Half a million out-of-country soccer fans are expected to show up for the World Cup, along with me for the Time/CNN/Fortune Global Forum (check out the site and the participants bar on the right: Bill Clinton on top and Tom Barnett at #9 . . . okay, it's Bill Clinton as #1 and three other heavies and the rest are alphabetical).
Anyway, this is a bit of a travelogue piece in Bloomberg BusinessWeek that previews the country you'll find there when you come for the Cup:
What visitors will find is a nation of First World amenities and infrastructure, and a place where optimism is perennially tested by unresolved Third World issues of poverty, crime, inflation, and racial tension. Already the undisputed economic engine of Africa—it accounts for 39 percent of sub-Saharan Africa's gross domestic product—South Africa still labors with plenty of fiscal shortcomings. One of them is that the recession did bite at least a little. Unemployment, which had been trending downward since 2006, rose in 2009 to 24 percent from 22 percent in 2008, throwing tens of thousands of mostly poor and middle-class black South Africans out of work.
On the positive side, South Africa (pop. 49 million) has proven resilient. While it saw a negative GDP of 1.8 percent last year, the economy began growing again at the end of 2009, aided by the vital, $27 billion-a-year tourism industry that saw a slight uptick in visitors in an otherwise down year. Moreover, South Africa has weathered a recent bout of tension sparked by incendiary remarks made by an upstart African National Congress (ANC) politician and the murder of a notorious white supremacist. Predictions by pundits here and abroad of race riots didn't pan out.
Sounds like a country on globalization's frontier alright.
Until last year, South Africa recorded positive growth in GDP every year since true democracy arrived in 1994, defying a lot of predictions.