Mayor Kasim Reed may be suffering from some serious jet lag — or at least travel fatigue.
Although Johannesburg is only six hours ahead of Atlanta, the nonstop flight to the South African capital on Delta Air Lines Inc. takes nearly 17, making it one of the longest in the world.
But that connection is a key point the mayor is promoting as he visits Africa’s second-largest economy this week, which shares many historical parallels with the American South, particularly in its journey on race relations.
Fittingly, Mr. Reed is traveling with former Atlanta mayor and civil rights leader Andrew Young, who did his part to enhance the city’s ties with the continent during his two terms, especially as it vied for the Olympics in the 1990s.
Mr. Young, also a former congressman and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has said that Atlanta won the 1996 games in part because he tapped local diaspora communities to forge connections with African countries whose votes in the Olympic bid process helped put the city over the top.
In a statement, Mr. Reed said Mr. Young’s South Africa Heritage Tour will give the current mayor a chance to further his mentor’s legacy of engagement with Africa.
“Expanding Atlanta’s current exports to South Africa and promoting our city as a world-class place to do business will be a top priority during our time in the country’s capital city,” Mr. Reed said.
He pointed to the Africa Atlanta 2014 series and the hosting of 50 participants in the president’s Young African Leaders Initiative as evidence that Atlanta continues to be a key gateway for African business interests.
Along with the cultural events of Mr. Young’s heritage tour, Mr. Reed’s itinerary will include business meetings, roundtables and “market-entry discussions.” He will also meet with Johannesburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau and the premier of Gauteng province, David Makhura.
Georgia exported more than $172 million in goods to South Africa in 2015, and both Coca-Cola Co. and United Parcel Service Inc. have operations there, along with many other Georgia firms.
Mr. Young has been a strong proponent of tourism as a way to generate economic benefit for Africa.
Brand South Africa has operated a showroom at the Americasmart in Atlanta to highlight the wares of South African artisans and traditional food products.
Mr. Reed saw a previous plan to visit South Africa scuttled in 2014. He was slated to accept the baton for the 2015 summit of Nobel laureates in Cape Town, but it was postponed and moved to Rome after South Africa denied a visa for the Dalai Lama.