ShoutSA 2012

There’s definitely some unfortunate timing here with the recent release (and subsequent social media storm) on Kony 2012.  When I first watched this video, I really liked it.  I think trying to speak to people through music is an excellent way & South Africa certainly has enough musical talent to pull this off.

But then I started thinking more about the video, and about its goals.  Who is ShoutSA?  What do they do with my R20?  How can a video support the fight against crime?  I took to searching around the interwebs for some of this information, and apparently the people at ShoutSA got the message because this is what I found:

You can also see a list of their donations on their website

Even if I’m still not clear how much money they’ve received in donations and sponsorship relative to the almost R600.000 they have donated over the last 2 years, at least I was able to find some information. (Although R600,000 seems like an awfully small number to me).

This message shared by Danny K, when speaking about crime in South Africa, certainly resonates with every South African

It’s easy to say it’s the other guy’s problem but until we understand that we are all in the same boat and if there’s a hole in the hull, we’re all going down!

and perhaps that’s why these videos are so popular.

Unemployment

Unemployment rates have been on everyone’s minds here in the US given the current economic climate.  However, compare the December 2011 rate of 8.5% to South Africa’s improved rate of 23.9% in the fourth quarter of 2011.  I think this really puts the challenges South Africa face into perspective.

“Job creation is not happening in abundance or at the rate that could ever hope to materially dent unemployment. We are tinkering in decimal points whereas the substance of unemployment is not really being resolved at all. This economy is not geared to creating jobs because the environment is too hostile for small business.”- Chris Hart, Chief Economist, Investment Solutions

My research doesn’t focus on South Africa unemployment specifically, but it’s always a control variable I include.  Unemployment levels plays an important role in understanding how local governments function.  It is difficult to generate revenue & to provide services if a significant proportion of the constituents are unemployed and unable to pay for services.  But what other effects do unemployment have?  How can we alleviate both the unemployment itself and the negative consequences of this high level?  Is unemployment a variable that political scientists should pay more attention to or is it best left to the economists?

The Market for Petrol

The price of petrol is not something I think about much in the US.  About 2 blocks from my house there are 4 gas stations – one on each corner of the same intersection.  I know that I can (a) always get gas at any of these stations and (b) at least one of the stations will have a relatively low price for the area.

While driving across South Africa in July 2011 the petrol workers went on strike, preventing petrol trucks from leaving the depots and delivering fuel to gas stations across the country. Of course, this happened right as I was headed into the northernmost province – Limpopo Province – on a 400 km road trip.

Being absolutely paranoid about running out of gas somewhere in the middle of nowhere, I stopped for gas at least every 100 km.  Turns out I was lucky.  Since I was traveling between two small towns, I chose to take back-roads (the provincial highways) rather than the national freeway and found gas everywhere I stopped.

But here’s what’s been bugging me about this experience.  Nowhere was I asked to pay more than the government mandated price, despite the fact that there was a pretty severe shortage. (You can read more about last year’s strikes at Mail & Guardian).  I’m of course assuming that it is illegal to ask any price other than the government rate.  But is corruption really that rare?  Why wouldn’t gas station owners (or the guys pumping the petrol for that matter) try to extract an additional rent?

Share your thoughts.  Why did petrol prices not respond to this shock?