Speaking at the South Lawn opening ceremony of a five-day state visit to the United States, before a cheering crowd of over 4,000 invited guests, Mr Mandela wasted no time in getting to the main purpose of his mission - attracting concrete financial support to build a stable and prosperous multi-racial South Africa, that would be a model for Africa.
'People of the United States of America, open your markets to us, come and invest in our country,' Mr Mandela said, as President Bill Clinton stood beside him, at one point seeming to wipe away a tear of emotion. South Africa, he told a group of American businessmen earlier, offered an ideal environment; good roads, cheap electricity and a motivated work force.
Although his moral stature may not be sufficient to secure all the help that he would like, Mr Mandela will not leave empty handed. The US is already committed to a three-year dollars 600m ( pounds 390m) aid programme. This week, Washington will announce a further dollars 200m of loan guarantees to underpin infrastructure projects in black townships. About dollars 150m more will come from the federally backed Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
The key, however, is the response of US companies. They are wary of committing large sums to South Africa, despite the advent of black rule. Within hours of his arrival, President Mandela was addressing 200 executives at a State Department luncheon, hoping to woo back businesses that pulled out when sanctions were imposed on the white minority regime, and reassuring them that South Africa was a stable and secure country.
A smaller but highly symbolic role could be played by black businesses and celebrities in the US. In what may be a pilot venture, an actor, Danny Glover, and a basketball star, Shaquille O'Neal, have put up money for a dollars 15m Pepsi- Cola bottling plant.
Mr Mandela yesterday set out to build upon ties of blood and history. He paid tribute to black Americans who had campaigned against apartheid. 'Afro-Americans never forgot that Africa is their continent.'
President Clinton welcomed Mr Mandela to the White House with a pledge to 'walk every mile' with his country as it transforms from apartheid to a multi-racial democracy: 'The American people welcome you here and we salute your stunning achievement . . . we pledge . . . that we will walk every mile with you and that we will not grow weary on the way.'Reuse content