The government has launched a program called Global South Africans to encourage talented South African expatriates to share their skills and knowledge with their fellow citizens. And the office of the South African deputy president has launched similar initiatives to inspire South Africans to share their skills or return home.
But not everyone is receptive.
Louise Gardiner, a 31-year-old International Finance Corp. officer living in Washington, says she often takes trips back to her native Cape Town, but that the "general despondence" of friends and family has persuaded her not to return.
"Up until a year ago I thought I would eventually move back," Gardiner said. "But the violent crime, energy crisis, and just all-around feeling of things getting worse made me think again. I love my country, but I don't see a future there anymore."
Schaffer says South Africans have created their own image problem, and she believes getting accurate information to people can help.
"Many of the issues in this country we have invented: that political instability doesn't happen anywhere else in the world, that racism doesn't happen anywhere else in the world," she said. "We need to look at these things and put them in context. We're an emerging market and that should make us exciting. We have a wonderful country and we have to fight for it; we have to stand up for it."