Privatise the selling of South Africa?

Once upon a time there was an organisation called the South Africa Foundation. It was a voice of big business in the apartheid era and it spoke in markets South Africa then considered particularly important. It had offices in London, Paris, Bonn and Washington. Its representatives in those capitals were cultivated, well-connected men who could speak confidently and credibly to captains of industry, policymakers and shapers of public opinion abroad and to those with ears to hear back home.

Yes, they lobbied against sanctions and disinvestment, but they did so independent of the then government. These were no apologists for a wicked system but they did take the unfashionable view that gumming up the economic engines of change was not the best way to go about ending it. What they wanted the world to understand was that, as dire as things looked, South Africa Inc. had the resources, human and physical, to transcend the beastliness of apartheid, and that the centre would hold.

After 1994, the Foundation’s corporate underwriters closed its international offices and rebranded the organisation as Business Leadership SA. They figured full-time overseas representation was now an unnecessary expense and that their purposes could be just as well served by parachuting in an occasional stick of CEOs. Amid the optimism of the Nelson Mandela quinquennium, who could blame them? Continue reading “Privatise the selling of South Africa?”

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Authentic Praise

Kevin Desouza teaches electrical engineering at the University of Washington in the American northwest. Earlier this year he spent a couple of months as a visiting professor at Wits. He stayed in Melville. On the flight home, he wrote about it on his blog, Desouza’s Thinking. If you need cheering up about South Africa, go Google him.

Like so many visitors to this country, he fell in love with the place and not just with its physical beauty or its food and wine. He found South Africans to be “great hosts”. They were “motivated to work together (and) help each other out”. “Hungry for knowledge”, his students worked “extremely diligently”. Executives were “warm and welcoming”. While most South Africans did not lead easy lives, “I was simply taken aback by the optimism here that things will get better”.

Also, he felt safe. “Before I got here, everyone told me how dangerous…places were. I have not encountered a single difficult situation or felt threatened. If you come here with an open mind, possess street smarts and commonsense, you will enjoy this place.” Continue reading “Authentic Praise”

Obama Dot Com

The videos president-elect Barack Obama’s campaign team loaded for free onto YouTube, the Internet site, were watched for a remarkable 14.5 million hours, political consultant Joe Trippi noted at last week’s Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco (itself viewable on the web).

Trippi, who pioneered the use of the web for Democrat John Dean’s almost successful insurgency in 2004, added that to access the same viewership on old-fangled television would have cost $47 million — half the total kitty Obama’s Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, received in public funding for his campaign (Obama rejected public funding to avoid the spending limits on which it is conditioned).

Speaking on the same panel, Arianna Huffington, founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post – America’s Thoughtleader.co.za – said bluntly: “Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not be president. Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not have been the (Democratic) nominee.” Continue reading “Obama Dot Com”