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The optimism of the years immediately following the end of apartheid in South Africa has long since dimmed. By the end of Nelson Mandela’s tenure as president, many had concluded that the country would, in the end, not buck the depressing trend of much of post-colonial Africa.

Disillusionment among both conservative whites and disenfranchised blacks has deepened during Jacob Zuma’s presidency, writes Gideon Rachman in his latest column. South Africa under Mr Zuma, the critics argue, is reproducing the worst features of other states in the region — political repression, endemic corruption and economic mismanagement.

Yet, Gideon notes, South Africa is not a basket case. It has the highest per capita gross domestic product on the African continent, a well-developed financial sector and transport infrastructure that is the envy of its neighbours.

In short, all remains to play for. For the past two decades, South Africa has assumed the role of spokesman for a continent. The rest of the world should care deeply about what happens to it.

The sovereignty dividend: One of the oddities of the Brexit debate, Janan Ganesh observes, is that the most vocal proponents of a thoroughgoing British rupture from the EU are reluctant to set out in any detail what exactly that would mean. And it is not as if they don’t have a case. But to make it, they would have to come clean on the kinds of supply-side reforms necessary to make an economic success of leaving.

Barclays bother: The biggest danger posed to Barclays by the charge brought against it under the UK Companies Act, argues Philip Augar, is not that it would go bust in the event of a defeat in the courts. Rather, it’s that an outside party would step in, believing that new ownership would be a cure for all the bank’s ills. The irony, Philip writes, is that it was a perceived threat to its independence in the depths of the 2008 financial crisis that got it into this mess in the first place.

The Russian question: Today, writes Lilia Shevtsova, it is not the German question that exercises foreign policy specialists, but the Russian one. Post-Soviet Russia finds itself caught in a trap, Lilia argues: it craves a global role, but can no longer guarantee the growth and stability that is its precondition.

Best of the rest

Labour’s priority is Brexit. But it should be the left-behind — Austin Mitchell in The Guardian

Trump’s cynical use of human rights — Gary Bass in The New York Times

Understanding market correction — Didier Saint-Georges in Le Monde (in French)

To ethically mine crypto we need to use renewable energy — Ibrahim Al Husseini for Quartz

The Lessons of Black Monday — Barry Eichengreen for Project Syndicate

What you’ve been saying

“To feel like ‘Italians’, the people of the south must stop relying on Rome”— letter from Michael Street in response to “Five Star gains as southern voters lose faith”:

If the people of the Mezzogiorno, roughly those living south of Naples including Sicily and Sardinia, really want lasting change and, after 157 years, to feel like Italians they should stop relying on Rome to provide solutions and come up with ideas of their own. They should show northern ‘Italians’ that good ideas can also come from ‘Italians’ in the south. After all, for centuries this region produced some of the world’s finest artists, writers, scientists and thinkers.

Comment by Paul A Myers on “Tech companies are the new investment banks”:

Any funds repatriation will go to wealth concentration, not domestic productive investment. Any bonds issued in the US can easily move offshore to where the money is. In short, the investment securities will go to the money; the money will not come home to the investment securities. Why?

The more existential question is why would any offshore funds come back to America anyway? The IMF says that while world growth is increasing in the intermediate term, US growth is pegged to slow down to about 1.8 percent in the early 2020s due to lack of growth in total factor productivity and slow growth in an ageing workforce. Multinational corporations will rationally allocate capital abroad.

Monopoly and oligopoly. Why should US corporations make meaningful investments in slow-growing monopoly and oligopoly US markets? (There are no other kind in the US.) These markets grow slowly. The best strategy is to always harvest excess cash from these markets and — send the money somewhere else where it can invest in future growth and rising profits.

“US is in debt because it has not been raising taxes”— letter from Dr Hans Dembowski in response to “America's balancing act on debt grows trickier”:

The US is heavily indebted because it has not been raising the taxes it needs to fund the programmes its people want and the government runs accordingly. US citizens appreciate the mandatory entitlements, and to a considerable extent they appreciate that Obamacare extended them. The debt burden is the result of various Republican administrations slashing taxes and allowing deficits to balloon. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama actually balanced the budget by the end of their time in power, but, as the FT correctly points out, Donald Trump is doing his best to make sure he will not do so.

Today’s opinion

Brexiters owe us clarity on the sovereignty dividend
Leavers know that voters do not want a much less regulated, much more open economy

Trump’s warnings about unfair trade with China ring true
There is no sign that Beijing accepts the responsibilities needed to build stronger links

Inside Business: Tinkering with franchises is not the answer to UK’s rail woes
If private capital is to take part, government must either reform the system or hold operators to their promises

Russia’s system of power defies any rational explanation
Its citizens have yet to conclude that autocracy is worse than their fear of chaos

Barclays’ past is coming back to haunt it
As UK prosecutors bring a new charge, the bank is in better shape than for years

Digital distraction has produced its own self-help industry
Tech detoxes and programmes mirror the language and psychology of dieting regimes

Why South Africa matters to the world
As it awaits the departure of Jacob Zuma, the country’s future hangs in the balance

Opinion today: Systemically important tech
Cash-rich technology companies are morphing into investment banks

The Big Read: Drillers turn to big data in the hunt for more, cheaper oil
Under pressure from renewables, energy groups are again looking to tech for answers

‘Cocoa’, by Kristy Leissle
Expert analysis of $100bn chocolate industry offers ideas for a sustainable future

FT View

FT View: Advertisers’ challenge to Facebook and Google
For now, Unilever has no realistic alternatives to Big Tech dominance

FT View: Charities should uphold the highest standards
The Haiti scandal at Oxfam shows a need for much greater accountability

The Big Read

The Big Read: Drillers turn to big data in the hunt for more, cheaper oil
Under pressure from renewables, energy groups are again looking to tech for answers

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