The Twentieth year of South Africa’s democracy, the memorial for former President Nelson Mandela in Westminster Abbey, the spreading of the Robben Island Bible story, collaboration with the SA-UK Seasons on Mandela Day, the Commonwealth Games, the South African Season in Edinburgh and the ministerial delegation to the UK led by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe during the innovaBRICS conference were highlights of Brand South Africa’s program in the UK in 2014.
The 20th anniversary of democracy offered a series of opportunities for the participation of Global South Africans and the strengthening of the GSA network.
In March, Brand South Africa partnered with Westminster Abbey to ensure the inclusion of the most influential Global South Africans in the country and to provide advice and support throughout the run-up to the historic event.
The Brand SA role was acknowledged at the highest level of the British establishment by inclusion in the royal reception following the moving service which included the Soweto Gospel Choir, the sermon by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and an address by the former anti-apartheid activist Peter Hain who is also a leading Global South African in the UK. The event was universally hailed as the greatest memorial to the South Africa icon leader.
In April, Brand South Africa played a key role in organising the cultural progam and interaction between outgoing Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and the Global South African community at a memorable event at the South Africa High Commission ahead of Freedom Day.
The centre piece was the reading from the Robben Island Bible by South African and British actors thereby consolidating the narrative of the Robben Island generation and showcasing their humanity, values and commitment to the community through their choice of favourite passages from the collected works of Shakespeare which was smuggled onto the island in the 1970’s.
The Brand South Africa campaign has seen the work exhibited for six months in the British Museum and the staged reading scripted by Matthew Hahn performed more than a dozen times at prestigious venues including the British Museum, the South Bank Centre, Oxford University during the 20th anniversary SA academic conference, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington and the Barbican Theatre for the launch of Global Shakespeare, a London-based Institute headed by Global South African David Schalkwyk.
In partnership with the SA-UK Seasons headed by Commissioner-General Bongani Tembe, Brand South Africa supported international Mandela Day in Glasgow ahead of the Commonwealth Games with an exhibition and staged reading from the Robben Island Bible at the renowned Mitchell Library in Glasgow.
Brand South Africa designed and printed the arts and culture brochure for the cultural program during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and for the SA Season in Edinburgh which saw South Africa spread across more of the city’s 12 arts festivals than any other country before it. More than 40 South African artists participated in the program.
In London, Brand South Africa helped co-ordinate and market an explosion of South African arts and culture and 20th anniversary-dedicated events and a wide range of London theatre’s and entertainment centres.
In October, Brand South Africa partnered with the award-winning Global South African from the US, Soula Proxenos, to host a high-level investor dinner at the Savoy in London for Finance Minsiter Nhlanhla Nene.
Also, in October Brand South Africa partnered with the innovaBRICS conference and the South African High Commission for the third year running and devised and managed a high-level two-day program of interactions with investors, the Lord Mayor of the City of London, the Institute of International Affairs and leaders of the mining and oil and gas sectors.
The two-day ministerial delegation led (Oct 27,28) by Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe and including the Ministers of Finance, Nhlanhla Nene, the Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies and the Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi.
The partners hosting events included the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), the outgoing Lord Mayor of the City of London (Fiona Woolf), the visit was hailed a success – and acknowledged as such by the lead Minister – in strengthening channels and relationships between senior government officials of the economic cluster and the investment community in the UK.
The two-day program served to further strengthen links between government and the domestic and international private sectors, moved closer to public/private partnerships with financial, technical and legal entities in the City of London and strengthened trade and investment relations between the UK and South Africa.
A series of meetings with Baroness Scotland, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s special envoy for trade and investment with South Africa, and the four South African Ministers served to take the trade and investment agenda between the two countries forward. And it served to provide a high-level platform to raise awareness and get investor buy-in for Operation Phakisa and the National Development Plan.
Brand South Africa also strengthened and managed relations with the SA Chamber of Business in the UK, the non-governmental sector the South African alumni associations in the UK, the arts and culture community and many other individuals and sectors in the building of the Global South Africa network.
Global South Africans US highlights in 2014 included the launch of the Siyabonga Awards, the relaunch of the South African Chamber of Commerce in America (SACCA) an imbizo with President Zuma in New York and formal proposals by the Treasury that would make it easier for SA start-ups to raise capital offshore.
The joint brainchild of Brand SA’s US country manager Simon Barber and New York consul general George Monyemangene, the business-oriented Siyabonga Awards are intended (as the name suggests) as an annual thank you to individuals and companies in the US who are helping achieve the objectives of the National Development Plan.
One award category is specifically set aside for Global South Africans. The inaugural winners were Soula Proxenos and Albert Maartens. Soula is managing partner at International Housing Solutions, a private equity fund that has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for investment in low and middle income SA housing. Albert heads Standard Bank’s New York operations and has become an indispensable member of Team SA in the US. Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene gave the keynote at the awards dinner on October 7. The gala was held at the Marriot Marquis on Times Square whose events manager, Leon Goldberg, is a great nephew of the late Helen Suzman.
Global South Africans across the US meanwhile came together with support from Brand SA to rebrand and re-launch the SA Chamber of Commerce in America. Key figures in this exciting initiative are Willem Ellis in Minneapolis, Joy Stephens in Seattle, Jacqui Buchanan in San Francisco, Amanda Ellison in Miami, Thiru Govender in Charlotte, Sam Miller in Los Angeles and Derrick Jackson, Rob Roome and Vishay Singh in Atlanta. They promise to be a major force multiplier for public and private sector efforts to expand trade and investment flows between the US and SA.
President Zuma, in New York for the September opening of the UN General Assembly, addressed a standing room only diaspora imbizo organised by GSA Yoliswa Cele to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of democracy. Speaking impromptu, Zuma treated the audience to an inside account of the negotiations that led to the South Africa first post-apartheid election in April 1994.
Proposals unveiled in February by then Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan as part of the 2014 budget exemplified government’s openness to working with GSA’s to create an investment-friendly policy and regulatory environment. The proposals were based on suggestions to Treasury by GSA Pieter de Villiers, the Silicon Valley-based founder of cell-phone messaging pioneer Clickatell, after Brand SA’s US country manager personally introduced de Villiers to Minister Gordhan. The meeting launched a dialogue that resulted in Treasury giving a green light to South African tech companies listing offshore.
For the past four and half years, the GSA initiative has received unstinting support from South Africa’s ambassador to the US, Ebrahim Rasool, who made it a priority to meet and embrace as many as he could of the 95 000 SA-born the US census bureau estimates are now resident in the US. Rasool is heading home, his term completed, leaving big shoes for his successor to fill, especially in the area of diaspora outreach.
2014 Year is the lunar of the horse in China. To commemorate 15 years of bilateral relations in 2013, President Zuma and President Xi Jing Ping declared 2014 and 2015 the China South Africa year, starting with 2014 as the year of South Africa in China. The initiative is to showcase and exchange South African and Chinese culture to improve people to people and to promote balanced investment and trade relations growth.
The year of South Africa in China was launched with a grad ceremony in April, attended by over 1500 guests from government representatives, diplomatic core and Chinese society to encourage and enhance people to people relations, the evening featured cultural performances from talented artist from China and South Africa
More than 50 South African programmes were hosted in China including trade seminars and workshops, art exhibitions, educational exchange programs, and trade and investment expos. These activities deepened cross understanding of Chinese and South African people and promoted cooperation between the two countries in all fields.
The department of Trade and Industry hosted the 5th annual South African expos covering 5 cities, kicking off in Hong Kong, continuing to the Shenzhen, Chengdu a key second tier city for South Africa, peaking in Shanghai and ending on a high note in Beijing. The trade expos are a flagship program that deliver on the DTI’s strategic objectives for the country. This years' focus was given to top 10 value-added products for export and investment.
President Zuma closed closed the Year of South Africa in China with a State Visit that included a business forum on the sidelines. The business plenary session coincidentally fell on the first year of Nelsons Mandela Memorial. Over 600 Chinese and South African business leaders addressed by President Zuma took a moment of silence to commemorate and remember Nelson Mandela. The president was accompanied by eight Ministers and more than 250 person South African business delegation.
Trade and investment between China and South has been on a steady growth albeit skewed in favor of China. This year’s concerted effort from South Africa should ensure a good gallop in friendship between the two countries. In 2015, as we host the Year of China in South Africa, we expect to see dividends pay from profiling and positioning South Africa in China through improved people to people relations and Chinese Yuan flow towards the sectors highlighted in China in 2014.