Stepping up development transformations

American business perspectives on South Africa

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“When you talk to American businessmen…they talk about the potential and the profitability.” Donald Gips,
US Ambassador to South Africa

As US Ambassador to South Africa, Donald Gips serves as President Obama’s personal representative and seeks to build bridges socially, economically and politically. Here, he tells us about what South Africa needs to do to realize its full promise.

Donald Gips, US Ambassador to South Africa, says his country’s business community sees the opportunities in South Africa.

“When you talk to American businessmen, which is what I spend a lot of my time doing, they talk about the potential and the profitability,” he says. “Sure there is risk, but the potential rewards are commensurate with that risk.”

But he thinks South Africa and the other countries on the continent are being held back by two key factors — the lack of top-quality infrastructure and the perception of corruption.

“Here in South Africa, over 90% of children go to school,” he says. “But the quality of education that they are getting is still not where it needs to be to prepare them to work in a 21st century economy.”

Gips uses an analogy to explain how African countries may fail to realize their potential. He says that a few decades ago, Sri Lanka was considered to be one of the Asian tigers, along with Singapore and Malaysia. But while Singapore and Malaysia have realized their economic potential, Sri Lanka has not, due to a variety of factors, including internal strife.

“There will be some Singapores in Africa and there will be those that, because they don’t resolve their political issues, will end up in very much the same place as Sri Lanka,” he says.

“Hopefully, the more that business comes in to invest and governments work together, the more that will reduce the number of Sri Lankas and increase the number of Singapores.”


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Dynamics, December 2012

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