The rand has been on a seesaw over the past 24 hours hitting above R15 to the US dollar.
 
Currently the rand is at High R14.60 Low R14. 57 to the greenback.
 
The rand has been under pressure for the past few weeks with ratings agencies Moody’s and Fitch citing continued political uncertainty.
 
Rising US interest rates have also had a profound effect on the rand which has plunged to levels last seen in 2016.
 
The local currency has also been volatile this week with economists concerned about the medium-term budget speech later this month.
 
All eyes will be on former Reserve Bank governor and now Finance Minister Tito Mboweni with rating agencies calling for more stability and transparency at the highest level.
 
 
Source: News24
The South African economy is in the midst of its longest business cycle downturn in more than 73 years, according to the Reserve Bank, and things aren't looking particularly favourable right now either.
 
The adverse business climate has impacted the stock market too this year, seeing listed companies declining year-to-date on the whole. 
 
According to analysis done by Corion Capital, a boutique hedge fund manager, 60% of listed counters had depreciated by the end of September, with more than a third slumping in excess of 15%. Only 16% of the stocks in the All Share Index gained more than 15% this year to end-September.
 
Topping the list of poor performers are Tiger Brands, off more than 40%, two healthcare companies, Aspen and Mediclinic, MTN, and Woolworths.
 
Performance of the top 40 JSE shares. Tiger Brands and Aspen were the biggest losers, while Sasol and BHP Billiton were the top performers. (Corion Capital)
 
Performance of the top 40 JSE shares. Tiger Brands and Aspen were the biggest losers, while Sasol and BHP Billiton were the top performers. (Corion Capital)
 
And the sharp sell-off has continued into October, with only the Resource Index managing to gain ground last week and the Banks Index hardest hit, losing 7%.
 
Garreth Montano, a director of Corion Capital, puts the bout of negativity swamping investor sentiment this year down to:
 
- Low GDP growth. South Africa has unfortunately missed out on a resurgence in the world economy and has been left well behind in terms of GDP growth. The reasons behind the sluggish performance of the domestic economy can be debated at length, but many view the Zuma era as a large contributor to the underperformance of SOEs, heightened corruption, lack of job creation and lack of investor confidence in attracting foreign direct investment.
 
- The land debate and mining charter have further dented prospects of new investment, which would aid growth as well as assist in creating new jobs. All of which are dearly needed.
 
- Many commentators believe that president Ramaphosa’s hands are tied until general elections, and the righting of the ship and benefits to the economy will start gaining momentum once there is more clarity around the land issue and elections are behind us.
 
To add to these internal challenges, emerging markets, as a whole, have had a difficult 2018, being largely led down by the crises in Turkey and Argentina. Trade wars have also had a negative effect, creating concerns about a drag on emerging markets exports due to potential for tariff impositions by the US, Montano says.
 
Locally the negative sentiment towards broader emerging markets has played out in large outflows fromn our bond market, as well as foreigners selling off equities, says Montano. Last week almost R6bn alone was taken out of South Africa by foreign investors.
 
These disinvestments have also played out in currency markets, driving the rand dramatically lower to more than R15 to the dollar at stages compared with its peak of almost R11.50 in February this year.
 
 
Source: Business Insider
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
Cape Town - The South African Human Rights Commission has said that economic challenges that prompted the VAT and fuel levy hikes announced in the budget could have been averted if the government had earlier demonstrated better management of the economy and clamped down on corruption. 
 
“Public and private sector corruption, according to the Auditor General, a fellow Chapter 9 Institution, costs the nation billions on an annual basis,” it said.
 
The commission, a national institution established to uphold constitutional democracy and human rights, said it believed a “significant portion” of the economic challenges facing SA could have been avoided had the state “demonstrated better management of the economy and demonstrated an intolerance toward corruption, inefficiency and maladministration”. 
 
In his maiden budget delivered on Wednesday, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba announced that VAT would increase by one percentage point from 14% to 15%. 
 
The current zero-rating on foods including maize meal, brown bread, dried beans and rice would remain, and “limit the impact on the poorest households”. 
 
The SAHRC said it was “deeply concerned” that the VAT rate would go up, saying it was a tax that impacts the poor the most.
 
According to the budget, it is expected to bring in R22.9bn in additional revenue in the 2018/19 financial year. 
 
“Further, the SAHRC is also concerned with the increase in the fuel price through the introduction of a 52 cents per litre fuel levy,” it said. “This increase in fuel price particularly impacts on the poor as it affects the price of public transport and the price of goods as the vast majority of goods sold to the public are transported on the road.”
 
The commission also acknowledged that the budget was a “complex and difficult balancing act”, saying it was “fully aware” of the difficulties in limiting expenditure while collecting revenue through taxes and stimulating economic growth. 
 
Going up  
 
Gigaba had argued that the government was doing all it could to reduce the impact of the VAT hike on poor households, noting that the state was also boosting social grants payments and increasing the bottom three tax brackets.
 
He said plans to spend R57bn over three years on fee-free tertiary education for students with a family income below R350 000 per annum was another “important step forward in breaking the cycle of poverty and confronting youth unemployment”.
 
“Labour statistics show that unemployment is lowest for tertiary graduates,” he said.“Higher and further education and training is being made accessible to the children of workers and the poor.”
 
Source:News24
Sipho Pityana, businessman, Save SA convenor, and outspoken critic of former president Jacob Zuma, is set to take over as president of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) later in June.
 
Pityana, the founder and chairman of black economic empowerment group Izingwe Capital, was unanimously nominated for election as president. He will take on his new role with effect from June 26, when the next AGM takes place, BUSA said in a statement on Tuesday. 
 
He will take over the reins from Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza, who served for two terms. Martin Kingston has been nominated to serve a second term as vice president. 
 
The new BUSA board and elected members will be ratified at the AGM.
 
"It’s an honour to be asked to serve the unified voice of business at such a critical time in our struggle for transformative inclusive economic growth, as we position our country to be a successful participant in the Fourth Industrial Revolution," Pityana said in a statement.
 
Pityana currently holds positions on various boards, including AngloGold Ashanti. He has held board positions at companies listed on the New York, London and Johannesburg stock exchanges, as well as unlisted companies.
 
He was the former chairperson of the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme, or NFSAS, and is currently chairperson of Council of the University of Cape Town. He was also previously the chair of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution.
 
Pityana also has experience in government, having served as director-general of the Department of Foreign Affairs from 1999 to 2002. He was also director-general of the department of labour from 1995 to 1999.
 
He was one of the founders of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) and the Council for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
 
Pityana has served in a number of other business groupings. 
 
BUSA, in a statement, recognised Pityana's "strong sense of civic duty" which led him to form advocacy group Save SA, after revelations of state capture emerged. 
 
Other elected BUSA board members include Absa CEO Maria Ramos, Managing Director of the Banking Association of South Africa Cas Coovadia, and CEO of the Minerals Council of SA - previously known as the Chamber of Mines - Roger Baxter.
 
Speaking on his term of office, Mabuza said he was confident that he was leaving the organisation in a "stronger state", with business having a credible voice anchored by "constructive engagement" with social partners.
 
"It is critical for business to adopt a proactive and unified stance as it seeks to unlock value in the economy and address poverty, inequality and unemployment. I congratulate the incoming board under the leadership of Sipho," said Mabuza.  
 
 
Source: Fin24

The South African economy looks uncomfortably the same to the one inherited when the country transitioned from apartheid to democracy in 1994. Which is why it’s time for a robust economic policy agenda to make it more open, productive and inclusive.

A number of obstacles stand in the way. These include the continued bias towards activities with relatively low productivity, high levels of concentration in key sectors and a lack of diversity in ownership.

Competition policy is a critical part of efforts to change the structure of the economy. But addressing entrenched economic power requires a much wider package of measures.

International experience shows that countries develop by moving towards more diverse, higher value-added and more sophisticated products, a process referred to as structural transformation. There is still no sign that this is happening in South Africa.

In-fact, research conducted by the Industrial Development Think Tank has found that South Africa regressed between 1994 and 2016. The economy has become less diverse and it’s failed to use existing capabilities to produce new products.

Take the country’s export basket. It continues to be dominated by minerals and resource based industries, which represent 60% of total merchandise exports. This is at the expense of increased competitiveness in industries which create more jobs such as plastic products which range from simple lunch boxes to complex automotive components.

The composition of the export basket also compares poorly to other upper middle-income countries. For example, in 2016 high-technology exports accounted for only 6% of South Africa’s manufacturing exports compared to Thailand’s 21% and Malaysia’s 43%.

If South Africa continues on this path, it will struggle to create employment at the scale that is required. The majority of its population will continue to be excluded and the social fabric will continue to unravel.

Market concentration

High levels of market concentration coupled with barriers to entry are a big part of the problem. South Africa needs to allow for economic rivalry. Its known that rivals bring new products and business models, and spur incumbents to invest in improving their own offerings.

A recent study of merger reports by the Competition Commission found that there was unilateral dominance – where a single firm has a market share in excess of 45% – in a large number of markets. This included communication technologies, energy, financial services, food and agro-processing, infrastructure and construction, industrial input products mining, pharmaceuticals and transport.

These sectors cover most of the economy. They are central to economic growth and to consumers’ pockets.

And the situation seems to be getting worse. Statistics South Africa data show concentration levels in manufacturing has intensified: in 80 sub-sectors, the proportion in which the biggest five firms held over 70% of market share increased from 16 in 2008 to 22 in 2014.

Concentration is bad

Economic concentration opens the door to market power being exercised in a way that undermines productivity. This can be seen, for instance, in value chains where downstream players have to pay high prices for inputs, with dire consequences for their competitiveness.

The knock on effect is that economic growth slows down and employment creation is affected if downstream industries are labour absorbing.

Such skewed economic power also translates into political power where dominant companies use their resources to lobby for ‘rules of the game’ that favour them. Some examples include:

  • Telkom, a partially state owned telecommunication company, has for a long time persuaded policymakers, in the name of extending access, to support its position in the fixed-line monopoly.

  • There’s been similar strong lobbying in pay TV to secure rules that hinder potential rivals.

  • In beer distribution and retail, Anheuser-Busch InBev spent millions of dollars lobbying against conditions that would have restricted its operations .

The other area that has felt the effect of big player dictating the rules of the game has been in the slow progress when it comes to meaningful black economic empowerment. Economic transformation initiatives have tended to reinforce incumbents as gate keepers in exchange for minority shareholdings.

Broader agenda needed

A lack of progress towards increased participation is one of the justifications for amendments to the country’s Competition Act. The Competition Amendment Bill is an important step in addressing concentration and increased participation. But it needs to be part of a broader competition policy agenda.

South Africa also needs to introduce a range of complementary policies. Three key areas in particular need to be addressed:

Promote new entrants: Economic regulations must be changed to favour entrants and ensure incumbents can be effectively challenged. This includes regulations to allow access to essential infrastructure. For example, in telecommunications, spectrum must be allocated to foster greater rivalry. Measures can also include soft regulation such as codes of conduct for supermarket chains to promote access to markets by suppliers and small retailers.

Enforcement: The country needs more effective enforcement against anticompetitive conduct that excludes smaller rivals. The Competition Amendment Bill goes some way to deal with this. It emphasises the competitive process and in important areas gives weight to the ability of smaller participants and black industrialists to enter markets and grow.

Support rivals: This can be done by expanding development finance for entrants. Funds could be drawn from competition penalties. Development finance should also consider extending support across the different levels of the value chain. An example is the funding that the Industrial Development Corporation has given to new entrants in the agro-processing value chain from the fund created from the bread cartel fines.

Talk of economic transformation needs to be backed by a coherent economic strategy that moves the country away from a concentrated, exclusionary, low productivity economy into an open, fair economy for all.

 

Pamela Mondliwa, a researcher at the Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development at UJ, coauthored this article.

Simon Roberts, Professor of Economics and Director of the Centre for Competition, Regulation and Economic Development, University of Johannesburg

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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