Yesterday business came to a standstill as the country focused on the first day of the Soccer World Cup. The South African flag and the trademark yellow and green Bafana Bafana colour scheme have now engulfed the nation. Even if our national team may well be mediocre in the face of international sporting stardom, they are now at the eye of our patriotic storm. Even those who weren’t traditional soccer fans, especially the pale male rugby and cricket contingent, have quickly turned into soccer obsessed flag waving yellow-embalmed hooligans. And most weirdly, those who hated the droning, ear piercing vuvuzela, suddenly picked up this noisy mass produced plastic trumpet as a fresh symbol of our unified modern national identity.
I am convinced more than ever that South African’s are an optimistic bunch! I suppose, if we weren’t we would never have got through our hectic past in the first place? In post-Apartheid South African identity, any glimmer of good news is cause for celebration. Any party is an opportunity to forget about the many problems that face our nation. That’s what’s so impressive about us.
South Africans can laugh at themselves – we heartily laugh at our problems and we have really learnt to smile in the face of adversity. Our cultural melting pot, our political shenanigans and our plucky “anything can happen in Africa” mind-set have actually turned us into quite a fun bunch of people! In fact in this country all you have to do is read the newspapers and see what our politicians and public figures are up to, for some quick comedic relief.
Our passion, energy and exuberance seem to surprise the world. Now soccer has given us a global communication channel and a reason to be positive. We are using this World Cup to remind ourselves that anything is possible and that we are a nation of dreamers and optimists. We are using global event to show the world that we are not just another third-world basket case which can be written off in stereotypical African negativity. We are reminding ourselves of the heady days of Nelson Mandela when we finally wanted to be the rainbow nation of Archbishop Tutu.
For the business community we are using the World Cup to defy the prophets of doom and Afro-gloom and show that we are a modern, capable nation with the ability to compete anywhere, anytime and with anyone.
So yesterday morning, as I zoomed along the smooth newly laid N1 highway to the first kick-off at Soweto’s calabash stadium, I was called by a reporter from a radio station asking me how I felt the world cup would affect property prices. As I struggled to hear the question over the shrieks of an assortment of vuvuzela, it was somewhat of a sober question.
The reality is that I am not sure. I do know that property prices have not gone up one iota because of the world cup and I also think that the global downturn is far more a factor than this soccer event. I think that the massive infrastructural spend on new roads, airports and stadiums is a national investment that will pay off in the long run as our largest public funded programme since the 1970’s.
I have read many of the sober articles in the Economist, Time Magazine and of course the Australian Financial Review which have been e-mailed around to all the old South African’s living in various enclaves around the world.
To me, the analysis about how the world cup affects property prices, commodity prices, equity prices and the general economy is a critical one. In fact, as business-people, it is critical…
But for now, I want to wear yellow and green attire, drive around with a South African flag flapping on my car roof and I want to wade through soccer paraphernalia in public spaces. Right now I will tolerate my ear drums being damaged by screaming vuvuzelas attached to exuberant enthusiasts and I want to carry on seeing delighted locals showing throngs of visitors that we smile, that we say hello and that we can have a great time. I want to pass through stunning airports, renovated roads, world class infrastructure and dazzling stadiums.
Because isn’t it true that positive activity is contagious? Isn’t it true that if we focus on the good and not the bad, that the good will prevail? Isn’t it true that if we shrug off our problems even for a party, that somehow we will find our solutions? Doesn’t it make sense that if we all focus on a common goal, we will forge a common identity. So we should remain realistic, but letting our hair down and getting a little tipsy with excitement can only breed an encouraging outcome.
The real result of the world cup will be analysed to death overtime but for now, let’s allow our unique South African energy to gurgle and grow. We will deal with the babelaas tomorrow.