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Trading Spaces: Imagining and Positioning the ‘New’ South Africa within the Regional and Global Economies

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The end of apartheid has precipitated rapid rethinking of South Africa's position in relation to the rest of Africa and the global arena. Whereas a substantial literature already exists on the country's evolving post-apartheid foreign policy, this article offers one of the first critical analyses of its emerging external economic relations. Although clearly the economic giant of the Southern African Development Community, South Africa does not perform as well on all economic and social indicators as many people, especially South Africans, believe. South African businesses' perception of, and experiences in, the rest of Africa are assessed in relation to emerging patterns of trade and investment there. Selected advertisements and associated imagery deployed by firms in support of their strategies are analysed in the context of domestic transformation and the opening of new horizons abroad. South African foreign direct invest-ment (FDI) is increasingly diversified, both sectorally and geographically, although large firms dominate the profile. South African-based transnational corporations are also becoming increasingly influential global players. FDI and development aid inflows to South Africa, and in relation to the rest of Africa, are analysed and their implications explored. Far Eastern investment rose fast as part of a growing global inflow until 1997/8; more recent figures are disappointing. This reflects political and security concerns, as well as vulnerability to rapid flow reversal in the increasingly important portfolio investment market.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Royal Holloway, University of London, UK

Publication date: April 1, 2001

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