SA seems stuck in a classic middle-income trap. Weak levels of economic growth, low productivity, rising unemployment and fiscal deficits will make it near impossible to graduate to high-income status. The inertia will remain as long as the economy is skewed towards natural resources and basic manufacturing. These sectors generate little economic value and few high-quality jobs. Large numbers of low-skilled jobs face automation from the onset of robotics and artificial intelligence. They are dead-end sectors for SA. Economists generally agree that sustainable economic growth depends on diversifying away from these sectors to focus on higher-value services, manufacturing and research and development (R&D). In the US, 85% of the value of companies in the S&P 500 index comes from "intangible assets": ideas, concepts, brands and innovative products and processes. Forty years ago, manufacturing and agriculture dominated, but knowledge-intensive goods and services from biotech, chemicals,...

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