AFRICA – U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs said that its sub-Saharan Africa chief executive, Colin Coleman, would retire from the firm at the end of 2019 taking up an academic post while promising to stay involved in helping out SA’s struggling economy.

Coleman, 57, has spent the past 20 years with Goldman Sachs and will leave the firm at the end of the year to become a senior fellow and lecturer with Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. He will also remain co-chair of the Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative.

He is one of the country’s best-connected bankers, having nurtured ties with senior figures in the African National Congress (ANC) since being involved in the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s.

Coleman said that he would “love to serve the people of SA in a meaningful way. I would be dishonest if I told you otherwise”.

Coleman is well known for his bullish view of SA’s prospects and is sometimes criticised for a slightly rose-tinted view, but he makes no apology for remaining steadfastly positive.

“No patriotic South African would be complacent about half a percentage-point growth, and 38% broad unemployment.” The capacity of the SA economy to grow has fallen by half from 4% to 2%, he estimates.

But SA has a population growth rate of 2.5% and a current economic growth rate of half that, so “it can’t really get worse”.

Coleman’s involvement in Youth Employment Service (YES), a private-public partnership that aims to place one million young South Africans as interns in South African businesses over the next five years, is the kind of role he sees for himself in future.

The YES initiative is just one of the interactions between business and government that Coleman and a collection of other CEOs of SA companies, including Discovery’s Adrian Gore and former Investec CEO Stephen Koseff, have initiated to help bridge this gap.

The YES initiative has now placed about 30,000 young South Africans in work experience and apprenticeships, well short where it should be if the initiative is to reach its target of one million job placements in five years.

On the business side, Coleman’s participation in dealmaking in SA’s business has been just extraordinary, and in all but a few isolated cases, very successful.

From SABMiller’s sale to AB Inbev to the splitting of AngloGold from Anglo American, to Barclay’s investment in Absa and also ironically its subsequent sale of Absa, Coleman and Goldman Sachs were there.

The deal of which he is most proud is the purchase by Chinese ICBC of a stake in Standard Bank. “I was really involved in putting that together”. At the time it was the largest investment by a Chinese company outside of that country.