South Africa’s trade surplus widened more than expected to 12 billion rand ($915 million) as exports in precious, base metal and vehicle parts jumped, easing pressure on the economy and lifting the currency.
 
The South African Revenue Service said in Johannesburg that exports rose by 7.1 per cent on a month-on-month basis to 110 billion rand in June, while imports dipped 0.9 per cent to 98 billion rand.
 
Commodities led the rise in exports with sales of precious metals up 38 per cent and base metals rising 13 per cent in the month. Sales of vehicles equipment also went up 8 per cent.
 
Analysts said the large surplus was a sign the current account was narrowing, which would lessen the impact of any reversal of portfolio flows.
 
“This is the fourth month in row of surpluses so it will definitely reduce the current account deficit in the second quarter,” said senior economist at Nedbank Isaac Matshego.
 
“But remember, the current account is structural so we really do need those portfolio flows to keep coming in,” Matshego added.
 
The rand responded to the news of the widening surplus by rising slightly on the data, trading at $1 =13.1350 at 1300 GMT, about 0.2 per cent firmer.
 
The rand has rallied in the past month to become one of the top performing emerging market currencies, due mainly to positive turn in sentiment, but analysts warn it remains at risk to offshore events, particularly the ongoing trade tiff between the United States and China.
 
Africa’s most industrialised country ran a large current account deficit of 4.8 per cent of GDP in the first quarter.
 
 
Source: News24
Telkom Mobile has been suffering a "system failure" over the past 24 hours.
Its four million South African subscribers have been struggling to connect. 
Telkom’s website and app have also been down since Thursday afternoon. 
Telkom Mobile - which has over four million cellular users in South Africa - is experiencing a countrywide “system failure”, the company said on Friday morning.
 
Users have reported extremely poor network quality, the sudden loss of airtime and data, and problems with recharging airtime over the past 24 hours. Some are demanding free data to be compensated for their inconvenience. 
 
Telkom’s website and app have also been down since Thursday afternoon. 
 
“Our team is still attending to the service issue with urgency. We'll keep you updated until this issue is resolved,” Telkom tweeted on Friday. 
 
“Please be patient as the team works on resolving the issue. We will keep you updated with further information.” 
 
On social media, users expressed outrage with the service disruption, demanding the cellular service give free data to apologise. 
 
MTN recently gave away clients R100 worth of airtime, and 100MB data for free, after its service was disrupted by a “technical glitch”.
 
 
Source: News24
A small business incubation programme that is supported by by Rand Merchant Investment Holdings is looking for entrepreneurs who aim to disrupt financial services.
 
A total of 16 businesses will be selected to pitch for eight places on the AlphaCode Incubate programme of twelve months. The eight businesses will each get R1 million in grant funding as well as R1 million worth of support including mentorship,  exclusive office space in Sandton, marketing, legal and other business support services as well as access to RMI’s networks.
 
The businesses must be no older than two years and must be 51% black owned and managed.
 
The competition is open to businesses across the financial spectrum including payments, insurance, savings and investments, advisory, data analytics and blockchain.
 
"We want to help take courageous entrepreneurs with seriously disruptive financial services business models to the next level," says AlphaCode head, Dominique Collett.
 
In partnership with Bank of America Merrill Lynch South Africa and Royal Bafokeng Holdings, AlphaCode Incubate has disbursed R13 million to 15 black-owned businesses over the last three years
 
Entries can be done on the competition website. The first round of applications closes on August 31.
 
 
News24

A South African High Court on Monday overturned a decision by the government to grant Zimbabwe’s former first lady Grace Mugabe diplomatic immunity after she was accused of whipping Gabriella Engels with an electric cord.

Delivering his judgement on Monday, Judge Bashier Vally stated that the decision by the former Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to grant Mrs Mugabe diplomatic immunity was inconsistent with the South African Constitution and should therefore be set aside.

“It is declared that the decision of the minister of August 19, 2017, in terms of the diplomatic immunities to recognise Dr Grace Mugabe immunities is inconsistent with the Constitution of South Africa. The decision is reviewed and set aside,” the judgment stated.

The former minster explained in court that Mrs Mugabe automatically qualified for immunity from prosecution by virtue of her status as the wife of a head of state.

She also argued that not awarding Mrs Mugabe diplomatic immunity might have serious implications for relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Engels filed a court application challenging the government’s decision last August.

Mrs Mugabe returned to Zimbabwe immediately after South Africa granted her diplomatic immunity, allowing her to evade prosecution for assault and causing a row in South Africa where the opposition Democratic Alliance also challenged the ruling.

Mrs Mugabe denied assaulting Engels with an electric cable, saying an “intoxicated and unhinged” Engels had attacked her with a knife.

South African advocacy group Afriforum, which represented Engels, dismissed the allegations as lies.

According to Engels, an irate Mrs Mugabe burst into the room where she was waiting with two friends in a Johannesburg luxury hotel suite to meet one of Mugabe’s sons last August, and started attacking her with an electric cable.

Photographs taken by Engels’ mother soon after the incident showed gashes to the model’s head and bruising on her thighs.

Willie Spies, a lawyer for Afriforum, said the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) should now take action to prosecute Mrs Mugabe and seek her extradition from Zimbabwe to South Africa.

Spies said if the NPA failed to take action, Afriforum would start proceedings against Mrs Mugabe.

“The ball is in their court now,” Spies said, adding that Afriforum had argued that Grace Mugabe committed the attack on Engles while she was on a private visit to South Africa and therefore did not qualify for diplomatic immunity.

NPA spokeswoman Phindi Mjnonondwana said the case was still in the hands of the police and had not yet been sent to the NPA for action.

However, NPA spokesman Luvuyo Mfaku said South Africa and Zimbabwe had previously cooperated on extraditing suspects from one country to the other.

Following the judgement, International Relations and Cooperation Department under Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said they were still studying the judgment.

The news from the South African court came as former president Mugabe (94), accompanied by his wife and daughter Mrs Bona Chikore, cast his vote at Mhofu Primary School in Highfield township, the first election that does not include his name on the ballot paper since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Source: News24

The President of Association of Foreign Relations Professionals of Nigeria (AFRPN), Amb. Gani Lawal, has said that Nigerian cannot severe diplomatic ties with South Africa over xenophobic attacks.
 
Dr Lawal, a former Nigeria Deputy Principal Representative in Algeria, said this in an interview News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
 
NAN reports that killing of Nigerians in South Africa had been on the increase in recent times.
 
A report had stated that no fewer than 117 Nigerians were extra-judicially killed in South Africa between 2013 and 2018 for one flimsy reason or the other.
 
According to Lawal, we cannot because of xenophobic attacks break diplomatic relations with South Africa because the issue is not between government and government.
 
”We will continue to work with South Africa to make sure that offenders are apprehended and prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others,” he said.
 
The former director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the issue of killings in South Africa was not between government and government but among the people on the streets.
 
“However, South African government also has the responsibility to protect our people and also to advise them on where to go and not to go.
 
“We have to be able to find a ground to ensure that the attack doesn’t happen by establishing rules of engagement,” he said.
 
The former director said that the present administration had been doing a lot to strengthen the Nigerian foreign policy.
 
He said the association was ready to assist the government in ensuring that the government achieves its goal on foreign policy and strengthen ties with other countries.
 
According to him, what we do is to work behind the scene by doing research using our experience to advise the government.
 
He said that the formation of AFRPN was to fill a vacuum in the country in terms of providing credible advice to the government on foreign relations.
 
He added that the association would be formally inaugurated on Tuesday, July 31, by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II
 
Lawal said the event, would also feature inaugural lecture titled, “The New International System: A Diplomat’s Nightmare” to be delivered by Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, former Foreign Affairs Minister.
 
He said the association’s “Peer-Review Journal” would be launched by business moguls Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Alhaji Abdulsamad Ishyaku Rabiu, Femi Otedola, and Mr Tunde Folawiyo.
 
Lawal said the association was founded to serve as a think-tank to the Federal Government and other stakeholders on foreign relations matters.
 
“The AFRPN was established as a legal body to engage in scholarly research, coupled with our experience to positively impact on the foreign policy process and practice of our country through an interactive process drawing both from the diplomats and the academia,” he said.
 
He said when inaugurated the association would be able to advise the government on foreign policy.
 
According to him, most of the pieces of advice that people often give are based on guess work and that is why we are coming on board to offer help to the government based on experience and research.
 
“So we feel that those who have experience in foreign relations can assist in filling necessary vacuums.
 
“Those of us who have gone all over the world should be able to put our heads together to advise the government on foreign issues.
 
“Also, government can also look at our ways when there are issues to be dealt with and we also are ready to give government the alternative way of doing things,” he said.
 
 
Source: NAN
President Vladimir Putin of Russia said on Friday BRICS leaders were not ruling out the possibility of increasing the number of the bloc’s member states, but the decision on accepting more countries to the organisation should not be taken in a rush.
 
BRICS is the acronym coined by British Economist Jim O’Neill meant for an association of five
major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
 
“The candidates have not backed out, on the contrary, they have demonstrated readiness and to work within BRICS as full-fledged members, but at today’s meeting in a small format all my colleagues approached accepting new members to BRICS with caution.
 
“However, they certainly do wish to work with other states and do not exclude the possibility of BRICS expansion,” Putin said at a news conference after the BRICS summit in South Africa.
 
Putin said that the expansion issue needs further discussions, as such a serious question could not be solved “in one fell swoop.”
 
He also said that all decisions are being taken on the basis of consensus.
 
“There is really no some kind of formal leadership. All issues are resolved, decisions are being taken on the basis of consensus, with full respect for the interests of all participants in this
organisation,” Putin said.
 
“This is its huge advantage,” the president said.
 
 
 
Source: Bloomberg News
The Competition Commission believes British American Tobacco's (BAT) plan to buy e-cigarette company Twisp would lead to higher vaping prices in South Africa.
BAT is already a global e-cigarette player and could've easily entered the South African market without buying a competitor, it said.
BAT in January signed an agreement to acquire Twisp. 
Cigarette giant British American Tobacco's (BAT) planned acquisition of big South African e-cigarette maker Twisp would lead to higher vaping prices in South Africa, the Competition Commission says.
 
BAT, South Africa’s largest cigarette distributor, signed an agreement to acquire Twisp in January. Twisp is believed to be the biggest distributor of vaping products in SA. 
 
The deal is subject to approval from the South African Competition Tribunal. 
 
“The merger is likely to result in unilateral effects which may manifest in the form of an increase in prices of e-cigarettes in future or a reduction in the rate of price reductions that could potentially occur with BAT’s entry,” the Competition Commission said in a statement about the proposal.
 
“[The merger can also lead to] a reduction in the quality or rate of innovation of e-cigarette products offered post-merger.” 
 
The commission, mandated to promote and maintain competition in South Africa, said BAT is prominent in the e-cigarette market internationally and could easily have entered the South African market – without buying a competitor.
 
“It would have been in a position to compete effectively against Twisp, the largest and dominant e-cigarette supplier in the country.” 
 
“The Commission recommends that the proposed transaction be prohibited.” 
 
When BAT first announced the deal, the multinational said Twisp would help ensure the sustainability of the company in South Africa. 
 
“We already have a large footprint elsewhere in the world. We are committed to the growth of our next generation products business and it was only natural that we extend our offering in SA with a range that is familiar to this market,” BAT South Africa CEO Soraya Benchikh said at the time. 
 
"We are excited about acquiring a leading vapour brand and the opportunities it presents.” 
 
 
Source: The Business Insider
Its average price for a megabyte of data declined 17.1% in the months of April, May, and June, Vodacom reported in quarterly results Tuesday morning – and it is very happy with that steep decline.
 
The drop was largely because of its push to sell more personalised data bundles on its "Just 4 You" platform, the company said, and it continues to push such bundles aggressively.
 
"Just 4 You" uses big data and machine learning to offer customers bundles tailored around their behaviour.
 
As its data became cheaper, its customers bought 32.2% more data bundles, Vodacom said, which ultimately saw its data revenues increase by nearly 10%, the big drop in price notwithstanding.
 
Vodacom reported much the same effect in its last full year of earnings: lower bundle prices, more bundles sold, and higher revenue.
 
And it expects that trend to continue, despite the new data roll-over rules from the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) that its peers are still fighting in court.
 
Icasa's End-User and Subscriber Service Charter Regulations on out-of-bundle data usage should have "a modest impact on data revenue growth" Vodacom said.
 
"We expect this to be mitigated in the short term by continued uptake of data bundles and strong elasticity in demand for these services."
 
By Vodacom's latest count it has some 43 million customers in South Africa, but only a little under 20.5 million of those use any data of any kind. Its numbers are roughly the same elsewhere in Africa as a whole: half its active customers do not yet pay for data.
 
The Icasa regulations require cellphone companies to allow customers to roll over unused data before it expires, or to transfer it to someone else. The rules also forbid companies from automatically defaulting customers to out-of-bundle data use (typically hugely more expensive than in-bundle data) once a bundle is depleted.
 
The implementation of the rules were suspended after Cell C, with support from MTN, went to court to challenge them. 
 
 
 
Source: Business Insider
 
 

South Africa invests eight times more in China than the other way around.

The $14.7 billion (R193 billion) in Chinese investments – which include loans to Transnet and Eskom – announced during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to South Africa this week, are dwarfed by South Africa’s investment in that country, which stood at just over $80 billion in 2016, according to a recent report compiled by Deloitte for the Department of Trade and Industry.

 
 

At that same time, China’s investment in South Africa was $10 billion.

Trade and industry minister Rob Davies pointed out this discrepancy this week during this Brics summit in Johannesburg, when he was asked whether the new Chinese investments would not “overcrowd” the South African market.

“We are in the situation where we welcome more,” Davies said. “Of course when they do invest we indicate that we are looking for productive activity and that we are looking for them to increase the value addition.” He also called for investment-led trade.

Naspers alone owns a $175 billion stake in Chinese internet start-up Tencent, while China’s major investment in South Africa is the recently-opened $840 million (R11 billion) BAIC vehicle plant in the Coega Industrial Development Zone

China is the most significant investor in South Africa out of the Brics countries, and its investments created on average 301 jobs per project. India was the second largest investor, with $61.2 million and an average of 135 jobs per project.

Between 2003 and 2017, Brics countries officially invested a total of $17.8 billion in 189 projects in South Africa, creating 36 852 jobs. In the last two years, however, the number of projects from these investments dropped to the levels it was at in the early 2000s.

South Africa held $82 billion in foreign investments in Brics in 2016, while Brics countries only held $11 billion in foreign investments in South Africa.

Investments from South Africa into Brics countries surged since South Africa became a Brics member in 2010.

South African investment in Brics countries as a whole grew from a net negative position of $261 million in 2001 to a net positive position of $71 billion fifteen years later.

This could be attributed to, amongst others, “an increased foreign expansion by South African firms and a considerable relaxation of exchange controls by monetary authorities in 2011 that allowed South African companies to invest much larger sums abroad,” according to the Deloitte report.

 

Source: The Business Insider

The impact of the escalating global trade war is likely to shave 0.1% off South Africa's gross domestic product (GDP) baseline forecast in 2019 and 0.2% in 2020, according to Fitch Ratings' June 2018 "Global Economic Outlook" baseline forecast.

Fitch forecast that the escalation in the trade war is likely to reduce the world GDP by 0.4% in 2019 and by 0.3% in 2020.

"An escalation of global trade tensions that results in new tariffs on $2trn in global trade flows would reduce world growth by 0.4% in 2019, to 2.8% from 3.2%," the Fitch Ratings said in a statement on Wednesday.

The US, Canada and Mexico would be the most affected countries. Fitch expects China would be less severely impacted, with GDP growth around 0.3% below the baseline forecast. Fitch points out that China would only be affected directly by US protectionist measures, whereas the US would be imposing tariffs on a large proportion of its imports, while being hit simultaneously by retaliatory measures from four countries or trading blocs.

"The imposition of further tariff measures currently being considered by the US administration and commensurate retaliatory tariffs on US goods by the EU, China, Canada and Mexico would mark a significant escalation from tariff measures imposed to date," according to Fitch.

"The tariffs would initially feed through to higher import prices, raising firms' costs and reducing real wages. Business confidence and equity prices would also be dampened, further weighing on business investment and reducing consumption through a wealth effect."

Export competitiveness in the countries subject to tariffs would decline, resulting in lower export volumes. The negative growth effects would be magnified by trade multipliers and feed through to other trading partners not directly targeted by the tariffs. Import substitution would offset some of the growth shock in the countries imposing import tariffs.

Fitch forecasts that most countries not directly involved in the trade war would see their GDP falling below baseline, though generally at a much lower scale.

Net commodity exporters would be more severely hit, as slower world growth would push oil and hard commodity prices down. On the other hand, for some net commodity importers, the benefits from lower hard commodity prices would more than offset the impact of lower world growth.

 

Source: News25

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