Forging a new era in US-South African relations

On Tuesday, November 29, the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council launched its newest report, Forging a New Era in US-South African Relations.

Atlantic Council Vice President and Africa Center Director Dr. J. Peter Pham welcomed guests and underscored the need for a renewed US-South Africa relationship, which he said has taken on a lower profile in recent years.

The report’s author Anthony Carroll summarized the report’s findings: “Ke Nako! It’s time. It’s time for a reset in our relationship.” Myriad opportunities for mutual benefit exist and could be strengthened, said Carroll, noting that more than six hundred US companies already operate in South Africa. He suggested that four competitive advantages account for continued US business interest: access to capital markets; market sophistication; rule of law and judicial independence; and media and thought leadership.

At the same time, Carroll said, serious challenges threaten to undercut these advantages—high rates of corruption and state capture, an economic recession and a thirty-billion-rand budget shortfall, unreliable power provision, and weak primary and secondary education, among other challenges.

Carroll concluded with recommendations for how to reinvigorate the US-South Africa relationship. In particular, he emphasized that the United States needs to act urgently on four tracks: trade liberalization, business-to-business relations, government-to-government relations, and university and think tank collaboration.

A discussion, moderated by Africa Center Senior Fellow Aubrey Hruby, followed Carroll’s remarks and included Ambassador Donald Gips, principal at Albright Stonebridge Group and ambassador to South Africa from 2009 to 2013, and Mr. Rob Eloff, co-founder of Lateral Capital. Panelists emphasized the need for pragmatism in the US-South African relationship, the potential of South Africa to serve as a “bridge” to further US investment in Africa, and the future of US policy toward the country. Panelists also took questions from the audience, which consisted of US and non-US government officials, business leaders, and civil society actors.

Related Experts: Aubrey Hruby