In June 2010, South Africa will host one of the most important and popular events in all of sports—the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament. The event will allow South Africa (and indeed the entire African continent) to showcase the nation’s ethos: a people-centered culture that prides itself on its humaneness.

South Africa has committed to sharing the spotlight with the rest of the continent; hence the event’s slogan Africa ke NakoThis is Africa’s moment. It is a moment we are eagerly awaiting, so that we may show the world the many positive attributes of the continent: its rich culture and cultural artifacts; the land and the sea, which remain largely unspoiled by unsustainable human consumption; and production patterns that characterize many of the so-called developed countries.

The spirit of the people of South Africa will capture the imagination of many of the visitors who will come to our shores in 2010, a spirit of no-surrender even in the face of the incredible odds that characterized the dark era of Apartheid in our country. Then there are the blue skies, the mountains that rise so high as to want to kiss the sky, the white sand beaches and the wildlife that roam our national parks—a clear testimony of our determination not only to live in peace with our fellow human beings but also to peacefully co-exist with the wild life that is part of our heritage. There is a lot to look forward to.

June, in the history of our country, can be characterized by what Charles Dickens called the best of times and the worst of times. It was in June 1976 when the world watched in horror as the children of Soweto were mowed down for demanding freedom from the throngs of Bantu Education. It was also during the month of June that the people of South Africa met in Kliptown Johannesburg to draw up one of the most democratic documents ever to be produced in South Africa, the Freedom Charter, which remains a lodestar for the promotion and protection of the rights of all. From these two events one can proudly proclaim that, as a people, South Africans, united in their diversity, came to the conclusion that we have to work together in the interest of all South Africans and build a country based on respect of the rights of all its peoples. We endeavored to make sure the rights of all our peoples would be protected by a strong Bill of Rights.

South Africa is known for its peaceful, democratic transition from the Apartheid era to a country that promotes human rights globally. In our quest to play a meaningful role in global affairs we have engaged in a process of self-definition that will tell the world who we are and what role we want to play in the world. The negative images others send across the globe that seek to portray the peoples of the continent as victims, rather than as survivors of a global order that tends to undermine and underreport the many successes of the continent, needs to be challenged. The World Cup will afford us an opportunity to show the world who we really are.

South Africa, since the advent of democratic rule has and continues to play a pivotal role in the African Renaissance—the economic, cultural, social and political renewal of its own people. This renewal is premised on the need for Africans to take charge of their own destiny. It is based on the premise that for too long Africa’s priorities were not focused on the advancement of the continent and its peoples, but instead were formulated to advance the interests of colonial masters with very little consideration for the developmental priorities of the continent; siphoning off huge resources to benefit the peoples of distant lands with no consideration whatsoever of all the development needs of the African continent itself. A new breed of African leaders who believe that the development of the continent can only be advanced through Africa-grown solutions was ushered in. This new era emphasized the need for Africans to formulate Africa-grown priorities to tackle the problems of underdevelopment and poverty that continue to plague the continent.

At the center of this new approach is the need for Africa to put out into the global media the images that Africans want to convey to the world, in order to replace the images of hopelessness that currently dominate the world media, especially the western media. Hosting the FIFA World Cup presents South Africa—and Africa—with an opportunity to deliver a world-class event with modern communications and information technologies. Thousands of jobs will be created, in the construction of new stadiums, roads, hotels and other necessary facilities. Already, work is at an advanced stage with the Airports Company of South Africa working at fever pitch speed in upgrading the airports’ facilities.

South Africa is going to ensure that as visitors arrive the first impression they get is that indeed this country is ready to receive them. Measures have been put in place to ensure that entry into South Africa is as smooth as possible without compromising the security of the country and its visitors. Before they reach their final destinations, visitors will have been exposed to beautiful displays from different parts of the country—courtesy of the Department of Arts and Culture. The rich cultural heritage will be part of the spectacle.  This will be an authentically African World Cup and other African nations will benefit from it either by hosting some of the world soccer teams, as neighboring countries are doing, by providing much needed training and accommodation facilities, or through social “Legacy Projects.” These projects will remind the peoples of Africa that they benefited directly from Africa having finally hosted the World Cup.

The public diplomacy benefits for South Africa and Africa will be enormous. Those who have been proponents of Afro-pessimism, arguing that Africa is not ready for investments and trade, will get a rude awakening as they discover that there are tremendous opportunities for doing profitable business with South Africa and other countries of the continent. Some potential investors have been reluctant to invest in the continent because they base their impression of business opportunities on ill-informed and negative coverage of Africa. They know very little about how richly endowed the continent is. They will discover there is low cost to doing business in Africa, ensuring healthy returns on investments. Africa, the cradle of humankind, is ready to do business. Potential investors will realize that “South Africa is Alive with Possibilities.” This slogan so widely popularized by South Africa Tourism, encapsulates the endless opportunities that are waiting to be exploited to the mutual benefit of all.

FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 will afford South Africa and Africa yet another chance to show the creativity of the continent and its great potential. During their periodic visits to the continent, FIFA officials have confirmed that the work that has been done has far exceeded expectations and that South Africa and Africa are on track in their quest to deliver a world class sporting event that will pleasantly shock the critics of Africa. The Public Diplomacy benefits will be immense as skeptics and Afro-pessimists realize that the continent is ready for business; that indeed when you do business in South Africa and in Africa you can earn enormous amounts of money that will benefit the investor and also help to eradicate absolute poverty that can lead to global instability.

We know that those who will come to our shores in 2010 and beyond will have the time of their lives. They will leave the continent having learned that the best way to learn about a people and a continent is not by relying only on media reports but by actually visiting the country and forming impressions that are based on the reality of the situation rather than on the interpretation of others.

South Africa and all of Africa will dazzle!

            AFRICA KE NAKO!

            AFRICA’S TIME HAS COME!

The Honorable Jeanette Ndhlovu is Consul-General of the South African Consulate in Los Angeles. She was born in Johannesburg, South Africa.  She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration at the University of Missouri and a Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology at New York University. Prior to joining the Consulate-General in Los Angeles, she worked as Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations and led South Africa’s New York delegation to the Commission of Human Rights in Geneva where she advocated for civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.