I think that there are some basic elements that help to make South Africa a representative microcosm of what is happening in the world today. On one hand, South Africa is the benefactor of economic growth. As part of the rising globalization of the world economies, South Africa is experiencing economic progress, enabling it to be a part of what Zakaria would call, "the rise of the rest:"
South Africa is now entering the ninth year of the longest economic upswing since national accounts have been recorded, and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) now ranks the country among the E7 - or Emerging 7 - group of nations comprising the strongest economies of the South.
I think that this is one example in which how South Africa is representative of many nations in the world today. Two decades ago, one would not consider South Africa to be a nation that is experiencing "the longest economic upswing since national accounts have been recorded." Additionally, South Africa's employment situation and national income per worker, both being on the rise, shows great promise and possibility, something that is reflective of the globalized world. At the same time, South Africa is dealing with the reality of how to ensure that all of its citizens are participating in the notion of economic progress. Black Africans are struggling in South Africa with poverty and economic disenfranchisement and this becomes one of the fundamental issues with which South Africa, like the rest of the globalized economies, struggle.
I think that one distinct way in which South Africa is not a microcosm of the world economies is the shadow of Apartheid. Recently, the June 16 anniversary of the Soweto Uprisings in 1976 was commemorated. I am not sure many other nations have experienced the history of Apartheid and brutal segregation like South Africa has. Nations have had their own experiences with marginalization, but the ghost of Apartheid is something that sets South Africa off from other nations, reflecting a unique difference between it and other nations in the globalized world economic setting.