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

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

The Top 5 Largest Economies in 2020

Source: Euromonitor International from national statistics/Eurostat/OECD/UN/International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Financial Statistics (IFS)Note: Purchasing Power Parity has been used as this is a method of measuring the relative purchasing power of different countries' currencies over the same types of goods and services, thus allowing a more accurate comparison of living standards.

Source: Euromonitor International from national statistics/Eurostat/OECD/UN/International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Financial Statistics (IFS)Note: Purchasing Power Parity has been used as this is a method of measuring the relative purchasing power of different countries’ currencies over the same types of goods and services, thus allowing a more accurate comparison of living standards.

By 2020, three of the world’s five largest economies will be emerging countries, accounting for 30.4% of global GDP in PPP terms. Advanced economies are being displaced by emerging market superpowers, notably the BRIC countries, which has been accelerated by the seismic effects of the global economic downturn of 2008-2009. Euromonitor International predicts that China will become the world’s largest economy in PPP terms in 2017.

Additionally, Russia will overtake Germany as the fifth largest economy in 2016. These shifts will influence global politics, business environments and investment flows while consumer markets in developing countries will rise in importance as the middle class expands.

1. China: Set to become world’s largest economy in 2017

A large manufacturing base, cheap labour costs, the world’s largest population and economies of scale have resulted in unprecedented economic growth in China. Although growth is slowing, the delayed recovery in advanced economies from the global economic downturn means China will overtake the USA as the world’s biggest economy in 2017, and account for 19.0% of global GDP in PPP terms by 2020. Challenges loom large, however, including rising labour costs, pollution, a potential real estate bubble and rapid ageing arising from the government’s one child policy. Euromonitor predicts that China’s working age population (aged 15-64) will decline from 2014.

2. USA: End of the American dream?

The USA will lose its position as the world’s number one economy in 2017. In 1990, the USA accounted for a quarter of global GDP in PPP terms but we forecast this to plummet to 16.0% by 2020. The country was where the global financial crisis began in 2008 and it has failed to recover to its potential while also slipping in global competitiveness rankings. Although the government avoided the “fiscal cliff” in 2012, one of the biggest challenges remains a budget deficit reduction strategy, without the ensuing political gridlock. Nevertheless, the USA retains advantages, namely as the world’s largest consumer market and a leader of technological innovation.

3. India: Demographic dividend to benefit country beyond 2020

India overtook Japan as the world’s third largest economy in PPP terms in 2011 and its demographic advantage means the country could become the world’s biggest economy in the coming decades. India has a young population where it is benefitting from its demographic dividend (when there are more people of working age and the proportion of the child population declines). Euromonitor forecasts that India will become the world’s largest population by 2025 and that its working-age population will increase by 11.6% in 2013-2020 compared to -3.1% in China. However, India lags in major indicators including educational attainment and infrastructure development.

4. Japan: Paying the price for decades of economic stagnation

Structural problems beset Japan, with decades of weak economic growth and deflation while it has totalled the highest proportion of public debt in the world at 235% of GDP in 2012. Although the country has not yet suffered a eurozone-style sovereign debt crisis, as the majority of its debt is domestically-owned, an increase of foreign debt could trigger a Japanese debt crisis. It has the oldest population globally (mean age of 44.7 in 2012) and a shrinking labour force which will add considerable strain on government finances, while a strong currency makes its exports uncompetitive. Yet Japan’s location within Asia means it can take advantage of cheaper production costs in the region and growing demand for its high-tech products from a burgeoning Asian middle class. Like the USA, it is a global technological leader, giving it a competitive edge over its emerging neighbours.

5. Russia: Overtakes Germany as fifth largest economy in 2016

Russia will become the world’s fifth largest economy in 2016 in PPP terms, driven by its energy sector, as one of the top oil and natural gas producers worldwide. It also offers potential in its rapidly expanding consumer market, which Euromonitor forecasts will be the ninth largest globally in real terms in 2020. Its accession to the World Trade Organisation in August 2012 further cements its integration into the global economy. The lack of economic diversification and modernisation remain key long-term challenges with government policy aiming to tackle this, for example, by investing in the Skolkovo Innovation Centre Project, Russia’s equivalent to Silicon Valley. Corruption, state control and bureaucracy also hamper the business environment in Russia. Like elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the Russian working-age population is in decline (-4.5% in 2013-2020) despite a short-term baby boom, which will pose a demographic challenge to sustaining non-oil economic growth. Source: Euromonitor.com

Is South Africa being screwed by China?

In recent days there’s been mutterings amongst several business commentators concerning the state of the South African manufacturing sector and its inability to compete in the local economy in the face of ‘so-called’ cheap imports. For once I heard some common sense instead of the usual WTO/economist waffle which normally just confuses people instead of shedding light on the inherent problems. What the Business Times article below suggests is that our prevailing job plight is self-induced and should not be blamed entirely on rogue elements alone. Under valuation and mis-declaration have and always will pose a challenge to any country. The blame has been placed on Customs not doing its job; yet, the problem appears to lie at the feet of policy makers who have made foolish decisions for which the country as whole now pays the price. 

The trouble began soon after 1994, when then Trade and Industry Minister, anxious to prove to the then rich and powerful, and sceptical, West what lovers of democracy and free markets they were, removed tariff protection on cheap imports against a considerable body of expert advice. And 12 years before we needed to, because the World Trade Organisation‘s predecessor, GATT, had given South Africa 12 years to modernise its manufacturing, improve its skills and prepare itself before lowering import tariffs.

At the time, Trade and Industry Minister and the government thought South Africa did not need a grace period. Leslie Boyd, then head of the Anglo-American industrial division, warned of the devastating consequences but to no avail. “They thought if they took the crutches away we’d become a free market economy and we’d be competitive,” says Stewart Jennings, chairman of the Manufacturing Circle which represents thousands of manufacturers in SA. “It was the most ridiculous thing you could ever imagine. Those of us in business know there is no free market in the world. Every country protects itself. We don’t. Here’s an economy without skills that just throws open the tariffs. We’re the country that’s whiter than white in terms of the WTO. Everybody else just abuses us.”

Business consultant Moeletsi Mbeki opines “[government] is too ideologically orientated, it operates from ideology rather than from practical expertise. This motivates our relationship with China. The Chinese can do no wrong.”

One of the worst mistakes they made, he believes, was to sign an agreement that gave the Chinese market economy status which it did not and does not deserve. The talk was that SA agreed to do this as compensation for imposing a three-year quota on Chinese textile imports. The effect on SA’s manufacturing sector has been devastating. “As a consequence of that agreement it is virtually impossible for us to get countervailing duties into China through ITAC [the International Trade Administration Commission which used to fall under the Department of Trade and Industry but is now under Ebrahim Patel‘s Department of Economic Development],” says Stewart Jennings. “We’ve battled to get dumping duties or safeguards against China. Most of the applications that have gone to ITAC have been kicked into touch.”

First, China starts with a currency that is 30% undervalued. It manipulates it, so any goods it exports to SA are 30% cheaper than they should be. On top of that there are all sorts of incentives for Chinese exporters. And then, as Jennings says, attempts by local manufacturers to defend themselves by applying for countervailing duties more often than not go nowhere.

Iraj Abedian of Pan African Investment and Research says the short answer to the question is yes, we are being screwed. “Not because the Chinese have been smart but because we’ve been snoozing and naïve.”

SA was so flattered to be asked to join the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) club of developing economies that it did not drive a hard enough bargain. “We were romanticising our relationship with China and celebrating the fact that China was inviting us to join BRIC. We took it as a form of political honeymoon without recognising its effect on manufacturing, without assessing our counter-strategy for safeguarding national interests in the form of jobs and tax revenue.” China needed SA to join BRIC at least as much as SA itself wanted to join, but SA failed to capitalise on this.

Executive director of the Manufacturing Circle, Coenraad Bezuidenhout, who has observed the effect at close quarters, thinks part of it is that “our guys find the prospect of dealing with China daunting. They feel we need China as a market for our raw materials more than China needs us.” He thinks this attitude reflects a worrying lack of professionalism on the part of those who are paid to battle for SA’s interests. “We should be leveraging our position with regard to our minerals and our access to African markets far more than we do when we deal with China.”  Source: Business Times