Over the past 20 years the global political economy has experienced its most profound shifts since the onset of the industrial revolution. In South Africa and the World, Mills Soko reflects on some of the salient issues that have pervaded public discourse during this time, analysing them within the context of the contemporary South African political economy and of the country’s position in the world. Arranged thematically, the essays were all written during a defining period in recent history, a period that has witnessed, among others, the accession of China to the WTO, the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, the invention of the iPad, the birth of Facebook, the 2008/9 global financial crisis, Brexit and the global coronavirus pandemic which began at the end of 2019. The turbulent multipolar world demands visionary political and economic leadership, supported by institutions well attuned to contemporary conditions. Such leadership is in short supply. Nor is the existing institutional architecture sufficiently equipped to deal with a complex array of economic, social, environmental, technological and demographic challenges.
Mills Soko highlights what has not worked in terms of politics, leadership, foreign policy, the economy, the African development trajectory, corporate ethics, international trade, global governance, and the thread which underlies all these issues – the importance of strong, decisive and accountable leadership. He counters his criticism with what has worked and offers views on how some of the problems that have constrained progress in South Africa and the world can be solved.
A central message emerges from his writings: leadership and governance matter, whether in the national or international context. It is a message that permeates all the chapters in the book. And it goes to the heart of what South Africa has gone through over the past two decades and where it is today.