August 28, 2003: Susan Rice discusses South Africa and black economic empowerment with host Mishal Husain.
Susan Rice: Thank you so much. It’s great to be here.
Mishal Husain: I wanted to just ask you for your perceptions of how far South Africa has come because this film was made almost 10 years since the end of apartheid. What are your thoughts on the progress South Africa’s made?
Susan Rice: Well, I think by any expectation South Africa has come a tremendously long way. We’ve seen a society that many people thought couldn’t withstand a peaceful transition to democracy without a great deal of violence, in fact, make that transition and do it in relative peace and security. Politically, South Africa is a relatively stable democracy now with a flourishing press and a vibrant civil society. It’s achieved, I think, a remarkable degree of racial reconciliation given the tremendous burden of history and of the apartheid regime. And economically the government is pursing the sorts of strategies that have proven successful in stimulating economic growth in other developing economies. So the polices are correct, but in the short less than 10 years since the end of apartheid, there’s still huge economic disparities and one has to expect that. One can’t erase the tremendous burden of apartheid in 10 years, 20 years, I believe, even 30 years. It’s going to be a long-term proposition. So the economic challenges and the social challenges remain huge.
Mishal Husain: Do you think the government’s done as much as it could have to address those economic unrealities, because some of the figures are really quite shocking? The fact that for many black households, their income has actually dropped by some accounts about 20 percent in the last five years or so.
Susan Rice: Well, I think the government policies, broadly in the area of economic growth and development, have been laudable ones. It’s not perfect. I don’t know any government whose economic policies one could say are perfect, certainly not our own. So I think we have to step back and be a bit reasonable and objective. But what the government has tried to do is to balance, on the one hand, the tremendous needs of the majority population, which were disenfranchised — many of whom had no housing, no running water, no electricity and had great political expectations that, when democracy came, so would all of the burdens of their lives be lifted, which is one set of expectations obviously unrealistic but nevertheless real. On the other hand, the government is trying its utmost to manage the economy in a responsible and efficient fashion. This is a closed economy that was one of the most backward under apartheid. The way the white regime survived was to become extremely insular — to protect with all sorts of tariffs and subsidies and the like. And so they’re now trying to open that economy, attract foreign investment, pursue policies that domestic and foreign investors will see as worthy of their capital inflows. And balancing those two imperatives is extremely difficult. Mishal Husain: However difficult it is, though, they have got a limited time frame to actually put that into practice. I mean the black majority is going to demand results. They’re going to demand to see the economic imbalances redressed.
Susan Rice: Absolutely and the government, which is a government of the ANC of the liberation struggle, is acutely aware of that and I think that’s in large part of the rationale for black economic empowerment. When you look at their progress on the social front — even though there’s a huge long way to go — what they have accomplished in the short nine and a half years since the end of apartheid — not quite nine and a half years since the end of apartheid — is remarkable. They’ve built millions of houses. They’ve brought electricity to areas that never had it. They have done a great deal in terms of trying to improve the basic standard of living for people. But this is a long-term proposition, and it’s going to have to continue. And no matter how fast the government was able to go, or is able to go, while on the other hand, balancing the larger macroeconomic challenges, it’s never going to be fast enough for the people of South Africa who’ve suffered so long and whose expectations are so huge.
Mishal Husain: How long do you think they’ll actually give their government to deliver before discontent sets in and the ANC is actually judged on this issue alone?
Susan Rice: I don’t think you can begin to quantify that. Nobody knows. The ANC has already stumbled on some other important issues and is being judged on it, mostly notably on HIV/AIDS. And until recently, until very recently a few weeks ago, their failure or refusal to provide anti-retroviral treatment broadly to people with AIDS — and you have five million people in the country, the largest population in the world, suffering from HIV. And so the people are already in a mode of looking at their government and being prepared to criticize it when they believe it to be wrong. I think the people of South Africa will not have limitless patience with any government that fails to deliver over the medium to long term on bridging these, reducing these economic disparities. On the other hand, I don’t think that one needs to measure the time bomb in terms of months or even a few short years. I think there is time, but the key is that the government indicates that it’s serious about it, that it has a strategy, and that there’s beginning to be evidence that the strategy’s working.
Mishal Husain: What do you think of the overall strategy, the way that the government has decided to try and address this inequality, the black empowerment strategy? I mean do you think that it is one that is going to work in the long term because it’s a difficult balancing act? I mean it’s, on the one hand, it’s radical intervention. On the other hand, some would say it doesn’t go far enough.
Susan Rice: Well, I think first of all you’ve got to look at black economic empowerment, the government’s program, in a larger context. It’s one piece, albeit a very important piece, of a larger economic growth strategy. There is the strategy of attending to the basic needs of the population — building houses, doing the rural electrification, all of those sorts of things. Actually I should say rural and urban electrification. Then there’s the larger macroeconomic policy and the fiscal policy in which this black economic empowerment fits. And there the huge piece of the strategy has been to attract greater quantities of foreign as well as domestic investment so that jobs can be created. Because you can have black economic empowerment, but if the economy as a whole is not growing, there are limits to what that can achieve. You’re redistributing, in the best case, a stagnant pie. So you’ve got to grow the pie, which is part of the larger economic strategy, even as you change within that pie the resource allocation, the distribution of income. So to look at black economic empowerment, there is, within that piece of the larger whole, a tension, as you suggested, between, on the one hand, trying to give the disenfranchised and powerless majority — not a minority — a real stake in the economy, and not doing it in a fashion that scares off domestic or foreign investors. And so you’re always calibrating. You can’t quite go full bore in one direction or another. But I think having said that, the program is well conceived. I think it has largely walked that fine line to good effect. But the people are going to have to be somewhat more patient and one has to recognize that no program of affirmative action, and this is perhaps the most massive and ambitious ever accomplished, yields results in 5 to 10 years. Look at our country, we’re still very much in a circumstance where there’s a huge long way to go to close economic disparities and educational opportunities and opportunities on the economic side.
Mishal Husain: So you see a direct parallel between what the United States has been through in a terms of civil rights and the movement toward economic equality in the process that South Africa’s going through?
Susan Rice: I want to be careful there. I used it as an example to show how difficult it is. But I think the struggle from the American perspective — hard as that has been and continues to be — is dwarfed in comparison to what you’re looking at in South Africa. In the case in the United States, you’re talking about affirmative action — let’s just talk about it in the case of African Americans — to benefit 12 to 13 percent of the population that was a minority that was disenfranchised and haunted by the economic and social and psychological legacy of slavery and discrimination. In South Africa, you’re talking about 75 percent of the population. And so it is a vastly greater challenge. So when you judge the success of the South Africans, it is helpful to look at our experience and say for a smaller magnitude challenge it has taken us and continues to take us a great deal of time to make progress and we’re not there yet. So to talk about South Africa with its exponentially greater challenge succeeding in a short decade is just ridiculous.
Mishal Husain: But one basic thing that’s the same in the two places is the bottom line that political rights doesn’t necessarily lead to economic equality and certainly not over night.
Susan Rice: Absolutely, absolutely.
Mishal Husain: Let me just ask you for a moment about the details of the relationship between South Africa and the United States. I mean this is the country that is the United States’ biggest trading partner in Africa. How important is it for the United States, if this is an economy that makes this transition to deracialization and that is on firm equal fitting for the future?
Susan Rice: I think it’s very important. It’s important for a variety of reasons. And if I can, I’d like to go into some depth on them. First of all from an economic point of view, South Africa is the largest economy on the continent, our largest trading partner, an engine for economic growth and development for much of the rest of southern Africa and, in fact, Africa more broadly. South Africa’s increasingly, for example, the largest foreign investor in various other parts of Africa. So as its economy goes, so to will go much of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. And we have a stake in South Africa and Africa’s success. Our own economy, as you know, is increasingly dependent on trade and investment and exports to the rest of the world. And Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa in particular, represents really the world’s last untapped market for the United States. And as the market in Africa grows, so too will there be benefits in the United States as well as for the people of Africa. Right now, about 100,000 American jobs depend on U.S. exports to Africa. As Africa grows, that number will grow from the United States point of view. It will also mean benefits for companies, businesses, and, hopefully, average people on the African continent. The United States share of the African market it’s very small, it’s only about 8 percent. So we have a stake in that market growing and our share of that market growing. And the kind of investment that we can bring — particularly if it’s sensitive to the environment, to labor standards if we come with a sense for our own history and a sense of obligation to be part of creating a better future in places like South Africa through supporting and leading on black economic empowerment — we can make a very important difference for the people of South Africa and the continent more broadly. But the United States has a significant and growing economic stake in Africa. And obviously with South Africa being the most important piece of that puzzle from an economic point of view, we have to care deeply about it, and then there are political and security reasons as well as moral reasons why we have a stake in South Africa’s success.
Mishal Husain: I think on the trade issue one of the difficult things certainly as perceived by many Africans is that United States is always talking about reducing barriers to free trade. At the same time, it’s much less open to doing things to combat its own trade barriers, things like subsidies to farmers. Is that the kind of thing that, as this trading relationship, as this economic relationship grows, things like that are going to become increasing issues?
Susan Rice: Yes, but I think we’ve got to break these into the pieces that are, in fact, separate. The United States has, along with the Europeans, a set of policies, subsidies that are extremely harmful in the agricultural sector to the developing world and to Africa as a whole. Now South Africa, because its economy is far more diversified than many other African economies, is actually less adversely affected in the aggregate biagricultural subsidies than say Mali or Burkina Faso whose economy depends a great deal on cotton production.
Mishal Husain: It’s a much more developed economy — South Africa?
Susan Rice: Yes, and diversified but cotton is king in large parts of West Africa and it’s our cotton subsidies that are killing West African farmers. It’s the Europeans beef subsidies and our own sugar subsidies that are hurting other parts of the continent, but South Africa has an important agricultural base and it is not immune from the impact of our agriculture subsidies. And this is something that we need to deal with, in my opinion, as a matter of urgency. We have to get past our own domestic political constraints and recognize that we have a security as well as an economic stake over the long term in allowing economies in the developing world to flourish. By keeping them down, we’re doing ourselves long-term harm.
Mishal Husain: Does deracializing South Africa’s economy, though, make a difference to its relationship with the United States? If South Africa remains an economy as it is at the moment still controlled by the white minority, ultimately does that matter to the U.S.?
Susan Rice: Yes, because it’s inherently unstable as long as that’s the case. It’s going to be politically unstable and economically unstable, and the combination of the two could mean it becomes a security risk. And I’ll come back to why I say that. But the South African society cannot succeed unless with political change comes economic change as well, and change that benefits the majority population. If that doesn’t happen then the democracy is threatened, then civil society can be torn asunder, then you could have a return to racial violence, you could have pressures of the sort that accumulated and were manipulated in neighboring states to redistribute land. And South Africa no longer becomes a potential engine of growth for much of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, but could deteriorate, in worst case scenario, and I don’t expect this to happen, into a fragile and or a failed state. And that’s a security risk to the United States because in South Africa you’ve got great infrastructure. You’ve got a long coastline. You’ve got very precious resources like gold and diamonds. All of the sorts of things that you would not want to see fall into the hands of terrorist or others who could manipulate them and exploit them and do us and the people of Africa harm.
Mishal Husain: Do you think the United States is doing enough to help the South African transition become a complete transition?
Susan Rice: No, but we’re not doing enough in my estimation for Africa as a whole. We talked a bit a little while ago about agricultural subsidies. That’s one thing that we and the Europeans have in our power to change in a meaningful fashion, but we can do more on other scores as well. We can open our markets further to goods and services from Africa. This is separate from the agricultural subsidy issue. We have something called the African Growth and Opportunity Act that was signed by President Clinton in 2000. And it’s being pursued and implemented by the Bush administration. This allows a substantial number of products to come into the U.S. market without duties and without quotas. But this act is not indefinite. It will expire in the near term. It doesn’t cover all products coming from Africa. It certainly doesn’t deal with the agricultural issues we described. It doesn’t allow textiles to come in from Africa, which is a potential engine of significant growth because our own textile industry has made Congress averse to opening up on that score. So there’s more we can do on trade. We could do more by virtue of government policy to encourage investment in Africa. I participated on a commission, a bipartisan commission of Democrats, Republicans, private sector people, former government officials, that has made a set of recommendations to congress and to the administration about how we can do more to increase capital flows to Africa. One thing we could do is provide in our tax code greater incentives for U.S. investors to go to places like Africa and particularly — since we’re talking about South Africa — to South Africa as well. This will help create jobs. And we can do it in a way that is supportive of the black economic empowerment agenda because it doesn’t do good simply to increase the concentration of wealth in the hands of the white minority. It has to be spread out for it to be sustainable.
Mishal Husain: There’s no doubt that this is such a difficult one to push through the black empowerment strategy and still not frighten away foreign investors because all evidence says that the minute the government said such and such industry should be one that’s controlled eventually by black South Africans. Immediately, there’s this sort of flight from that industry and the market.
Susan Rice: Well, the government has had a couple of instances where it tested the waters and found that a more dramatic or radical approach would have a very negative reaction from potential investors, domestic and foreign, and has sort of stepped back. But I think, in the main, the government of South Africa has been very careful to try to pursue black economic empowerment — as ambitious and aggressive a strategy as it is — in a fashion that minimizes the risk of frightening off investors. And as we said at the outset, it’s a very delicate balancing act. But I think, for the most part, they’re managing that balance effectively.
Mishal Husain: Do you think that the black empowerment strategy as we see it in South Africa at the moment is really the most effective possible means to create a strong black middle class because it strikes me that it is creating a black elite in many ways. And one of the businessmen we see in the film Humphrey Khoza is obviously one of the few really successful black CEOs, but he’s still the exception.
Susan Rice: Yes, but the time is short. I think you can’t possibly judge the success of black economic empowerment in the time frame that we’ve seen. Obviously it’s going to start with a small core, and if it succeeds it will benefit a far broader section of society. I think what was interesting, as we saw in the film, is that the strategy of his company depends on creating small and medium size enterprises essentially at the grassroots level that will be self-sustaining long after Uthingo moves on. And that’s very important. That’s where growth is going to come, whether we’re talking about South Africa the rest of Africa or anywhere else in the developing world, it’s the small and medium size enterprise level. It’s with small women entrepreneurs who, in this case, got the contract for repairing the lottery machines. These are the sorts of businesses where you get women who wouldn’t be in the workforce or, for that matter, men who wouldn’t be in the workforce. They’re given jobs, they’re given skills, they’re given capital and if that piece of the pyramid — the bottom part of the pyramid — can be expanded and sustained, then that’s where you’re going to start to see the benefits.
Mishal Husain: But those aren’t the companies that really produce the most money for South Africa. I mean the big companies, the mining companies, the diamond companies, all of those companies are the ones which are overwhelmingly white today.
Susan Rice: No, but it’s at that small micro level where the jobs are going to be created. There are only a finite number of jobs that Anglo America can provide within South Africa. There are limits to its own internal growth capacity. So what you need if the economy there and elsewhere, anywhere, is going to grow is job creation at what I would call the grassroots level at the small and medium size enterprise level. That’s not to say that domestic and foreign investment isn’t important and that large multinationals or domestic conglomerates are not important. And you also obviously have to change their policies. But the job growth, which is what is the critical requirement in South Africa for political sustainability as well as economic redistribution, is going to have to come from the grassroots level.
Mishal Husain: And job growth is exactly what’s not happening right now. I mean South Africa has a pretty terrifying unemployment statistic.
Susan Rice: It does indeed.
Mishal Husain: What do you think of that? I mean is that a government failure or is that just a question of more time to find its feet?
Susan Rice: I think it’s a question of largely more time to find its feet. I’m not here to say that every policy pursued by the government of South Africa is perfect or working, but unlike a number of other economies including our own, it’s difficult to sit back and say well this is the wrong fiscal policy, this is the wrong macroeconomic strategy. That’s not in fact the case. For the most part, this is a government that has managed to implement the right and responsible fiscal and macroeconomic polices. It’s done so without incurring a great deal of depth from the multilateral institutions. It’s done so without the World Bank and the IMF having it on a short leash. And what has been lacking — while it has achieved growth — it hasn’t achieved the 6 percent or more growth that’s necessary to start to drag large numbers of people out of poverty. But show me an economy of that size that’s integrated into the global economy that’s growing at 6 percent today. There are very few.
Mishal Husain: The reality for the government of South Africa, though, is that their average unemployed young voter is not going to judge them as fairly as you just did.
Susan Rice: Exactly.
Mishal Husain: They’re going to be angry.
Susan Rice: That’s a political problem. But when you step back and look at what economic policy advice you would give the government, there’s not a huge amount that you can point to and say that they’re doing inappropriately. The policies have been largely correct. They’ve been buffeted by a range of things: the Asian financial crisis which hit much of the developing world, oil prices, lack of foreign investment globally and, in particular, to Africa — even though South Africa is a better investment bet than perhaps other parts of Africa. So all of these things have made it difficult, and yet that doesn’t give comfort or patience to your 15-year-old who’s looking to come out of high school and has no reasonable expectation of getting a job.
Mishal Husain: Let’s just talk for a moment about the implications of failure. Negative as it may seem, but just next door in Zimbabwe you have this horrifying example of what the country can be like with resentment toward white control of the economy or even just one part of the economy. What would you say are the implications there for South Africa as it copes with this process?
Susan Rice: Well, there are implications because there is the fear of pressure building at the grassroots level that it’s time for the government to grab white-owned enterprises or white farms. But that’s a misunderstanding, in fact, of what happened in Zimbabwe. There was no great ground swell at the grassroots for the kind of land grab that the government did. That was a power play by Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, who saw his own political position threatened and seized on the land issue. Obviously the land issue is a huge historical economic and social issue. There is a historical inequality in the distribution of land. The whites came colonized the country, grabbed the land from blacks, and have been farming it ever since. But what Mugabe did was give this land to his fat cat cronies and buddies in the government and the military. And did it in a way that made the land completely unproductive so that the average workers, who were black, are out of jobs, and now 60 percent of the country is starving.
Mishal Husain: But black South Africans might not see it in terms of�
Susan Rice: Some blacks South Africans may not see it that way, and that’s the risk. The risk is a misinterpretation of what happened in Zimbabwe and the expectations that that may generate in some quarters for equally radical and detrimental policies in South Africa. Mishal Husain: Which must be pretty frightening for the South African government, the thought that that could…
Susan Rice: It is, and it, in part, explains — although not necessarily sufficiently — one of the reasons why the South African government has tried to manage the Zimbabwe crisis in a low key behind the scenes fashion rather than in a very public and aggressive fashion, as some of us might have wished they would have.
Mishal Husain: One of the things that is, of course, really terrifying for South Africa today in terms of domestic issues is HIV/AIDS. This is something that has really taken hold in a horrifying way on the country. Amongst the economic problems is the fact that 10 percent of the workforce roughly have HIV. How does the government deal with that — the fact that the workforce is potentially going to dwindle in that way?
Susan Rice: Well, this is a huge problem which is why South Africa, in my opinion, has been deservedly criticized for its failure to respond to the HIV crisis in as aggressive and timely a fashion as it should have. HIV/AIDS in South Africa, just as it is here and globally, is not just a health issue. It’s a social issue. It’s an economic issue. It’s a security threat. And nowhere on the planet are there more people infected with HIV than South Africa. If employers have to hire two and three people to perform the same job because their expectation is that one employee hired and trained may not live long enough, you have a serious drain on the economy. And that is the reality. So the area where I think the government of South Africa deserves the greatest criticism — and it is real and profound — has been its failure to step up to the plate and acknowledge as some neighboring countries have done, for instance Botswana, that this is a life and death issue. It is about the very survival of the country. And we have got to be far more aggressive in everything from prevention and education about HIV/AIDS to treatment and building health care infrastructure and even finding a vaccine or other form of cure for it.
Mishal Husain: So that undermines all these strategies including black empowerment.
Susan Rice: It does indeed. Now the good news, however belatedly, is that the government has just in recent weeks done virtually a 180-degree turnaround and begun to approach the problem — at least the treatment aspect of the problem — in a more responsible fashion. But a great deal of time has been lost.
Mishal Husain: One of the aspects to the way that the black empowerment strategy has been implemented by the South African government is that they’ve done it by suggestion, by encouragement, they haven’t actually imposed the fact that this is what they want as a government priority. Do you think in a sense that they should be more radical or should make it clear that this is an imperative that has to happen?
Susan Rice: I don’t think it’ll work if they made it more of a mandate. What they’ve done, as I think the film very amply explained, is employee coercion, encouragement, incentives, penalties. You don’t get government contracts, which is obviously substantial, if you’re not a company that’s pursing the appropriate black economic strategies. And that cascades throughout the economy and I think it will work. If they were to mandate it legislatively and impose certain limits or quotas — in this instance because a great deal of what they need to do at the same time is increase foreign and domestic investment in the economy — they will blow up the other side of the coin, which is growing the economy at the same time as they redistribute wealth within the economy. They can’t grow the economy if domestic and foreign investors are freaked out by imposed and legislated forms of black economic empowerment. They’ll take their capital and go elsewhere. So I think on balance the government has got it about right. But it means that there are not going to be dramatic radical overnight benefits. I don’t think there will be dramatic overnight benefits if they imposed it either though.
Mishal Husain: But the risk they’re taking is the perception from their voters that all of this is going to take time. And they’re taking the risk of their electorates possibly getting really frustrated with them.
Susan Rice: They are, but I don’t think that’s an immediate-term risk. It’s a medium-term risk. And it’s not just true about black economic empowerment, it’s about the whole economic growth strategy, which is laudable and responsible and wise, on the whole. It’s trying to balance providing for the basic needs of the South African people — on the one hand, houses, electricity, water — and, at the same time, creating a fiscal environment and a macroeconomic environment that will attack investment and trade and the things they need to grow the economy over the long term.
Mishal Husain: When we talk about U.S. policy toward the continent of Africa, is security now the overarching policy imperative?
Susan Rice: Well, security is obviously an overarching policy imperative for the United States globally and that includes Africa. I don’t want to pretend that it’s now suddenly an imperative and it wasn’t before. It had always been. And, frankly, we faced significant security concerns and security threats in Africa long before 9/11. People tend to forget that it was in Africa, in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, where we had the greatest and most devastating al Qaeda attacks of any place prior to 9/11. This is when our embassies were bombed very tragically. And Americans were killed and Africans were killed and maimed in huge numbers. We face a global terrorist threat. A global security threat. It is real and present in Africa and in South Africa, as it is in other parts of the world. And we need to be cognizant of that and we need to pursue policies that recognize it. But you can’t just pursue a security agenda in isolation. It’s part of a larger whole. We need to work with governments and organizations in Africa to secure the borders, to know who’s coming in and out. We need to share intelligence and work together to go after terrorist cells where they exist. And they do exist in Africa and they exist in particular in South Africa. We need to cooperate and coordinate so that we have an effective counter terrorism partnership as well as capacity among local authorities to work with us. That’s one piece of the puzzle. But we also need to deal with the issues that contribute to terrorist presence and terrorist breeding. Where you have failed states, conflict zones, areas that are completely off limits to responsible authorities — whether we’re talking about Liberia or Congo or Somalia or Sudan — that is a serious problem from a security point of view for the United States and for the countries in the neighborhood. When you have poverty, tremendous economic inequality, when you have young people coming out of school with no hope of jobs, no hope of a future, it’s very hard for them to resist the temptation to become radicalized, to turn against their government, to turn against the United States that’s viewed as the architect of globalization. So all of these are part of a larger whole that we need to deal with in our security interests.
Mishal Husain: What are things that concretely the United States can do to help governments that are trying to pursue programs that would lead to these kinds of basic stable economies, stable functioning states?
Susan Rice: Well, there’s two sets of things the United States has to do. We have to help countries around the world and in Africa to build their own capacity to cooperate with us on terrorism. They need homeland security assistance just as we need to be investing more here in homeland security. And if they don’t get it right at the end of the day it affects us as well. That’s one piece. The other is the economic growth and development side of the equation and the social side of the equation. And that’s why the whole set of instruments that we have to encourage growth and development are so important. It’s why it matters that we invest in foreign assistance and do it right. The American people think on average, quoting the polls, we spend 10 to 15 percent of our annual federal budget on foreign assistance. The truth is we spend far less than 1 percent. And that is not enough if we’re serious about helping people develop small- and medium-sized businesses deal with the health threats they face, etc. That’s one thing. Opening up markets further to goods and services from the developing world. Letting people grow through trade and investment. Dealing with agricultural subsidies, which keep small farmers in so many developing parts of the world, especially in Africa, down. Looking seriously at debt relief. Participating in peacekeeping and conflict resolution so that we take failed states out of the area of operation for potential terrorists. There is a wide wrath of things that we need to do: economic policy, social policy, investing in health. The president’s HIV/AIDS initiative is, in part, a good thing because it recognizes that HIV/AIDS is, as the previous administration said, does pose a security threat to the United States and we do need to invest in it far more substantially. So the health side of the agenda is very important too. And then, of course, encouraging, supporting, sustaining the spread of democracy is also important. All of those things have to be part of a comprehensive strategy.
Mishal Husain: This is a film that’s made almost 10 years after the end of the apartheid. In a sense, it’s a report card on the progress that South Africa’s made in that time. You’ve been involved with Africa for so long. You know South Africa. What do you think are the biggest challenges for the next 10 years for the country?
Susan Rice: For South Africa. Well, I think it’s many of the things we’ve been talking about. It’s being able to sustain the political miracle of democratization and racial reconciliation through enhanced progress on the economic and social agenda. The South African government has got to tackle far more aggressively the HIV/AIDS pandemic, otherwise everything else it does will be for not. It’s got to continue to maintain the sort of rational, responsible fiscal and macroeconomic policies that it has, while, at the same time, investing all that it possibly can — as it frankly has been doing — in basic human needs: education, electricity, housing, water, that sort of thing which is a ticking time bomb. And it’s got to pursue the black economic empowerment agenda in an effective fashion. And it’s got to strike this balance between moving fast enough to achieve meaningful results for the average citizen and not so fast that it blows up the sources of capital that it needs from aboard and domestically to grow the economy. So it’s a huge set of challenges, but it’s not impossible. And were it not for what I believe to be the big F on the report card, which is dealing with HIV/AIDS, the rest of the report card is actually, I would say, more As and Bs than Cs and Ds.
Mishal Husain: The challenges, though, do you think, are they bigger than the ones of the last 10 years?
Susan Rice: Only because the clock is ticking and time is moving on. They’re the same challenges, but the longer South Africa goes without the benefits of democratization reaching the vast majority of the citizenry on an economic level the more fragile and potentially unsustainable that democracy is. And that would be a tragedy not only for the people of South Africa who have suffered so long and for Africa as a continent, I believe it would be a profound tragedy for the United States and the international community. Given our history and given our own struggles with racism and prejudice and slavery, South Africa represents for all of us a hope that one can move beyond that past, that one can reconcile no matter how horrific the abuse is of the apartheid regime, and achieve democracy that’s sustainable. I think that matters a great deal to us as citizens of the world and to us in particular as Americans.
Mishal Husain: Susan Rice, thanks very much for joining us on Wide Angle.
Susan Rice: Thank you for having me.