President Ramaphosa: South Africans Must Take Climate Change Seriously

It is time for South Africans to take climate change seriously, said President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday in his response to the debate on his State of the Nation Address.

He said if South Africa is a country that prioritises the interests of the poor and the vulnerable, then we need to act with greater urgency to respond to the effects of climate change and make our contribution to preventing it.

“The rural poor are most affected by the droughts that have become more frequent and which last longer,” he said.

“The urban poor is most affected by the impact this has on food prices and the availability of water.

“It is people who live in informal settlements who are most affected by the flooding that accompanies the increasingly extreme weather conditions.”

He said we are all affected in different ways by the environmental changes taking place on land, in our oceans and in the air.

“Unless we tackle climate change, we will not be able to meet our developmental objectives.”

He said South Africa ratified the Paris Agreement to Combat Climate Change as part of the global effort to dramatically reduce the rate of global warming.

Ramaphosa said as part of the country’s efforts to build a sustainable low carbon economy, we are taking steps to finalise the national Climate Change Bill, which will provide a regulatory framework for the management of climate change and its impacts.

“We are making a fair contribution to the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gases through our Nationally Determined Contribution to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

He said South Africa is due to be the next coordinator of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, which is vital in ensuring that Africa remains united and speaks with one voice on the key climate change issues facing the Continent.

He also paid homage to the role Edna Molewa, who passed away last year, played in these efforts as Minister of Environmental Affairs.

“The progress we have made in responding to the various environmental challenges that confront our people is in no small measure thanks to the leadership and dedication of the late Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa,” he said.

“She worked to ensure that the conservation of the environment became a catalyst to advance the objectives of the National Development Plan.”

“Taking our lead from her vision, we continue to encourage investment in cleaner energy through the renewable energy independent power producers programme.”

Ramaphosa said South Africa benefitted through the competitive bidding process from rapid, global technology developments and price trends, buying clean energy at lower and lower rates with every bid cycle.

“As a result, South Africa is now getting renewable energy at some of the lowest tariffs in the world.

“Under the renewable energy, a total number of 112 projects have been procured and it is envisaged that these projects will create 114,266 job years over the construction and 20 year operations period.”

A job year is equivalent to a full time employment opportunity for one person for one year.

Ramaphosa said government will work with all stakeholders to ensure that the gradual transition towards new forms of electricity generation creates jobs, develops new capabilities and does not negatively affect the livelihoods of communities.

While congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is agitating for a Green New Deal in the United States, South Africans will have to do with the Good Green Deeds programme.

Ramaphosa announced that on March 8, this “landmark campaign” will be launched to “mobilise all South Africans to become environmentally conscious”.

“The Good Green Deeds programme is aimed at changing behaviour towards littering, towards illegal dumping, and towards waste in general,” Ramaphosa said.

He said it is part of government’s call and commitment “to clean South Africa, to make our cities, towns and rural areas places where it is safe and healthy for all to live”.

“Because of environmentally insensitive human action, the forces of nature conspired to set in motion the dramatic process of climate change,” Ramaphosa said.

“It is by conscious human action that its effects can and will be mitigated and ultimately reversed.”

South Africa’s current minister of environmental affairs is Nomvula Mokoyane. Several opposition speakers called for her head after she was mentioned by whistleblower Angelo Agrizzi in his explosive testimony at the Zondo Commission about the Bosasa-scandal. Allegations of corruption and mismanagement plagued her term as minister of water affairs and sanitation. Ramaphosa didn’t address these issues in his reply.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Tim Johnson [1], [2].

Africa in 2019 Outlook Conference Highlights: Part 2

This is a continuation of the highlights from Deloitte’s Africa in 2019 Outlook Conference that recently took place in Johannesburg, South Africa. To read our first article on the conference, click here.

Free trade in Africa – How will the AfCFTA play out?

As one of the flagship projects of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) aims to create a single market economy to enable the free movement of goods, which may see over one billion people benefit from a combined GDP of almost US$3.3trn. Yet, with 49 countries having signed the consolidated AfCFTA agreement and only 18 out of the required 22 countries having ratified the agreement, Africa’s development impasse may be the result of a number of factors.

Political will

Political will is fundamental to achieving free trade across the African continent, as there needs to be a concerted effort from governments and politicians to drive regional free trade. If AfCFTA follows through with its mandate, it could have the potential to unlock value for companies such as the Mr Price Group, whose operations in 13 African countries may benefit from the logistical and manufacturing capabilities that a unified region would expose the South African-based retailer to. However, engagements between corporates and government are largely characterised by bureaucratic inertia, making it difficult to enable integration. In order to drive substantive outcomes, AfCFTA will require stakeholders to facilitate and stabilise economic growth across the continent.

Infrastructure and logistics

Africa’s infrastructure deficit remains a primary constraint to growth, and so too the resultant high costs of logistics. Although logistics is paramount to AfCFTA, its scale requires significant infrastructure investment and development across the continent, in order to drive structural reform. Infrastructure upgrades will facilitate more efficient trade between countries and across regions. The improvements will also provide an opportunity for countries to leapfrog to new efficient technologies, for investors to expand and diversify their customer base. Engagements with policy-makers and stakeholders will thus be fundamental to ensure infrastructure development across these markets.

Cost of doing business

The cost of doing business across African markets can be as high as 25% to 60% for certain products or services, as the costs associated with logistics, duties and permits tend to be much higher than those in developed economies. Investments in commodity dependent countries such as Nigeria are often characterised by high costs such as logistics, duties, electricity and dollar-funded property developments, which continue to stunt development prospects. With the grander political project of AfCFTA being the African monetary project, achieving regional financial integration and a regional monetary union will strengthen the continent’s bargaining power with global investors.

China in Africa

The presence of Chinese investment in Africa has driven infrastructure development, paving the way for new investments across the continent. Initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a global infrastructure development and integration project spearheaded by China – has had notable influence on the role of trade and development finance across the continent. The Chinese currency, the renminbi, has the potential to challenge the US dollar when it comes to the terms of payments for projects or business across the continent. The People’s Bank of China, is expected to facilitate further engagements with African central banks in this regard; but whether the Chinese currency will supplement the US dollar on the continent any time soon, remains to be seen.

Free movement of labour

Trading talent and skills is the low hanging fruit of the broader AfCFTA project, and companies will need to be ambitious in order to drive this growth forward. The skills-export economy will remain fundamental to gearing African economies for growth, as migration will have a significant bearing on boosting the economic integration of Africa. AfCFTA has the potential to unlock value on the continent, contributing to the broader African economy. However, gauging the appetite from African governments, more so those in the economic nodes of the continent, including Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia, will determine the success of the project in the long term.

A view on Africa’s economic and fiscal outlook in 2019

Political tensions continue to plague African economies in 2019, fuelling further speculation their economic prospects. According to the AfDB, GDP growth on the continent is projected to be 4% in 2019 and 4.1% by 2020. Key elements affecting Africa’s economic and fiscal outlook include the following:

Global economic growth

Global economic growth will underpin the development prospects of countries in Africa, however, the slowdown in China, which was supported by the announcement of a fiscal stimulus, is expected to have undue repercussions on the global economy. Moreover, the consequences of political uncertainty in the US will filter through to emerging markets. Similarly, the impact of Brexit as well as the European sovereign debt crisis are expected to underpin the demand and supply prospects from global markets in Africa.

Banking and financial inclusion

Over the past few years, banks have built up their capital buffers to maintain a solid funding base. In East Africa, this has deepened financial inclusion. However, banks in the region will have to align with international best practises and adopt provisions to support the rise of mobile banking. The increase of remittances has had a significant impact on financial stability within SSA banking systems, and in 2019 remittance growth is expected to continue. However, given that the region is affected by contrasting dynamics such as geopolitical risks and trade tensions, these will need to be addressed to determine the financial conditions of these states. Together with rising government debt, these factors will continue to put pressure on banking systems. Banking penetration in the rest of Africa remains low. As it stands, the ratio of banking assets to GDP is under 70%, while in South Africa it is 117%. Although the potential exists to grow this base, there are a number of constraints.

Size: The SSA banking sector is dominated by smaller banks, but in order to achieve scale and drive financial investments, larger banks will need to participate in stimulating financial inclusion. The influx of global players investing in micro enterprises will scale up inclusion in the banking sector.

Access to funding: When it comes to banks, size matters; and the bigger the bank, the more capacity they have to support consumers that do not have access to formal markets. PanAfrican banks have the capacity and strategies to tap into these markets and create new opportunities to promote inclusive growth. Private equity funds will continue to back financial inclusion initiatives across the continent.

Fiscal consolidation

Government finances have been affected by low commodity prices, and for commodity-dependent economies, this has seen the escalation of government debt. However, government guarantees to ailing state-owned enterprises need to be stabilised in order to close fiscal deficits.

South African elections

As South Africans approach the general elections in May, investors will be looking to the president to affirm the South African Reserve Bank’s (SARB) mandate. While investors have regained confidence in the South African economy, the consolidation of cabinet to reduce the expense of civil service and government finances is being scrutinised by credit rating agencies. However, a 2019 Investec GDP growth forecast of 1.9% anticipates that better governance will continue to pull through to aid domestic policies. While 2019 is expected to be a better year for South Africa, with minimal concerns of a further ratings downgrade, there needs to be an improvement on the country’s fiscal outlook to mitigate risks such as unforeseen increases in expenditure to fund infrastructure projects, rising government debt and political uncertainties.

To read the conference report, click here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Africa in 2019 Outlook Conference Highlights: Part 1

Deloitte recently hosted the 2019 Africa in 2019 Outlook Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa. A focus area was how Africa can improve on its ability to execute economic growth. Our Director, Rene Stegmann, attended on behalf of Relocation Africa. Below are some highlights from the conference.

US-Africa strategy countering China

At the end of 2018, United States (US) National Security Advisor John Bolton unveiled the Trump administration’s new Africa strategy. Known as the Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development (BUILD) Act, the policy move aims to ensure US competitiveness on the continent where extensive engagement has already been made by China. How this geostrategic competition between two great powers plays out for the continent is a key question.

Growing debt in Africa

African economies have witnessed rising debt levels as the continent continues to make use of borrowed funds to finance infrastructural development. With a significant sum of financing flowing from China, the average debt-to-GDP ratio on the African continent has risen to 57%. What is important, however, is not the amount, but the serviceability of the debt in question. African economies need to ensure that acquired infrastructure is used productively to create returns that can service the debt from which such infrastructure originated.

The year of politics

In 2019, 24 countries across the continent will hold a major election (presidential, general, legislative), which is significant given that the economies of frontier markets tend to be influenced by domestic politics. The outcomes of these elections will shape the future for many economies on the continent.

Nigeria and South Africa – will 2019 be a year of structural reform?

Nigeria and South Africa, two of Africa’s largest economies currently experiencing “structural limbo”, are in need of renewed growth drivers. It remains to be seen whether or not the requisite political will exists to reinvigorate growth in both economies.

Ethiopia

Referred to as the “African miracle” Ethiopia’s leadership has undergone significant restructuring to ensure that the economic changes currently taking place are supported by new political thought and leadership. Growth in Ethiopia has been driven by investment in fixed capital, giving rise to powerful domestic industries responsible for job creation. The future development of Ethiopia poses an interesting case study for the continent. Looking forward, 2019 is set to be the year of uncertain sentiment, most notably due to global trade tensions and protectionist strategies and their potential effect on the global economy. However, not all global crises are felt equally across geographic regions, as was the case with the 2008 global financial crisis.

Private capital as a force for development in Africa

Productive infrastructure is vital for development to take place in Africa, however, access to funding continues to be a significant issue facing multiple economies across the continent. According to figures published by the African Development Bank (AfDB), infrastructure needs across the continent amount to US$130bnUS$170bn a year, with a corresponding funding gap in the region of US$67.6bn-US$107.5bn. Furthermore, tightening fiscal conditions across the continent mean that the existing funding gaps will not be covered by government expenditure, placing infrastructure investment under stress. The introduction of private players in the infrastructure funding space, however, has been a significant development, particularly where infrastructure is concerned in countries in need of growth.

Intra-African trade – trade between African countries – currently accounts for 18% of overall trade on the continent, indicating the high degree of opportunity that still exists for the further integration of African economies. To this end, it is paramount that the necessary funding is available to develop African economies as well as support their ability to trade with each other. While private capital can be key enablers of such development, countries hoping to attract more private capital need to focus on developing growth incentives and an industrial base to drive investment.

To view the conference report, click here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Key Announcements in SA’s State of the Nation Address

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered South Africa’s State of the Nation address last night, and announced a number of changes for the country going forward. Among them are plans to attract foreign direct investment, improve the quality of education, and resolve Eskom’s (the country’s power utility) debt crisis. The date of the 2019 general election was also announced; 8 May. Key announcements are outlined below.

Eskom will be split in three

Government plans to “immediately embark” on a process of establishing three separate entities – Generation, Transmission and Distribution – under Eskom Holdings. “The consequences may be painful, but they will be even more devastating if we delay,” Ramaphosa said.

‘Investment books’ will be compiled for each province

Following the success of the 2018 investment conference which attracted over in R300 billion in investment, Ramaphosa said a second conference will be held in 2019. Investment in South Africa should be spread out in projects throughout the country, Ramaphosa said. “In this regard, I have asked provincial governments to identify investable projects and ensure that we build investment books for each of our nine provinces to present to potential investors,” Ramaphosa said.

A new target to improve South Africa’s ease-of-doing-business ranking

Ramaphosa said the World Bank’s annual Doing Business Report currently ranks South Africa 82 out of 190 countries tracked. The state aims to be among the 50 global performers within the next three years, Ramaphosa said. A team from the Presidency, Invest SA, National Treasury and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation will address the policy, legal, regulatory and administrative barriers that frustrate investors.

A requirement for work experience will be dropped in the public sector

It is important that more youth be absorbed into South Africa’s labour market, Ramaphosa said. The government would, therefore, do away with entry-level work experience requirement in the public sector. “Our young people need to be given a real head start in the world of work,” he said.

Release of state-owned land for human settlements

Ramaphosa said as part of accelerated land reform, the government identified land parcels owned by the state for redistribution. Strategically located land will be released to address human settlements needs in urban and peri-urban areas, he said.

Introduction of eVisa regime

The South African government will introduce a “world class” eVisa regime in 2019 to assist in growing the local tourism sector, Ramaphosa said. The goal is reach 21 million tourists by 2030, up from 10 million in 2018. Instead of applying for a South African visa at an embassy, prospective visitors will be able to apply for an eVisa online and the final visa can be printed at home.

New gas and oil legislation after the Brulpadda boon

Following Total’s discovery of “world-class” oil and gas in the Brulpadda field off the coast of South Africa, Ramaphosa said the government will develop legislation to ensure that it is properly regulated for the interests of all concerned. “We are extremely encouraged by the report this morning about the Brulpadda block in the Outeniqua Basin, which some have described as a catalytic find. This could well be a game-changer for our country and will have significant consequences for our country’s energy security…”, ANC National Chairperson Gwede Mantashe stated.

New infrastructure implementation model

Ramaphosa said Cabinet has adopted a new infrastructure implementation model to ensure projects are implemented. He said the new model is underpinned by the new Infrastructure Fund announced in September last year. Ramaphosa said government has committed to contribute R100 billion into the Infrastructure Fund over a 10-year period and use this to leverage financing from the private sector and development finance institutions. “As a first step, we will expand projects underway already, such as student accommodation.”

Eradicate unsafe school toilets within 3 years

Ramaphosa expressed deep sadness at the tragic deaths of Michael Komape, who drowned in a pit toilet at Mahlodumela Primary School in Limpopo in 2014, and Lumka Mkethwa, from Luna Junior Primary School in the Eastern Cape, who lost her life in March last year. He said the government has since August already provided safe and appropriate sanitation to 699 schools, with sanitation at a further 1,150 schools either in planning, design or construction stages. Government identified that nearly 4,000 schools require appropriate sanitation, and hopes to eradicate unsafe sanitation by 2022.

Compulsory early development for all children

The responsibility of early childhood development centres are being migrated from the social development department to basic education, Ramaphosa said. He said during the migration the government will proceed with the process towards two years of compulsory early childhood development for all children before they enter grade 1. “This is essential in equipping children to succeed in education, in work and in life – and it is possibly the single most important factor in overcoming poverty, unemployment and inequality,” Ramaphosa said.

Access to a tablet for every pupil by 2025

“Over the next six years, we will provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device,” Ramaphosa said. He said government will start with the schools that have been historically most disadvantaged and are located in the poorest communities, including farm and rural schools.

New technology subjects, and technical high schools

Ramaphosa said several new technology subjects and specialisations will be introduced into basic education such as technical mathematics and technical sciences, maritime sciences, aviation studies, mining sciences, and aquaponics. Several “ordinary” state schools will also be transformed into technical high schools, he said.

A new bank for housing

If the South African government is to effectively address the substantial housing backlog it needs to develop different models of financing for human settlements, Ramaphosa said. Therefore a new human settlements development bank will be established to leverage both public and private sector financing to aid in housing delivery. He said the state’s housing development agency will construct an additional 500,000 housing units in the next five years..

No taverns, shebeens and liquor outlets near schools

Ramaphosa promised the complete shutdown of all taverns, shebeens and liquor outlets near schools as the country deals with extremely high levels of substance abuse. “South Africa has extremely high levels of substance abuse, which feeds crime and violence against women and children, it deepens poverty and causes great hardship and pain for families. As government, we continue to roll out interventions to address social ills tearing our communities apart, such as alcoholism and substance abuse. Knowing, as we do, that there are strong linkages between substance abuse, drug trafficking, crime and insecurity in communities, we are focusing on tackling this problem at its source through prevention programmes targeting vulnerable persons especially our youth. We are resolute that all taverns, shebeens and liquor outlets near school premises must be shut down,” Ramaphosa stated.

Strengthening the focus on gender-based violence

“We will strengthen the national hotline centre that supports women who experience gender-based violence and ensure it is functional. We have listened to the call to make funds available to combat gender-based violence and have allocated funding in the current budget to support the decisions taken at the [Gender-Based Violence] Summit. Government will lead the campaign to include men and boys as active champions in the struggle against gender-based violence. Ending gender-based violence is an urgent national priority that requires the mobilisation of all South Africans and the involvement of all institutions,” Ramaphosa said.

Scorpions 2.0

Ramaphosa said he agreed with the new NPA head that an investigation directorate dealing with serious corruption and associated offences will be established as soon as possible. In broad terms, the Directorate will focus on the evidence that has emerged from the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, other commissions and disciplinary inquiries, Ramaphosa said.

General election date

National elections will be held on May 8.

A war room for public health

The National Health Insurance Bill will soon be submitted to Parliament. The NHI will enable South Africans to receive free services at the point of care in public and private quality-accredited health facilities. Ramaphosa said a ‘War Room’ in the presidency has been established to improve public heallth. “We have a funded national quality health improvement plan to improve every clinic and hospital that will be contracted by the NHI.”

To read the SONA address in full, click here.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3]. Image sources: [1], [2].

SA Elections: Upcoming Voter Registration Weekend; ID Collection Push; and Party Funding Source Bill Signed

2019 is a general election year in South Africa, with national and provincial elections set to take place, and three important recent announcements have been made in relation to elections in the country.

Voter registration weekend

The Electoral Commission of South Africa has announced that a final voter registration weekend will take place over 26 and 27 January.

The country’s 22 932 voting stations will open from 08h00 to 17h00 on Saturday 26 January and Sunday 27 January 2019 to allow first-time voters to register and existing voters to update and to check their registration details.
Currently there are 26.1 million registered voters on the national common voters’ roll and it is hoped that at least one million voters will be added to the voters’ roll ahead of the 2019 elections.

The Electoral Commission is also hopeful that voters who are already registered will use the opportunity to visit their voting station to check their registration and specifically to confirm and update their address details.
Registered voters can visit the Electoral Commission website (www.elections.org.za) to check their current registration details and voting station location.

They can also SMS their ID number to 32810 to receive an SMS containing their registration status and the address of their voting station (charged at R1).

Unregistered voters can insert their address in the Voting Station Finder application on the website (http://maps.elections.org.za/vsfinder/) to find their correct voting station or call the Contact Centre.

An online facility (www.elections.org.za/MyIEC) is also available for registered voters with access to the internet to update and review their address online.

Identity document collection

The Home Affairs Department has called on people who have applied for identity documents (IDs) to collect it, ahead of this weekend’s voter registration.

In the Western Cape alone, more than 23,000 people have not collected their IDs. Bellville and Cape Town branches are the highest with over 3,500 uncollected IDs each.

The department says it is extending its office hours at some of the offices. Spokesperson Siya Qoza explains, “Our offices will be open from 8 am until 5 pm over the weekend to assist as many people as possible who may need assistance. Our assistance will include handing out IDs and assisting people with temporary IDs so that they can register to vote”.

Political Party Funding Bill

It’s now law for political parties to reveal their private funding annually but it’s unlikely to come into effect before this year’s elections. The Presidency confirmed late on Tuesday night that President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed the Political Party Funding Bill into law, which was passed by the National Assembly late last year.

But the electoral commission has already indicated to Parliament that it will need at least six months to get the system functional. Lobby group My Vote Counts, which took the matter to court, says that the implementation of the bill will drastically enhance transparency and accountability in the country’s political and electoral system.

The new legislation repeals a 1997 Act to better regulate the public and private funding of political parties. It establishes a multi-party democracy fund that will fund all political parties from state coffers.

The new law will prohibit certain donations being made directly to political parties and compel them to disclose private donations to the electoral commission. Political parties will not be allowed to accept donations from foreign governments or agencies.

The African National Congress (ANC) has welcomed the law, saying it will deepen democracy and usher in a new culture of transparency. But My Vote Counts says that it is however regrettable that the law will not have an impact on this year’s elections and that the electorate will once again go to the polls without this crucial information.

The bill follows a June 2018 order by the Western Cape High Court to have Parliament make provision for political parties to publicly disclose private funding within 18 months. Judge Yasmin Meer stressed that there must be transparency about private political party funding. The Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s opposition party, was the only party to oppose the application for the transparency bill.

 

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4]. Image sources: [1], [2].