On 4 October 2012, the United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP) hosted an international symposium on “South Africa in Transition”. This symposium, which featured keynote speakers from the University of Cape Town in South Africa — Dr. Max Price, Vice Chancellor, and Prof. Deborah Posel, Director of the Institute for the Humanities in Africa (HUMA) — brought together participants from academia and diplomatic circles as well as the general public.
The event, held at UNU headquarters in Tokyo, was organized jointly with the Graduate Program in Sustainability Science, University of Tokyo, and the South African Embassy in Tokyo.
In his welcome remarks, UNU Vice-Rector Kazuhiko Takeuchi recognized that “since its transition from apartheid, South Africa — despite facing enormous, political, social and economic challenges — has emerged to become one of the newly emerging economies”.
Prof. Posel then addressed the progression of the issue of race in South Africa, from apartheid through to the present day. Prof. Posel shed light on the present situation in South Africa with a focus on the question of transition and how far the country has advanced in this process.
Dr. Price talked about inequality and poverty in post-apartheid South Africa. He remarked that the legacy of apartheid has resulted in persistent inequality along the lines of racial divisions originally defined by apartheid legislation. He further noted that as a multiethnic nation with diverse languages and cultures, and Africa’s largest economy, the Republic of South Africa plays a critical leadership role in the southern African region and in Africa as a whole.
The discussions were summed up by pointing out that South Africa is now part of the BRICS and, as the 28th largest economy in the world, has a greater role to play in Africa and globally. The country should therefore focus on solving the enormous political, social and economic challenges it faces in order to successfully play this leading role.
Also in attendance, Dr. Mohau Pheko, South Africa’s ambassador to Japan, thanked the participants for showing a keen interest in South Africa’s development matters.
The symposium was closed by Dr. Obijiofor Aginam, Senior Academic Programme Officer at UNU-ISP, who thanked the audience for their questions and comments on South Africa in transition.