. I guess most of us concur with him; he’s perhaps the most qualified person to make sense of the current world order. South Africans need to start realizing that South Africa is part of this world too. We need to understand the global economic and political forces that are changing our world for the better and for the worst. If we develop an understanding of this planet; then we’ll likely pursue optimal policies, be it in education, our structural economy, our health-care etc. It is this type of thinking that will help us survive today’s hyper-competitive world. Therefore it is now, that we must start seeking knowledge about what’s happening beyond our borders.

 

Phumlani M. UMajozi is a Professional Business Analyst, a Policy Analyst at Independent Entrepreneurship Group, and Youth Coordinator at Free Market Foundation South Africa.