BIG Change: economic and social recovery plan for South Africa

By Dr. Rene Hattingh-Rust

“The economy is a living organism with millions of connections between large, medium, and tiny nodes, in essence it boils down to over 55 million interconnected individuals. Fifty-five million individuals that come together in this country to trade in skills and time. People who want to gain value, and who want to improve their own lives and the lives of others through mutually-beneficial transactions.” ~ Chris Hattingh, about South Africa’s economy (BizNews).

Prefer to listen to this essay instead?

The economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek explains this complexity as a system that no one can possibly get a mental grasp on. We cannot begin to truly understand this organisation and connection of millions of nodes, and therefore it is an order that no one can possibly control.

Our “knowledge problem” Hayek explains, “lies in the fact that the knowledge we need to design and run the social economic order is distributed in individual minds and as such it is inaccessible to planners. And even if we could by some extraordinary means collect this dispersed knowledge, it still exists as incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge.”

In normal circumstances, the complexity of this system is mind boggling. However, in 2020, the economy of South Africa and the rest of the world, is far from normal. We are facing a pandemic that we still do not understand. Today, even more than before, we cannot possibly know what we must know if we seek to design an economic recovery plan. Maybe it is time to honestly admit that we do not know. We wish we knew, but the truth is, we just don’t know.

When all is said and done, what are we to do? This is a crisis that threatens our livelihoods, our existence, and we have to respond to it.

We want to propose an approach that we believe might be the answer to the economic recovery of South Africa. We have been contemplating this solution for many years but now the magnitude of the Covid-19 pandemic has illuminated its merits. We are filled with reverence because we are starting to “see” the splendour of God’s way. We have always known that His plans are magnificent but now we realise that we have only ever understood half of it, and still we are learning.

What if the answer to our economic and social challenges lies in the Christian network?

I expect that the answer to our economic and social challenges is interwoven in the fiber of South Africa, in its Christian network: a network that spans across race, economic-, social- and educational- levels. An incredible resource to change South Africa’s future. It is a network that represents 79% of the 55 million interconnected individuals that constitute our country.

Over the years we have often received valid criticism for our optimism as to the modernising potential of the Christian network. We have always answered: “that it is true that the Christian network has shortcomings - we know this, because we have made it our business to know them. In addition, we have our own, decade long traumatic experience at the hands of people central to this network.”

We concede that the Christian network is deeply troubled. Yet, we believe that this network has unimaginable possibilities and that we can trust God for a revival of His people. The deterioration on the part of God’s people is not new; history is full of this tragic story. But surely, history also testifies to the fact that God, through His great mercy, brings purification and a revival of His own. We think that the key to unlock this enormous potential of the Christian network, lies in a national revival and the fruits that such a revival brings. Such a spiritual revival is not new to South Africa.

Research – notably by secular academics – has found that economic growth and entrepreneurial awakening are some of the unplanned “by-products” of an authentic, personal encounter and relationship with Christ. It is an unplanned consequence, a fruit, that needs to be discerned and utilised.

Make no mistake, we are not referring to the fallacy of the so-called “name it, claim it, frame it” prosperity theology. We are talking about a daily walk in obedience, faith and hope, that comes from God in the midst of a storm. A daily dedication to seek to understand God’s plan and yet humbly know that His ways are far above those of man. To have the faith that through the working of the Holy Spirit He has chosen to reveal His plan to us. He wants us to live by the Spirit. “The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:2)

We believe that a workable economic and social recovery plan for South Africa might be a national revival that will mobilise the Christian network. A network driven and guided by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to change the face of South Africa’s economy. An army of foot soldiers to infiltrate every section of our diverse society – with God-given plans and wisdom, to do the little they can see and understand under His guidance. And because He is the big Conductor, we will in time realise how each of these little endeavours are connected and how it had jointly contributed to an economic and social miracle. For not only does He see clearly this interconnected network of 55 million people but also each individual’s life. And He understands, even better than we ourselves can comprehend, our “daily challenges, needs, wants, fears, and goals … down to the very notable level of intimacy and care.”

Chances are, that if you read this opinion piece, you are part of this network. We are saying that there is no recipe for South Africa’s economic challenges – it is a far too complex challenge. We have however put together a compilation of essays to motivate our conviction and to give you an opportunity to make an informed choice. We trust that these essays will help you understand the fundamentals for the economic miracle that we think is coming. Read and/or listen to these essays, discern the underlining principles, identify if there are skills or information you need, and start to plan your economical action with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

We have been called for a time like this. We are His answer. We are encouraged by the words of Andrew Murray: “You can have bold and holy confidence that He is able to bless the (world) through you.”

For your convenience, we have summarised the fundamentals presented in the essays in a concept card. You can watch this short video to get an overview of the essays.

You may, if you like, download and print the concept card and keep it next to you while watching this summary video.

After you have watched the video you can refer to the essays for more in-depth information.


  • What if we could eradicate poverty?

    When we look at the image of poverty, we know it can not, and should not, continue like this. As believers, we also know that when the Lord makes us aware of something He wants us to do, then it is timely.

    Read "What if we could eradicate poverty?" →

  • God calls you today

    As I grow older, I become more aware of the importance of God’s calling in a Christian’s life. I am surprised by the tragic fact that the devil has managed to rob God’s people of this truth, and by the boundless losses that God’s kingdom has suffered and continues to suffer.

    Read "God calls you today" →

    Lees "God roep jou vandag" →

  • Blocked by the Holy Spirit

    How is the Christian to make day-to-day decisions in difficult times? We do live in difficult times. As Christians we are more than often confronted with situations in which we really do not have all the answers and guidelines.

    Read "Blocked by the Holy Spirit" →

  • Says who?

    What if the origin of entrepreneurship is founded in God? In the One who knows the plans He has for us. The One who directs the paths of every tribe, language, people and nation.

    Read "Says who?" →

Real-life case examples

  • Testimony: Finances vs. God's will

    An open letter to Auckland Park Theological Seminary’s staff.

    I write this to you as a testimony, praise be to God, of His faithful love to us at ATS.

    Read the full testimony →

Skills needed

  • Entrepreneurial Awakening

    Learn how to mobilise your group to start thinking and acting entrepreneurial; to see opportunities that previously went unnoticed...

    Learn more →