A world of opportunity for South Africa

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HOST INTRO: The US takes on Brazil for the gold medal in Olympic Women’s Soccer today. But many Africans are already looking to the next big global soccer event the 2010 World Cup. South Africa will host the tournament, and it’s hoping the event will spur economic growth. Gretchen Wilson has more from Soweto, South Africa.


SFX: Sound of construction of stadium – heavy machinery.

WILSON: Construction crews are in overdrive here — building the stadium that will host the World Cup final.

SFX: Cross fade sound of construction with quiet street, sound of door opening, walking up stairs…

WILSON: Soweto is a neighborhood that was created under apartheid to house Johannesburg’s millions of black residents. It was once known for its shantytowns. But it’s increasingly middle class. On this quiet cul-de-sac you can find the Suthukazi Bed & Breakfast.

MAZIBUKO: Welcome to our living room…

WILSON: Dumisani Mazibuko and his wife Mavis started this guesthouse as soon as South Africa won the bid to host the championship. They’ve attended to every detail — lace curtains and African sculptures. They’re already getting a few guests from overseas. But they’re really banking on 2010.

MAZIBUKO: Oh, the money I’m making, we’re going to share amongst the whole family. Everyone is going to benefit out of this!

WILSON: South Africa says the World Cup will pump about $3 billion dollars into an economy that remains extremely divided, even 14 years after apartheid ended. A quarter of the population is unemployed.

Thabo Masemula is with a regional tourism board. He says the tournament will create up to 200 thousand short- and long-term jobs, providing real opportunity for some black families.

MASEMULA: To provide food, to take their kids to schools, or to universities. The impacts of this will be really far reaching.

WILSON: It already reaches to a fast-expanding infrastructure. Cranes tower over South Africa’s cities, building world-class airports and speed trains. But power shortages and labor disputes have slowed construction. And the rising cost of steel and other materials is driving up costs.

Tournament officials say they have a Plan B if the African country isn’t ready in time. But South Africa insists it will pull it off.

Danny Jordaan is head of the local organizing committee. He says there’s more at stake than just economic growth.

JORDAAN: A successful delivery of the World Cup will help us to finally bring the glue to bind black and white in this country.

WILSON: Jordaan says it’ll cement South Africa’s national unity, and prove to the world that Africa’s ready to compete in the global economy.

In Soweto, South Africa, I’m Gretchen Wilson for Marketplace.

All reporting by Gretchen L. Wilson, © 2008

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