|African News & Business|
South Africans were more optimistic now than they had been earlier this year, a market research company said. According to a survey of 2,000 adults conducted earlier this year by TNS Research Surveys, 73 % of them agreed they were positive about South Africa and its future, 19% disagreed and 8 % said they didn't know. This figure is well up on the February figure of 60 % and there has been an uninterrupted rise since the 56% achieved in November, 2008, said the company. The figure of 73 % equalled the previous high achieved in May, 2006, and was an "encouraging return" to optimism that had fallen to an all-time low of 49% in mid-2008. There was a slightly higher level of optimism among men (75%) than women (71%) and the most positive in terms of wealth were those in the lower middle classes where optimism reached 82%.
South Africa's business confidence index (BCI) rose to a 10-month high of 85.5 points in September from 83.0 in August, adding to evidence the economy may be recovering from its first recession in 17 years. But index sponsor South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) warned that a number of risks, including South Africa's twin deficits - fiscal and current account - could hamper a revival. The index showed that confidence in the majority of sub-indices rose on a month-on-month basis, suggesting that sentiment should continue improving in the medium term. This is in line with a jump in manufacturing activity in September. However, SACCI said markets may be too optimistic about the strength of the global economic recovery, and that South Africans should also be wary of the government's growing borrowing needs and the continued shortfall on the current account. Business confidence and economic performance would depend largely on the pace of the global economic recovery, it said.
Farmers in Mauritania will receive financial help to turn milk into butter and cheese, to clean and package the vegetables they grow and to add value to other raw products under a $12 million programme unveiled by the United Nations agency tasked with eradicating rural poverty. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) announced that it will provide a grant of $6 million and a loan of $6 million as part of the scheme, which aims to boost food production and to lower the West African country’s dependence on food imports.
Zimbabwe has been elected to the executive of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, the equivalent of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the health sector. More than 156 international tourism investors and exhibitors from across the world attended the Sanganai/Hlanganani World Travel and Tourism Africa Fair in Harare and gave a ringing endorsement on the future of the industry. Arthur Mutambara, the country's deputy prime minister, says the presence of such huge numbers of international businesspeople, investors and buyers at the event was, no doubt, "a huge endorsement of our country's re-branding effort", as he believes tourism is one of the pillars of the re-branding hexagon. While Zimbabwe is still "sorting out" its governance issues, he said, buyers need to help market the country as a safe, attractive and peaceful world-class tourist destination.
South Africa has been identified as a key emerging market for global investors, moving up to fourth position in a new survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit for UK Trade & Investment, the British government's international business development agency. The report, based on a survey of more than 540 high-level business executives across 19 business sectors, found that emerging market economies, on the back of the continued high growth and market size of China and India, had outperformed those of developed countries in 2009. The report found 60 percent of companies surveyed expected to derive more than 20 percent of their total revenues from emerging markets in five years' time – almost double the current figure of 31%. According to the report, political risk (including the risk of nationalisation and expropriation) was cited by 50 percent of survey respondents as the greatest government-related obstacle to doing business in emerging markets.
South Africa is ranked 45th out of 134 countries in the World Economic Forum's recently released Global Competitiveness Index for 2009/10. While this is the same position it held in 2008/09, the country's banking system soared in the rankings, from 24th to fifth in the world. Conducted by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in partnership with leading academics and a global network of research institutes, the index calculates its rankings from publicly available data and an annual poll of over 12 000 business leaders worldwide. The index is based on 12 "pillars of competitiveness", namely: institutions; infrastructure; macroeconomic stability; health and primary education; higher education and training; goods market efficiency; labour market efficiency; financial market sophistication; technological readiness; market size; business sophistication; and innovation. At 45th overall, South Africa remains the highest ranked country in sub-Saharan Africa in 2009/10, with what the WEF describes as "a stable performance compared with last year.
IT giant IBM has teamed up with open source software firm Canonical to introduce Smart Work, a flexible software package for netbooks and other "thin" client devices, to help businesses in Africa bridge the digital divide by leapfrogging traditional PCs and proprietary software. Part of IBM's Smart Work initiative, the new package targets the rising popularity of low-cost netbooks to make IBM's industrial-strength software affordable to new, mass audiences in Africa. Businesses that cannot afford traditional PCs for all employees can now use any type of device and low-cost software to enable all workers to "work smarter anywhere" using a variety of devices, regardless of the level of communications infrastructure. The IBM client for Smart Work is now available across Africa, and is being piloted for other emerging and growth markets worldwide. It runs on Canonical's Ubuntu Linux operating system, and provides the option to deliver collaboration through the web in a "cloud service" model. According to the company, the reduction of personal computing costs may enable governments to transfer information technology expenditures to fund initiatives such as crisis management, education and health care.
Pan-African cellular operator MTN has announced a tie-up with IMImobile, an Indian software and managed Services Company, to provide over 100-million of its subscribers with a variety of online content. The strategic partnership between the two will entail providing MTN's 21 markets access to a repository of current and globally popular content through enhanced delivery platforms. Content categories will include music with a local and international flavour, sports, games, entertainment and news. MTN's Nozipho January-Bardill said IMImobile was selected from a group of major firms because of the scalability of its technology platforms and proven managed services business model. One of MTN's new content streams will be the 2010 Fifa World Cup™, for which the mobile operator has exclusive global mobile content rights. Accordingly, MTN will leverage its IMImobile partnership to deliver exclusive World Cup content on subscribers' handsets, including soccer match news, fixtures, match results as well as team and group profiles.
The University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) has launched South Africa’s first SAQA-accredited Masters Degree (MPhil) in management coaching. A 2009 study by the International Coach Federation (ICF) on the benefits of management coaching found that executives value the return on investment to be as high as 700% and there is a growing recognition of the benefits of this skill both locally and abroad. According to Dr Salome van Coller, Programme Manager: MPhil in Management Coaching, the purpose of management coaching is for executives to develop the key leadership capabilities enabling them to face any potential challenges in their current role, as well as preparing them for the challenges they may face as they move higher in their organisations. Previously, potential learners had to travel outside of South Africa for this qualification. The USB MPhil will now put South Africa in line with other countries around the world. While the MPhil has been benchmarked internationally, it also deals with the specific opportunities and challenges facing executives in South Africa, such as managing a diverse workforce, harnessing the talent of staff and the art of using African storytelling in approaches to coaching.
The Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF) has today announced a new project in partnership with the Government of Rwanda to modernise the country's tax administration. The project will improve customer services and communications at the Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) and establish an online electronic filing and payment system, further reducing the time and costs associated with doing business in the country. This latest project builds on the considerable progress achieved by the Government of Rwanda to date, whose commitment to improving the country's business environment recently resulted in Rwanda being the first ever Sub-Saharan African economy to be named "top reformer" in the World Bank's Doing Business 2010 report. The tax administration project is ICF’s third project in Rwanda, and comes as the organisation celebrates the success-to-date of its Rwanda Investment Climate Project, which has established four new commercial courts, cleared a backlog of more than 3,000 pending cases and addressed a further 1,000 cases. The new project, endorsed by both the Government of Rwanda and the private sector, aims to streamline administration of domestic taxes at the RRA in order to reduce time and costs faced by business tax-payers. Key project objectives include capacity building and training, improving communications and customer care at the RRA, as well as the establishment of e-filing and e-payment systems. The project will increase transparency, create a fair, competitive and consistent tax regime and a more conducive business environment in Rwanda. In addition, the project will aim to raise awareness about the country’s tax system, RRA services and procedures and is intended to be complete within a period of 20 months.
With Africa increasingly seen as a key market of the future, Nedbank has launched three Africa indices to help investors tap into opportunities on the continent while containing the inherent risks. Growth forecasts for the continent by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are among the strongest in the world, while recent research from the Economist Intelligence Unit finds that out of the 20 fastest-growing countries, 15 are African, Nedbank said in a statement. This growth is reflected in the increase in the number of African stock markets up from just a few in 1983 to 20 today, backed by strong equity price gains due to fast-growing economies. Specifically designed for investors looking for ways to invest in the continent, the Nedbank Africa Equity Index Series, representing the performance of a broad-based range of African companies, encompasses all these requirements. Primarily providing performance benchmarks, the Africa Equity indices ensure that the heterogeneous nature of the wide range of African equities, markets and countries are captured. The All Africa ex South Africa 100 (AAXSA-100) Index consists of the 100 top listed equity counters of 13 African stock exchanges; the Sub-Saharan ex South Africa 50 (SSAXSA-50) index covers the same as the above, but excludes Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. The two indices offer investors broad-based exposure to the largest, most liquid companies listed on stock exchanges in Africa, combined with the ability to capture new emerging markets in their early stages. With a third of the world's natural mineral resources on African soil, investors also require solutions that allow them to access African mining and exploration opportunities. To provide investors with a measure of the performance of energy, metals and mining producers operating on the continent, Nedbank Capital has launched the Nedbank African Mining Index Series, which accommodates six different commodity classes.
South Africa and the US-based Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI) have signed an agreement paving the way for the creation of a "solar park" to help curb the use of conventional energy in favour of solar energy. As part of the arrangement, South Africa will over the next few months, with help from the CCI, conduct a study on the development of such a park and determine where it would be best situated. The CCI is also assisting governments in India and Australia as well as some south western states in America to develop similar projects.
South African telecommunications operator Neotel has launched the first TelePresence facility in Africa, making a virtual "public room" available for businesses to interact with their global counterparts. TelePresence, which uses Cisco technology, integrates advanced audio, high-definition video and interactive elements to enable virtual meetings. Neotel says it has introduced the value-added service in response to continued global economic pressures resulting in organisations looking for ways to cut down on overseas corporate travelling in particular. By working closely with Tata Communications, Neotel is able to tap into their global network, providing South Africans with true global connectivity. TelePresence creates the perception that the different parties are sitting in the same room, having a face-to-face meeting, without having to travel to the meeting, thereby saving time and money.
South Africa's technology sector will drive the creation of almost 2300 new businesses and 95,000 new jobs over the next four years, according to a new study by global information technology (IT) research firm International Data Corporation. The study said most of these businesses would be small and locally owned, while the jobs would be high quality and highly skilled. The study projects the creation of 5.8-million new jobs across the world and 75 000 new businesses in the same period, the company said in a statement. The study looked at IT's contribution to gross domestic product in 52 countries, representing 98 percent of global IT spend. It also looks at job creation in the IT industry, employment in the software sector, the formation of new companies, local IT spending and tax revenues.
Barriers to migration should be reduced to enable migrants to play a positive role in both industrialised and developing countries, says a leading DFID-funded research group. The findings, produced by the Development Research Centre on Migration, Globalisation and Poverty (Migration DRC), are published in a research brief.
A new United Nations report calls for the lifting of restrictions and costly fees imposed on the $40 billion that migrant workers send home to Africa each year. According to the agency, the power of remittances can be catalyzed by easing restrictions and making it less costly for African families to collect this money. Global remittances top $300 billion per year, outstripping foreign direct investment (FDI) and development assistance combined, but high fees and logistical difficulties are hampering the power of remittances to lift people out of poverty, according to IFAD's report, entitled Sending Money Home to Africa. The report noted that although transfer costs have declined significantly in Latin America and in Asia, sending money home to Africa is still expensive, with fees within the continent reaching 25 per cent of the sum. In addition, some 30 to 40 per cent of all remittances to Africa head to rural areas where many recipients have to travel great distances to collect their cash as the number of collection points across the entire continent is the same as for Mexico, which has a tenth of the population. The report finds that simply by expanding the kinds of institutions able to conduct remittance services to include microfinance institutions and post offices, the number of payment points would more than double.
Algeria is acting to reduce the high unemployment rate that afflicts young people, with steps that include new social benefits and government funding for public sector job creation. One key step involves a monthly government payment of 6,000 dinars to unemployed people, especially youth, as part of wider efforts to tackle an unemployment rate officially estimated at 11%. The payments will be made to those who work on socially beneficial projects. The new measures especially aim to cut the jobless rate among people in the 18- to 40-year-old age bracket. Particular attention is being focused on those who are poor, marginalised and who have dropped out of school. Work opportunities are projected to span environmental protection, the maintenance of social and health care institutions, and assisting the elderly and physically challenged. Job training is also on the agenda, and the government intends to offer young people learning opportunities that are co-ordinated among employers, the unemployed themselves, and concerned public agencies. The new measures, along with detailed eligibility requirements, are contained in an executive decree published in the government-issued Algerian register on October 4th. The decree also extends social benefits in certain cases, such as sickness, motherhood, workplace accidents and job-related diseases.
South Africa has signed a deal with the Republic of Congo that will give South African farmers access to up to 10 million hectares of farmland, the country's biggest farmers' union said on Tuesday. The deal, potentially one of the largest land agreements on the continent and part of Congo's plan to improve food security, will allow South African farmers to lease land for maize, soy beans, poultry and dairy cattle among other produce. South Africa has one of the most developed agriculture sectors on the continent and its farmers are looking to expand into other countries. They are joined in the scramble for land abroad by countries including China, South Korea and European and Middle East nations after steep food price inflation last year highlighted the need to achieve greater food security. The South African deal included tax exemptions on importing agricultural inputs and equipment and full expatriation of profits.
Vodafone Ghana has launched the fastest consumer broadband service in Ghana and West Africa with 6 new packages. High speed 4MB broadband is now available in certain areas of Accra and will continue to be rolled out to new areas over the coming months. The speed ranges from 4 - 31 times faster than existing speeds available in Ghanaian homes. 4MB will allow super fast streaming/downloading of movies, internet browsing, video calls & instant music downloads. Installation has been reduced by 45% and free for 3 of the packages, as well as free Wi-fi, said the company. The new packages are in line with Vodafone's strategy to deliver high speed broadband services Ghanaian residents, whilst at the same time reducing the cost of set up.
The South African Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, has announced the further relaxation of exchange controls in a bid to reduce the cost of doing business in the country and attract more foreign investment. In his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement to Parliament, Gordhan said the foreign capital allowance for residents, which was last adjusted in 2006, would be increased from R2 million to R4 million, while the single discretionary allowance will be increased from R500 000 to R750 000. To improve access to domestic credit in the financing of local foreign direct investment, restrictions on the granting of local financial assistance to affected persons have been further liberalised with the doing away of the 3:1 ratio. Among a number of proposed reforms to reduce red tape on business transactions, is a plan to allow South African companies to invest in Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states through offshore intermediaries. Other proposals, which the Reserve Bank will soon provide more details on, include increasing the current R50 million limit for company applications to undertake outward investment, to R500 million. The Reserve Bank would also consider removing the 180-day rule requiring companies to convert their foreign exchange into rand. However SA companies will still be required to repatriate export proceeds to South Africa. There was also a proposal to do away with the R250 000 limit on advance payments for imports and another to allow SA companies to open foreign bank accounts for permissible purposes without prior approval, subject to reporting obligations.
For the first time, emergency room services meeting international standards will be a part Tanzania's public health system, thanks to the opening of a new Emergency Medical Department building and extensive training being conducted at Muhimbili National Hospital. At the ceremony, President Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania joined representatives from the Abbott Fund in dedicating the new facility. The building renovations, new equipment and staff training are being supported by a grant from the Abbott Fund, the philanthropic foundation of the global health care company Abbott. The initiative is part of a broader partnership between the Government of Tanzania and the Abbott Fund to strengthen the country's health care system. Emergency medicine is not a specialty that is typically offered as part of medical training in most parts of Africa. As a result, patients admitted to public hospitals for acute conditions generally receive limited care until a specialist is available to provide treatment. With the opening of the new Emergency Medical Department, state-of-the-art urgent care will be available to patients. A comprehensive training program will upgrade emergency care expertise for staff at Muhimbili, with the long-term goal of training future physicians in the specialty of Emergency Medicine. The $3 million project is an extension of the Abbott Fund's partnership with the Government of Tanzania to improve health care infrastructure and systems in Tanzania. The Abbott Fund has invested more than $60 million to date in one of the largest public-private partnerships in Africa aimed at enhancing access to health care on a national scale. Today, one in three people with HIV taking antiretroviral therapy receive services at a facility that has benefited from Abbott Fund support.
The South African government aims to create 4.5-million short-term jobs through its Expanded Public Works Programme over the next five years, while rationalising its incentives for businesses to create more jobs, and supporting labour-intensive infrastructure projects, says Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. In his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement presented to Parliament, Gordhan said that a wage-based incentive mechanism was being implemented to encourage government departments and municipalities to use funds for labour-intensive projects. The incentive is aimed at the infrastructure sector, and at non-governmental organisations and community organisations that provide services on behalf of the government. A R50 reimbursement of the daily wage of each person hired will be given, provided that a specified job target threshold is exceeded. The subsidy will be extended to projects in the environment, cultural and social sectors. The Expanded Public Works Programme provided 1.6-million jobs during its first phase, which ran from 2004 to 2009. As part of the second phase, a community works programme, which is being rolled out largely in rural areas, aims to provide work to at least 1,000 people per week on each site in the current financial year. The programme aims to create the equivalent of 180,000 full-time jobs by 2014, and a total of R114.5-million has been set aside for the programme in the adjusted budget.
The United Nations has endorsed the 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa as a platform for peace and development across Africa, with UN chief Ban Ki-moon saying the event has the power to change the world's perception of the continent. The United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the World Cup as a platform for social development and peace across Africa and, in a meeting with Danny Jordaan, chief executive of South Africa's 2010 Organising Committee, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged South Africa to seize the powerful opportunity afforded by the event to change the world's perception of Africa.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and Michigan State University (MSU) will use a $10.4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to strengthen Africa’s biosafety expertise. This five-year grant follows on a year of collaboration between NEPAD and MSU that established the African Biosafety Network of Expertise (ABNE), a continent-wide, science-based biosafety resource for African regulators. The Foundation announced the grant is part of a package of nine agricultural development projects totaling $120 million to address long-term food security. ABNE will provide regulators access to the most up-to-date training and science-based information to regulate biotechnology, ensuring countries can make informed decisions on how to use these advances while protecting farmers, consumers and the environment. The first ABNE center will be based in Burkina Faso and managed by an African staff that specializes in the environmental, health, legal, and socioeconomic impacts of biotechnology. ABNE was established by the NEPAD Office of Science and Technology, and has been officially endorsed by the African Ministerial Council on Science and Technology (AMCOST) to promote advancement of science and technology for agricultural development in Africa. An Africa-based and Africa-led initiative, ABNE will draw upon existing expertise and resources, while forming connections with both African and global institutions to create a network of expertise.
The Kimberley Process meeting in Namibia decided not to suspend Zimbabwe from its certification scheme, which regulates the sale of diamonds that fund conflict. The 70-member international diamond trade body has instead agreed to give Zimbabwe more time to reform its mining practices and has adopted a work plan that includes calls for an independent inspector to monitor diamonds leaving the controversial diamond fields, the BBC reported.
Anglo Platinum (Angloplat), the world's largest platinum producer is delisting and terminating its secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). The company said the rationale for delisting from the LSE was chiefly dictated by the low volume of trade in its shares on the LSE, with the UK register comprising a fraction of the overall total shareholding. The company has determined that the secondary listing is administratively intensive and costly, and is of the view that the volume of trade over the past few years does not sufficiently warrant a presence in London, nor the expense of maintaining a secondary listing on the LSE, it said. The company delisted from Euronext on the Brussels Bourse during 2007. Angloplat will maintain its primary listing on the JSE.
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has pledged to give Africa 10 billion dollars in loans, brushing off criticism of "neo-colonialism" as China boosts its presence on the continent. The pledge was included among measures he said would be taken over the next three years, including cancelling debts of African countries to increase his country's role in the continent. The Asian giant pledged five billion dollars in assistance over three years at the last Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit, held in Beijing in 2006, and has signed agreements to relieve or cancel the debt of 31 African nations. It will also provide a one-billion-dollar loan for "for small and medium-sized businesses." China will also remove tariffs on 95 percent of products "from the least-developed African states that have diplomatic relations with China," and will help build 100 solar power and bio-gas plants and increase infrastructure and agriculture projects. Chinese firms have been pouring investments into oil and other raw materials in Africa to fuel the Asian country's booming economy. Over the past five years, Chinese direct investment in Africa has soared, from 491 million dollars in 2003 to 7.8 billion dollars in 2008, according to official Chinese figures. Total trade between China and Africa topped 100 billion dollars in 2008 - a tenfold increase in eight years.
Sustainable Capital, an asset manager based in Mauritius, has launched Africa's first sustainable investment fund, with seed capital from Sanlam Investments. The Africa Sustainability Fund will focus on listed companies that derive the majority of their economic benefit, including their revenue, cash flow, net asset value, production volumes and proven reserves, from Africa, excluding South Africa.
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is set to pump N500 billion into circulation with a view to stimulating credit facilities by the commercial banks. The Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation has said that the financial health of 21 out of the 24 banks was generally satisfactory as at December 31, 2008, in spite of the global financial meltdown and the turmoil in the domestic stock market. Indications have emerged that the Central Bank, CBN, has given the shareholders of the nine troubled banks approval to recapitalise the banks.