Paradoxically, most South Africans are individually optimistic about South Africa’s future, yet collectively pessimistic. A common theme at friends’ braais and dinner parties is how the country is going to the dogs. After all, we each have plenty of sad tales to tell in justifying our opinion.
I previously wrote about the increase in gender-based violence and femicide. State corruption is still an unresolved issue. Economic growth is sluggish and unemployment is rampant. Our media consumption seems skewed to the negative – bad news sells, or at least gets more attention in social media. But in reality, there are many good, solid reasons for optimism.
In a recent article by Adrian Gore, founder of Discovery, we are much more optimistic about our future when “tested” individually than our group think suggests. He points out an interesting survey that shows the more confident we are in our outlook, the more likely we are wrong!
This is supported by Our World In Data, which highlights the correlation between our perceptions of the recent past informing our expectation of more of the same in the near future. Key to the study’s findings is that, the more aware we are of recent changes – whether positive or negative – the more optimistic we tend to be. So let’s be informed!
And there’s good reason to be optimistic. Visual Capitalist shows 6 high-impact statistics of how the world is a better place now than in the previous 200 years. For example, 80 years ago, 75% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty, whereas that number is only 10% today.
As entrepreneurs seeking to simultaneously grow our wealth and make the world a better place, Dov Girnun, CEO at Merchant Capital, points out how fortunate we are in SA. Consider the challenges entrepreneurs face in similar nations: Mexican entrepreneurs have bodyguards collect their children from school; the Turkish lira has devalued to next to nothing; many other countries make SA’s “bureaucracy, corruption and crime . . . look like a walk in the park.”
Gore also points out how South Africa is far more relevant both globally and within Africa than we give ourselves credit for. E.g. SA holds 82% of all pension fund assets in Africa, which is 18 times that of Nigeria’s holdings despite Nigeria’s bigger GDP.
The lesson here is to be informed. Take the bad news and social media hype with a pinch – no, a bucket! – of salt. As Girnun advises, we need to “Lose our self-imposed persecution complex.”
We can take a feather from Gore’s cap on visionary leadership: let’s be better informed and design optimistic visions for ourselves, our companies and our world.
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