All eyes are on President Cyril Ramaphosa to see if he can deliver on the promises made in his inaugural state of the nation address on Friday. After months of political uncertainty, the ship — as Trevor Manual put it after the address — finally appears to have a captain at its helm. For the first time in 10 years, there is hope SA can maybe go somewhere now. Since Ramaphosa’s narrow victory at the ANC electoral conference at Nasrec in December, the new leadership of the ruling party has hinted at adopting new policies that are noticeably more radical. Sona took this further, outlining several bold new approaches and affirming the government’s commitment to "radical economic transformation". As critics pointed out afterwards, the speech was thin on detail and big on ideas. And indeed, his words hold real promise for SA’s future only if they are to be accompanied by sound policy reforms based on empirical evidence. Moving forward must lie, in large part, in understanding what has and...

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