An Unprecidented Mission to the US by 40 Top South Africans

South Africa highlighted its success as a nation with an unprecedented visit to the United States by 40 of its most influential business leaders and government officials. The visit was conceived and organized by the United States Commercial Service and the International Marketing Council of South Africa (IMC). It began in New York on Sunday June 13, moved to Chicago on June 15 and ended in Atlanta on June 20.

The purpose of the trip was to present the business success stories of South Africa to encourage bilateral trade and investment by focusing on the significant socio-economic growth and development achieved during South Africa's first decade of freedom.

The IMC Chairperson, Ms. Luhabe, led the South African delegation of high-level business leaders who also sponsored emerging entrepreneurs' participation in order to demonstrate partnership between established and emerging enterprises and to showcase success across various levels and sectors of South African businesses and industries.

"South Africa provides world-class business, trade and investment infrastructure to existing and potential investors and serves as a gateway to trade and investment opportunities in the rest of Africa," said IMC Chairperson Wendy Luhabe. "In the past ten years, as a nation, we have made major strides in overcoming the adversities of our past, as well as positioning ourselves as a global player of repute economically, politically and socially."

The US Branding, Investment and Trade Mission took place against the backdrop of South Africa's international profile has been recently enhanced by:

  • The success of the general election
  • The high level of international participation in the 3rd Presidential Inauguration
  • The awarding of the right to host the 2010 Soccer World Cup

In addition, media and other commentators have responded positively to the President's emphasis on delivery and deadlines in the State of the Nation address.

The positive responses - domestically and internationally - to these developments have been tempered by continued skeptical treatment of:

  • The impact of South Africa's stance on the situation in Zimbabwe
  • South Africa's outspokenness on international issues such as the situation in Haiti; the crisis in the Middle East; and Iraq, among others
  • The pace at which the Operational Plan on HIV and Aids is being implemented, and
  • The effectiveness of Black Economic Empowerment

During the visit, delegates had business-to-business contact sessions, visited corporate and academic institutions, participated in industry roundtables, attended investment conferences and gave various media interviews. U.S. Politicians, business executives and Wall Street embraced the Mission. New York Congressman Charles B. Rangel, Illinois Senator Carol Moseley Braun, Atlanta Mayor Franklin and Oprah Winfrey met with the delegation and discussed issues on how to improve US-South Africa business and trade relations.

All meetings focused on themes such as political, economic and social transformation in South Africa; black economic empowerment and the opportunities in trade, investment and tourism.

On Sunday 13 June the South African delegates were hosted by the Global Trade and Technology Center (GTTC) in Harlem at the Alhambra Ballroom. The delegation met and was introduced to the African American Business Community at a luncheon. At the conclusion of that meeting a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the GTTC President, Mr Myles Matthews and Mr Sipho Mseleku, CEO of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Johannesburg.

As a highlight of the trip, on Monday June 14, Michael Spicer, Rick Menell, Ernie Els, Joel Mokgohlwa, Mosheen Valli Moosa, Malose Ledwaba and Gloria Serobe joined IMC Chairperson, Ms Wendy Luhabe, South Africa's Ambassador to the US, Ms Barbara Masekela and NYSE CEO, John Thane and US Ambassador to South Africa, Mr Cameron Hume in honor of ringing the bell which kicked off South Africa Day at the New York Stock Exchange and South Africa Week in the United States.

Investment conferences were scheduled in New York (at the NYSE June 14), Chicago (Chicago Club, June 16) and Atlanta (The Atlanta Grand Hyatt June 18th). Attendees included corporations, investment bankers, portfolio managers and chief economists.

On Tuesday, June 15 delegates met with New York business leaders at a breakfast hosted by Forbes Inc. Other New York sponsors of events included AIG, Citigroup, Henry Schein Inc., the New York Stock Exchange and Goldman Sachs.