Why South Africa should take the rest of the continent seriously

This readiness and ability to implement new technologies is encouraging and it is this attitude of ambition that we can learn from our African neighbours.

Within a few years Kenya could soon emerge as a world leader in mobile payments and export the technology to countries across the world.

South Africa can also learn a lot from some of Africa’s creative industries, such as the Nigerian movie industry, which has overtaken South Africa’s to become the strongest on the continent worth £500m and producing more films than Hollywood every year.

The films may not be international blockbusters, but they have huge appeal across Nigeria and Africa, and prove that Africans have the creativity to compete in non-traditional industries.

This innovation across the continent is having an impact on South Africa in two ways. Most obviously, it’s a positive opportunity for us to export our products and knowledge and generally expand trade with other African nations, which in turn will generate jobs for the youth of our country.

South Africa has some great assets – its infrastructure, education system, well developed services sector, stock exchange – that give us the opportunity to provide a range of goods and services to help grow our own economy, but we can work harder to maximise these advantages.

The second impact is psychological. The reality is countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria are tearing ahead and emerging as serious competitors for destinations of foreign capital.

In short, this is forcing our government and business leaders to look more closely at their policies and approach to business and consider an extra dimension in their policy-making. The harsh reality is that if South Africa is to retain its position as the leading economy on the continent it can’t for a minute ‘rest on its laurels’.

We are not in competition with the rest of Africa, but we can learn from each other, which is why it is essential we share technologies and collaborate to build strong regional industries that bolster inter-Africa trade.

In the past I have called for the creation of a pan-African BRICS as a way of achieving greater collaboration and working towards our collective economic interests.

Yet despite the growing confidence and innovation of our neighbours, South Africa is still an economic leader, coming up with ground-breaking ideas that challenge conventional thinking.

But we mustn’t get complacent, which is why learning from our African neighbours, and adopting a more mature concept of the competition we will face from them in the future will ultimately enable South Africa to remain the continent’s economic leader.