Governor Pat Quinn today announced that as part of his efforts to grow the economy and boost exports, Illinois-based civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson will represent the state at the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa next week.
"Overseas trading with fast-growing nations is a key to expanding Illinois' role in the global marketplace, creating jobs here at home and growing our economy," Governor Quinn said. "Rev. Jackson will serve as a goodwill ambassador to South Africa on behalf of Illinois as the ANC celebrates its long history of fighting for justice and equality."
The ANC was created in 1912 to preserve voting rights for black South Africans, and it later took the lead in the movement to eliminate apartheid. Rev. Jackson visited South Africa in 1979 in the midst of racial apartheid and again on Feb. 11, 1990 when Nelson Mandela was freed from Robben Island after spending 27 years in prison. At the 1984 Democratic Convention, Rev. Jackson rallied against racial apartheid, calling it a moral disgrace and led several mass marches in the U.S. and U.K. in support of equality. He was also a member of the official U.S. delegation to witness the inauguration of Mandela to the South African Presidency in 1994. The ANC centenary ceremonies will begin a year of celebration throughout the country as it continues its political and economic transition in the 21st century.
South Africa is the top importer of Illinois products in the African region, accounting for $613 million in economic activity in 2010 -- a 13 percent increase from 2009. Overall, Illinois ranks third in the U.S. among states exporting goods to South Africa. Following the country's liberation, Illinois established an international trade office that helps Illinois and South African companies to form mutually-beneficial economic partnerships.
Through the third quarter of 2011, exports to South Africa were up an additional 53 percent over 2010 levels. This growth is being driven by an increase in Illinois machinery exports to support the country's growing mining industry and investments in large infrastructure projects. South Africa produces 90 percent of the world's cobalt, 80 percent of its chromium and platinum, 70 percent of its tantalite, 64 percent of its manganese, 40 percent of its gold, 33 percent of its uranium, and at least 10 percent of the world's oil and natural gas reserves.
Today's announcement is one of several business and economic partnerships the Governor has announced as he builds upon his aggressive goal to double state exports by 2014.