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The end of apartheid and the election of a government representing all citizens has transformed South Africa from an international business pariah into a land of opportunity. For commercial, governmental and philanthropic purposes, enterprises large and small in South Africa are seeking links with, and investments from, multinational organizations.
South Africa has "huge problems and enormous capabilities," explained Francois Baird, chairman of Baird's Communications (Pty) Ltd., in Randburg, near Johannesburg. Baird is also publisher of Baird's Africa Review, a respected weekly report on political, economic and business trends in the region. His finn recently affilated with Edeman Public Relations Worldwide, based in New York.
"We are a third-world country in a first-world cloak," said Baird, who was a delegate to the White House Conference on Africa in June. For example, South Africa boasts world-class business-to-business communications in media, telephone and information technology, he noted. There are about five million automobiles in South Africa, compared to about 300,000 in the rest of Africa, added Baird, who also publishes Baird's Automotive Intelligence.
On the other hand, many South African citizens are uneducated and lack access to technology as elementary as telephones, according to Baird. "Normal media can't reach poor, rural, black townships," he said. …