Nothing for Free in South Africa

By: Musawenkosi

I'm writing this article from Oliver Tambo International Airport (former Jan Smuts Airport) in Johannesburg. This airport is one of the largest in the world. I'm proud to be a neighbor to South Africa (SA) as I come from Swaziland, and am always interested in her economy. I always wish to know how they keep themselves afloat and out pace many governments of the world. SA is our big brother in SADC and/or COMESA. However, I have noticed one thing in amazement whenever I travel South Africa, 'Nothing is for FREE'.

I'm always surprised to learn of more and more products and services one would have to pay-for in South Africa while they are free in other countries. I'm sure you'll think I'm referring to European countries or other industrialized governments. No, it is not the case; I'm referring to neighboring countries like Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, and Mozambique. Later, I will quote today's case as an exclusive example.

Every cent counts in South Africa, I bet. When you drive on SA roads, you pay. When you keep cash in the bank, you pay until there's no money in your account (should you be unable to keep your account active, particularly business accounts). When you go to some public toilets in major cities, you pay. When you deposit cash, you pay (I understand South African banks charge the highest rates in the World). When you access wireless 'Hot Spot' internet, you pay. When you park your car in the street, you pay. When you want to watch National TV, you pay. Given a chance, I would ask South Africa what they are proud of to tell its worth buying but exclusively free in the country. I bet if its for free, it would also be free in other neighboring countries.

One may ask, 'Why should service be free?' The reasons for free service vary and are influenced by the intensions of the provider. I won't go to the reasons but will focus on the fact that some paid for services in SA are free in other countries.

A general understanding is that every situation has its own good and bad. Starting with the good I'd say for SA to collect every cent by all means defines the strength of the economy. Several SA sectors are doing well. This includes tourism, transport, manufacturing, communication, entertainment, education, etc. I also believe SA government budgets are hardly constrained. As such the government pay a reasonable amount of grants (pension) to the elderly, HIV infected nationals, pay for each child that is born and several other social responsibilities.

Arguing the point with one South African colleague, I got a very interesting response, 'That in Swaziland some services and products are free defines why the country's economy is down'. I agreed with the sentiments and took no offense at all. Unfortunately, the conversation was getting heated up and I decided to stop voicing my opinions on the matter. However, I'd have loved to take it further and discuss the negative effects such as the alarming crime rate, corruption, and many other undesired things.

We all know that South Africa will be hosting the 2010 soccer world cup. I wonder how affordable world cup tickets will be for the native African as well as the people from all over the world. I cannot imagine the costs of the other essential services. I'd like to advice those preparing for 2010 soccer World Cup to bring an extra half extra of their total budget. Also, don't bank on current rates to forecast on future rates as this may mislead your judgment. For your information, prices hike like crazy in SA. Is it not fair to be precautioned than dealing with an unanticipated situation? I believe it's fair.

Let me go straight to my example. I'm traveling to Zambia today and in Matsapha Airport I got to connect my laptop through wireless internet for free. The service is only free to travelers once they reach the airport terminal. I'm certain that this is not at all included the air ticket fare, but a courtesy for travelers offered by one of the airline, 'Swazi Express'. I know so because I was not booked with 'Swazi Express' airline. It could be free temporarily, but it was free and I was impressed as it added a good spice to my traveling.

I'm afraid for my life and family, as such I would not like it if this article brings me trouble but would like it if it prompts SA and other country's governments and company's decision makers to broaden their thinking when it comes to pricing. Let me point out that SA is not outright bad in pricing. As such, I'm hosting my website from SA because it is fairly priced than it is in Swaziland. I also acknowledge the fact that it generally doesn't make business sense to buy something and give it out for free but it also makes sense to offer some 'LIMITED' services for free. Comments are welcome through my website: www.yourmotivation.co.za.



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