South Africa's fixer

Business Daily talks to the go-to person in South Africa. When presidents want to sort out an industry, they call in Maria Ramos and she does the job. So, in the wake of the country's riots, hear her advice. Plus how do you run a successful fish and chip shop and a failed coffee bar?

It seems that the recession may be pushing tensions in all kinds of different places to breaking point. Workers have occupied factories in France and Britain. Protesters have marched in Dublin and Moscow and Athens and countless other cities. And in a few places there have been full-blown riots. In China the cause was ethnic but the role of any economic underpinning remains unclear.

In South Africa, though, it's all been about the economy. Fifteen years after the end of white rule, the people clearly have expectations, and now with the economy in recession, disappointed, angry expectations.

Clearly, a crunch has been reached. Something has snapped. The economic complaints are various: "service delivery" the way government departments respond to the public, is often dismal; and since the end of apartheid the general living standards of South Africans have actually got worse as measured by the authoritative UN Human Development Index.

If you read the histories of post-apartheid South Africa few people come out well, but one of them is Maria Ramos, known for her efficient running of organisations. Now, she's just taken over as chief executive of one of the country's biggest banks, ABSA.

She talked to Business Daily about the economic issues facing the country, but Steve Evans first started by asking her how it felt to be a banker in South Africa given that bankers were held in such low esteem elsewhere.

In the Northern hemisphere we are now in the dog days of Summer or "caniculae, caniculares dies" as the Romans put it. It's that time of year when the heat of the sun seems at its hottest, and when holidays happen. It is a time, you might think, when coffee bars and holiday-spot restaurants seem to be at their most attractive.

However, their economics are not attractive at all despite how crowded they look. Steve Evans got together two very different restaurateurs. Michael Idov acted out his dream of owning a little coffee bar in New York and it turned into a nightmare. And Bill Knight who has the oldest family owned fish-and-chip shop in Britain.

If you like football, the round-ball variety not the strange America variant, Asia's clearly the place to be at the moment. With the break in Europe, a string of clubs are touring China and the rest of the continent, drumming up support - and support means money from sponsors.

The English premier league clubs have been making the running, but recently others have been coming up fast and not just footballers, as our regular commentator Guy de Launey has noticed in Bangkok.

Available now

18 minutes

Last on

Tue 4 Aug 2009 07:32 GMT

Business Daily Podcast

MP3 Player.jpg

Download every programme.