SA – New Bills discouraging trade and investment

containeryardSouth Africa is moving away from a policy promoting trade and investment to one that contradicts this, a roundtable on SA-European Union (EU) trade relations heard on Tuesday.

This comes as global foreign direct investment (FDI) flows jumped 36% last year to their highest level since the global economic and financial crisis began in late 2008, but plummeted in emerging markets, especially SA.

The most recent United Nations (UN) Conference on Trade and Development global investment trends monitor shows FDI into SA fell 74% to $1.5bn last year, while FDI inflows to Africa fell 31% to about $38bn.

Central Africa and Southern Africa saw the largest declines in FDI. The end of the commodity “supercycle” and the plunge in oil prices affected new project developments drastically, the UN body said. This had also affected Brazil, Russia and China, but not India, whose economy had surged ahead of late.

Peter Draper, MD of Tutwa Consulting, which researches policy and regulatory matters in emerging markets, said the promulgation of legislation such as the private security bill and the expropriation bill, created an impression that SA was not an attractive investment destination.

“What lies behind all of that, I think, is an ideological agenda, which is not favourable to business,” he said. “Geopolitically there is no love between SA and the US and SA and the EU. (But) There is lots of love for the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, SA).”

South African and international business have raised the alarm over the quiet signing into law of SA’s Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill late last year, after the government had acknowledged that it would do little to promote trade.

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry said last week that the African National Congress had directed its economic transformation subcommittee to review the trade agreements signed by SA since 1999.

It said SA’s goal in “negotiating” trade agreements was to support national development objectives, promote intra-African trade and the integration of SA into global markets. This is likely to be highly controversial after the government from 2013 unilaterally cancelled about 13 bilateral investment treaties with major EU countries, drawing warnings from the bloc that this could damage trade relations.

Investors fear the Protection of Investment Bill has diluted recourse to international arbitration over trade disputes, and enhances the possibility of expropriation. Critics also say it contradicts SA’s obligations under the Southern African Development Community’s finance and investment protocol, by undermining equitable treatment between foreign and domestic investors.

John Purchase, CE of agribusiness association Agbiz, which with Tutwa Consulting organised yesterday’s roundtable, said the bill had not answered “all those questions around the bilateral investment treaties”. Source: Business Day

Export Tax in the South African Context

made_in_south_africa___barcode_and_flag_by_netsrotj-d5cmbq9Export taxes are increasingly becoming a focus of attention in South African trade policy, and the objective of this paper is to review the trade and economic issues associated with these taxes. While they are similar to import tariffs in their effects, export taxes remain very much the ‘poor cousins’ of import tariffs in trade policy circles. While attention is paid to them in many bilateral and regional agreements, the multilateral World Trade Organisation (WTO) has little to say about them other than an awakening to their importance when it comes to negotiating a new member’s accession to the world body.

South Africa currently levies an export tax on unpolished diamonds in an attempt to develop local skills and promote the domestic industry, and it is considering a recent department of trade and industry report that recommends that consideration be given to an export tax on iron ore and steel. South Africa has some of the prerequisite market power in the global iron ore trade but not enough to ensure an outcome entirely beneficial to its export trade. The salutary example of South Africa’s competitor India is discussed, as India recently increased its export tax in this sector to 30% and has seen its global market shares plummet. The more interesting sector for South Africa is the ferrochrome and ferrochrome ore trade, as here South Africa does have significant market shares. South Africa has had about a 45% market share over the last three years in global exports, while China has imported around 70% to 85% of this global trade in recent years. Advocates argue that a tax on chromite ore exports will shift the relative economics back to empower South African producers of processed ferrochrome. This sets the stage for an interesting battle between South Africa and China, and one set against the background of South Africa’s recent admission to the BRICS club. If such an export tax is invoked, South Africa needs to be conscious that it at best provides a window of opportunity for the domestic sector to improve its technological efficiency and that it is not a long or even medium-term solution.

For an in-depth appraisal on export tax in South Africa, please read Ron Sandrey’s report “Export tax in the South African context

Source: Tralac & Author -Ron Sandrey

Nigeria vs South Africa – size matters, but so does development

Flag-Pins-Nigeria-South-AfricaWhat matters more: the size of the pie or how many mouths it has to feed? It depends whether you’re eating pies, or selling them.

Most of Nigeria’s 170-million people live below the poverty line, so many complained they didn’t feel any richer when the oil producing nation’s statistics bureau announced on Sunday the economy had replaced South Africa as the continent’s biggest. Nigeria’s 2013 GDP was rebased up to an estimated nearly $510-billion – a “pie” one and half times the size of South Africa’s, but feeding more than three times as many people.

But development economists argue that their attention should be on improving the health, education and incomes of ordinary Nigerians, many of whom struggle to feed their families. In 2013, the Economist Intelligence Unit rated Nigeria the worst place for a child to be born out of 80 countries surveyed.

“Really what matters in the end is per capita, how well our individuals are doing,” World Bank chief Africa economist Francisco Ferreira said after the statistical change in Abuja.

“I don’t want to rain on Nigeria’s parade … but what matters are living standards for everyone.”

In GDP per capita terms, Nigeria is looking healthier than before rebasing: per capita GDP was $2 688 last year, from an estimated $1 437 in 2012. Yet that masks growing inequality: at around 60%, absolute poverty in Nigeria is stubbornly high despite five years of average 7% annual GDP growth.

But are better living standards for all really what matters to investors looking to cash in on a big economy? On a per capita basis, Botswana, Mauritius and Seychelles are among Africa’s top five richest states. None has a population of more than two-million, so they are admired but cannot claim heavyweight status when it comes to competing with other African countries for the attention of foreign investors.

“Seychelles is the only African country listed under ‘very high human development’. But when did you last hear Seychelles mentioned during discussions on global political economy?” commentator Azuka Onwuka wrote in Nigeria’s Punch newspaper.

“A high GDP means external … investors pay more attention. The US and Europe no longer look down on China and India.”

Population Power

Nigeria’s potential is predicated on its large population. Economist Jim O’Neill notably included it in his MINT group of countries, alongside Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey, which he thinks will join the BRICs (Brazil, India, Russia, China) he named as the emerging economies shaping the world’s future.

All have large, swelling populations, with a demographic bulge around the soon-to-be-most-productive younger generations. For businesses deciding where to invest next, a consumer market of 170-million beats the Seychelles’ 85 000.

“Size matters,” Oscar Onyema, chief executive of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, said. “Size means you will be able to do … projects you would not have considered in smaller economies.”

For retailers targeting customers at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid, a national income spread around more households – lower GDP per capita, in other words – might actually be a good thing, many economists argue. If you are selling washing powder or fizzy drinks, better a large number of consumers on modest incomes than a small number of wealthy. There is only so much cola most people can drink.

For Kenyan industrialist Manu Chandaria, chairperson of Comcraft Group, which sells ironware, including corrugated roofs and pots and pans, Nigeria has massive potential. Comcraft is in 18 locations there, despite the fact that its Nigeria manager has been kidnapped three times by criminal gangs – a common risk facing businesses in southern Nigeria.

“Nigeria is just colossal,” he told the Reuters Africa Summit in Nairobi. “Everybody needs to eat. Everybody needs shelter … Anybody that brings in money needs a pot to cook in, they need a roof – so we are in the right place.”.

Inequality is Risky

Higher up that pyramid, living standards matter more. In this regard South Africa, which still has poverty but also a big middle class and an advanced consumer society, beats Nigeria.

Africa’s top energy producer relies heavily on oil, which tends to concentrate wealth in an elite at the top of the social scale – good for luxury goods firms like LVMH and Porsche, both of which have thriving operations in Nigeria.

But retailers targeting a broader consumer class say Nigeria still needs better infrastructure and a more diversified economy to achieve its full potential as a mass market.

“Until the country invests more in infrastructure, invests more on other activities outside of oil, until that starts to develop the economy … I think the potential is not like it is in South Africa,” said Mark Turner, Africa Director for Massmart Holdings, a unit of US retailer Wal-Mart. Massmart currently has two stores in Nigeria, with another opening in the coming weeks – compared with 300 in South Africa.

Turner said he could see the company opening as many as 15 stores in Nigeria, if the country could deepen development. Yet the market attraction of Nigeria’s growing middle class is already there – Shoprite just opened a store in Kano, despite the threat of an insurgency in the north, and a Massmart ‘Game’ store will soon join it there.

But Nigeria’s growing inequalities add to “political risks, as a result of perceived marginalisation,” said Razia Khan, chief Africa economist at Standard Chartered Bank. Unless something is done to lift the impoverished masses, the risk of social unrest, already being reaped in a bloody insurgency in the destitute northeast and oil theft in the south, will grow.

She said: “The pressure on the authorities to create some sort of social safety net in response will be significant.”

Source: Engineeringnews.co.za

e-Book: BRICS – South Africa’s Way Ahead?

Another Tralac sponsored publication which should be of great interest to trade practitioners, economists and investors, and agricultural specialists. Herewith the foreword to the ebook which is available for download from Tralac’s website – Click here!

The accession of South Africa into the BRICS formation has attracted a lot of attention internationally. Some welcomed the step while others questioned it. A closer look at BRICS reveals that these countries share some fundamental features while they differ in others. On that note, this book does not attempt to define BRICS.

BRICS-front-cover-webBRIC, the acronym, was coined by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs in 2001. The founding members of this political formation are Brazil, Russia, India and China, aligning well with the word formulation. The formation of the BRIC was motivated by global economic developments and change in the geopolitical configurations. South Africa joined the group in 2011, thus opening the possibility of putting Africa on the BRICS’ agenda. South Africa’s admission to the group was motivated by China and supported by Russia. Its accession to the BRICS generated much discussion about the country’s suitability to be part of the formation. One of the real issues raised is that South Africa does not measure up to the other BRIC economies in terms of population, trade levels and performance, and growth rates. A formation such as the BRICS is of value to South Africa only if the country’s strategic development interests (relating, for example, to agriculture) are to be on the agenda. South Africa faces particular challenges related to market access into the BRIC countries.

Agricultural issues are discussed under the Standing Expert Working Group on Agriculture and Agrarian Development. The issues that are prioritised include:

  • The development of a general strategy for access to food (this is where market access needs to be tabled), which is tasked to Brazil
  • Impact of climate change of food security, which is allocated to South Africa
  • The enhancement of agricultural technology, cooperation and innovation that is allocated to India
  • Creation of an information base of BRICS countries that is allocated to China

In 2012, at the annual conference of the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa, the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) co-hosted a workshop aimed at establishing a dialogue on how agriculture can benefit from South Africa’s membership of the BRICS. It came out clearly from the workshop that agriculture needs to be better positioned to benefit from the BRICS formation. One important issue that was noted was that market access for South African agricultural produce into the BRICS countries could be improved. In this regard, an honest question was raised whether, as the country’s agriculture stakeholders, we fold our arms and do nothing since this this is a political formation (while market access is an economic issue), or whether we use this political formation to address our socioeconomic issues as they relate to these countries. Market access is one of the issues of interest to South Africa’s agriculture industry within the BRICS formation, together with issues such as the diffusion of technologies and collaborations.

The research that is presented in this book addresses a range of important issues related to the trade and investment relations among these countries. The performance of their agricultural sectors as well as trade amongst these countries is also examined. There is also focus on the relationship between BRICS and Africa, and what this means for South Africa’s trade relations with other African countries. Source: Tralac

WEF – Global Competitiveness Report 2013-14

WEF - Global Competitiveness Report 2013-14South Africa is ranked 53rd this year, overtaking Brazil to place second among the BRICS. South Africa does well on measures of the quality of its institutions (41st), including intellectual property protection (18th), property rights (20th), and in the efficiency of the legal framework in challenging and settling disputes (13th and 12th, respectively). The high accountability of its private institutions (2nd) further supports the institutional framework.

Furthermore, South Africa’s financial market development remains impressive at 3rd place. The country also has an efficient market for goods and services (28th), and it does reasonably well in more complex areas such as business sophistication (35th) and innovation (39th). But the country’s strong ties to advanced economies, notably the euro area, make it more vulnerable to their economic slowdown and likely have contributed to the deterioration of fiscal indicators: its performance in the macroeconomic environment has dropped sharply (from 69th to 95th).

Mauritius moves up by nine places this year to 45th place, becoming the highest ranked country in the sub-saharan region.

Low scores for the diversion of public funds (99th), the perceived wastefulness of government spending (79th), and a more general lack of public trust in politicians (98th) remain worrisome, and security continues to be a major area of concern for doing business (at 109th).

Building a skilled labor force and creating sufficient employment also present considerable challenges. The health of the workforce is ranked 133rd out of 148 economies-the result of high rates of communicable diseases and poor health indicators more generally.

The quality of the educational system is very poor (146th), with low primary and tertiary enrollment rates. Labor market efficiency is poor (116th), hiring and firing practices are extremely rigid (147th), companies cannot set wages flexibly (144th), and significant tensions in labor-employer relations exist (148th). Raising educational standards and making the labor market more efficient will thus be critical in view of the country’s high unemployment rate of over 20 percent, with the rate of youth unemployment estimated at close to 50 percent. For the full report, click here!

Supply Chain Foresight – a Perspective on BRICS and the South African Supply Chain

To reap the benefits of its recent membership of BRICS, South African businesses are looking at gaining a competitive edge through achieving global-standard supply chain performance, according to Supply Chain Junction, Manhattan Associates' Geo Partner in South Africa.

To reap the benefits of its recent membership of BRICS, South African businesses are looking at gaining a competitive edge through achieving global-standard supply chain performance, according to Supply Chain Junction, Manhattan Associates‘ Geo Partner in South Africa.

To reap the benefits of its recent membership of BRICS, South African businesses are looking at gaining a competitive edge through achieving global-standard supply chain performance, reports Supply Chain Junction, Manhattan Associates’ Geo Partner in South Africa. Unlike many other countries, South Africa was cushioned from the full impact of the world financial crisis thanks to the strict pre-existing credit controls it had in place. There were some knock on affects from close trading economies but over the last 15 months South Africa has enjoyed a growth economy. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) say this group will account for 61 per cent of global growth in three years time.

While South Africa’s economy (£506.91bn GDP) is dwarfed by those of the original BRIC constituents, the country is seen as the gateway to the continent of Africa, which as a whole has an equivalent sized economy ($2,763bn GDP), a population of one billion and rich resources. This has all made it a valued investment region for China in particular.

However, there are many cultural, logistical and geographical challenges the further one travels North from South Africa towards the Sahara. As an example, while there is 24,487 km of rail track in South Africa, there is just 259 km in Uganda; there are 92 mobile phones per 100 people in South Africa but just two per 100 in Eritrea. However, there is a great deal of raw potential, especially in countries such as Angola and Nigeria.

Participation in BRICS will drive a new competitiveness for South Africa and a key factor will be developing world-class supply chain management. Unlike in Europe, the US and Australia, few supply chain directors in South Africa sit on the board, which makes it harder for them to demonstrate how effective management of the supply chain can deliver competitive advantage. But this is likely to change as companies realise that they must align their supply chain and business strategies. If the recession failed to drive home the need for this, then the presence of Chinese companies in Africa will create significant pressure to do so.

This was an observation of the 2011 Supply Chain Foresight survey, conducted by Frost & Sullivan, which annually samples the opinions of South African supply chain executives. It found that while over three quarters of the respondents feel that the supply chain and business strategies of their companies are aligned, less than a third felt that the supply chain and logistics operations are fully optimised. Businesses are looking at how to optimise their distribution networks through building new facilities, streamlining existing processes or collaboration between trading partners. This has seen a lot of current activity surrounding warehouse management systems, forecasting, planning, replenishment and collaboration technologies, in particular.

Two thirds of respondents are considering investment in technology to enable collaboration with service providers. With the recession claiming many key suppliers the environment is changing from one where major companies squeeze suppliers on cost to one where they adopt a more collaborative approach. Cost reduction was the focus of the past recession, but now the objective is to satisfy customer expectations and to deliver value. Just over half of respondents to the Supply Chain Foresight survey cited customer service as the top supply chain objective. Reducing waste and improving efficiency in the supply chain are the perennial shorter term challenges with companies looking for better forecasting and planning tools to bring down inventory and shorten lean times. One interesting aspect of South African supply chain technology is the large number of in-house designed legacy systems, which is a consequence of the country’s isolation during the times of Apartheid. A propensity towards in-house designed systems remains today.

In terms of industry sectors, retail dominates but it remains firmly entrenched in the traditional channels. While some retailers have online retail websites, online and multi-channel is by no means a significant part of the current retail picture. Internet use is still quite low compared to other countries there are 4.42 million internet users in a population of 49 million and this figure is expected to remain low for some time yet. A further obstacle to the expansion of online sales is a high crime rate which leads to security issues in delivering goods to customers.

Wholesale distribution is quite small in size and complexity so the supply chain challenges tend not to be too complicated. There remain companies that feel they have been reasonably successful – being self-sufficient – and want to maintain that approach, along with a general tendency to look within, when it comes to benchmarking supply chains. However, a growing number of companies in South Africa recognise that there are other organizations across the globe doing similar things, but perhaps, a lot more efficiently.

Supply chain managers within these businesses are evolving a mindset focused on global best practice and the means of achieving it. These South African companies want to be best in their class. By building knowledge, benchmarking and improving against those benchmarks the win for this retailer is a supply chain that gives competitive advantage. As in other countries, companies looking to benefit from external expertise and a reduction in their capital costs will often outsource their logistics to third party logistics (3PL) operators. South Africa has numerous small local players and a handful of large lead logistics providers who tend to drive innovation. It is a small but highly competitive market. Logistics infrastructure and skills shortage in the supply chain continue to be huge issues in South Africa. The Supply Chain Foresight survey found that to deal with the skills shortage, in almost all areas companies either expose employees to new jobs through rotation, or development programs, or mentoring. These are generally in-house driven schemes. South Africa is an emerging market that is growing fast and offers a tremendous wealth of opportunities. In fact, the country has a great many successful businesses, and while many talk about becoming world class, many have already achieved it. Source: Supply Chain Junction

First BRICS Heads of Customs Meeting

Delegates who attended the first BRICS Customs Heads of Customs Meeting [SARS]

Delegates who attended the first BRICS Customs Heads of Customs Meeting [SARS]

At a meeting hosted by the Commissioner near Bela Bela, South Africa from 7 to 8 March 2013, delegations from the Customs Administrations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) met for the first time. The BRICS Customs administrations exchanged experience and ideas in a spirit of openness so as to identify areas for cooperation so that they can most effectively and efficiently facilitate legitimate trade and combat illicit trade and Customs fraud. From 27 to 28 March, South Africa will also host the BRICS Summit in Durban, to be attended by various Ministers and the BRICS Heads of State.

Key points of discussion, focus and future cooperation –

Customs cooperation
The Heads of Customs committed themselves to consolidating and building on the cooperation that has already been established so that they can collectively curb Customs offences, safeguard the international supply chain and achieve effective enforcement of Customs legislation, while facilitating legitimate trade,both among BRICS countries and also globally.

Capacity building
As part of their cooperation to build Customs capacity in relation to human resources, technologies and procedures,the administrations would look into various practical and innovative solutions and endeavour to share their resources, knowledge and best practices with each other.

Cooperation at multilateral forums
A BRICS Customs mechanism will be established, including attachés networks based in Brussels and other strategic places, to identify issues of common interest, develop common responses and ensure regular engagement and interaction, including before important multilateral meetings.

Customs Mutual Administrative Assistance and the Exchange of Customs Information
The administrations also agreed to ensure that there is an enabling legal basis between them to support intra-BRICS Customs mutual administrative assistance and the exchange of Customs information. Such assistance and exchange will assist in combating illicit trade and protecting revenues and societies.

Facilitation of legitimate trade between BRICS countries
To further facilitate trade and reduce the Customs administrative burden on both trade and the administrations themselves, the administrations will exchange information in various areas of common interest and concern, including on the simplification of Customs procedures and the use of modern technologies and techniques.

The administrations will also work towards possible solutions for achieving mutual recognition of Customs controls and of trader management programs aligned to the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) concept of the World Customs Organization (WCO), establishing Customs interconnectivity and supporting the WCO’s work on developing the Globally Networked Customs (GNC) model.

Opportunities for enforcement cooperation will also be explored, including possible joint actions, information sharing and other enforcement assistance. The use of international instruments developed by the WCO, including Conventions, Recommendations, Decisions and Declarations that support Customs trade facilitation, compliance and enforcement will be actively promoted.

Governance issues
A Governance Framework aligned to the overall BRICS commitments will be established. An annual BRICS Customs Heads meeting has been proposed whose deliberations would be informed to other BRICS forums, including in particular the Summit. Such a BRICS Customs Heads Meeting would be supported by a Customs working group under the guidance of the BRICS Heads of Customs. Source: SARS