South African Success in the USA

by Nov 13, 20200 comments

There is something unique about the USA, a country where dreams come alive, opportunity breathes freely, and a place where South Africans achieve.


Cromwell Schucarch, who presented Biz Journal’s 2012 Executive of the Year Awards, said: “Here’s something interesting, something that didn’t occur to us at the time: all the executives selected are originally from South Africa.” He was referring to award winners Elon Musk, Paul Maritz, and Lyndon Rive – South Africans who have gone to the States and found international claim in their fields, emerging as uniquely successful executives through their combination of ability, dedication, and perseverance. Elon Musk is of course the visionary founder of PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla; Paul Maritz worked on the ExCo of Microsoft, and currently serves as the chairman of Pivotal Software; and Lyndon Rive founded SolarCity, which was acquired by Tesla.

South Africans across the spectrum have made a significant impact, producing successes that range from a Stanford Business School Dean (Garth Saloner) to a Massachusetts Chief Justice (Margaret H Marshall). Unfortunately, success in the USA has been a majority white phenomenon. Of the 90,000 or so South African immigrants, only 11,000 are black. However, a growing number are making waves in their pursuit of the American Dream.


Trevor Noah, who replaced Jon Stewart in 2014 on The Daily Show, shot to international stardom after getting his break while appearing as the first South African comedian on The Tonight Show and The David Letterman Show.

Pearl Thusi, the exceptionally talented black actress, emerged as a series regular on the ABC thriller Quantico, appearing opposite Priyanka Chopra. She has gone on to star in her own Netflix production, Queen Sono.

Nkosinathi Innocent Maphumulo, better known as Black Coffee, had a break out year in 2013 after touring Germany, England and Ibiza. International exposure accelerated his career, and he has since headlined at Coachella and Ultra Music Festivals and collaborated with David Guetta.

From L to R: Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show; Pearl Thusi, star of Netflix’s Queen Sono; and Black Coffee


On the sporting front, baseball player Gift Ngoepe gained instant fame as the first black South African to sign a pro baseball contract in the MLB, playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Toronto Blue Jays.

Richman Mahlangu, who fled apartheid in the 1980s, found his calling after finding a broken tennis racket on the streets of Lamontville township in Durban. He secured himself a College Tennis scholarship to the University of Nevada – Las Vegas, and now lives in the suburbs of the city, where he has spent time coaching tennis. His two sons, also tennis players, have been recruited by top university programmes. Richman now works as a motivational speaker and has written several books about his amazing story.

Opportunities abound in the USA, and more and more South Africans from all walks of life are taking advantage of the resources in the States to showcase their talents. Whether it’s in the arts, sports, or business world, South Africans have proven time and again that we have what it takes to succeed at the highest level. As South Africa heals from the atrocities of the past, we see an increase in access to quality education and a growing black middle class where talented African excellence is emerging. However, we are only starting to see their influence on global culture.

We here at Aspire Atlantic are making it our mission to help, guide, and nurture the next generation of great South Africans. We are doing this by creating a platform to bridge the gap between talent and opportunity and help secure millions of Rands in USA university Scholarships. With this they will be able to use their skills and abilities to showcase the abundant excellence present in South Africa.


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