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South Africa’s Q1 business confidence rises 11 points to 45

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Leaders, Politics

(Reuters) – South Africa’s business confidence rose in the first quarter by 11 points in a sign that the country’s economy is picking up pace, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) business confidence index compiled by the Bureau for Economic Research rose to 45 points in the first quarter from 34 points in the fourth quarter but remained below the 50-mark separating the net positive and negative territories.

“First quarter confidence jump is driven more by the expectation that the recent (mainly) market-friendly political development will boost activity levels in future than an immediate improvement in the real economy,” chief economist at RMB Ettienne Le Roux said.

Business confidence was dented by policy uncertainty under the leadership of Jacob Zuma but economists say President Cyril Ramaphosa’s election as leader of the ruling African National Congress in December, and as president last month, has raised expectations that the country will make economic reforms.

South Africa’s economy grew more than expected at the end of last year as agriculture and trade recovered, data showed last Tuesday, boosting its chances of avoiding a potentially debilitating credit ratings downgrade.

Earlier in the month, The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (SACCI) monthly business confidence index (BCI) fell to 98.9 in February from 99.7 in January as exports, imports and retail sales fell.

“It goes without saying that the current uncertainty around land reform needs to be resolved as quickly as possible. If allowed to linger, the latest rise in the RMB/BER BCI (Business Confidence Index) could easily fizzle out with little or even no enduring positive impact on business capital expenditure and the economy at large,” Le Roux added.


(Reporting by Rahul B and Justin George Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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South Africa’s rand at 2-week low as global headwinds, Fed jitters kick-in

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Business, Economy, Politics, US

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa’s rand slipped to its lowest in two weeks on Thursday, succumbing to month end demand for dollars by local firms as the increasing chances of higher interest rates in the United States lured bulls back into long-dollar positions.

At 0640 GMT the rand was 0.4 percent weaker at 11.8350 per dollar, its softest level since February 14, compared to an overnight close of 11.7875.

It was the first time in more than two weeks the rand closed above technical support around 11.80, after weakening for three consecutive sessions, prompting some technical selling as well as portfolio rebalancing by corporates offloading excess rands.

Analysts said the “Ramaphosa effect”, named for the rise in investor confidence and rally in local assets after new president Cyril Ramaphosa took over as chief of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in December, was now giving way to global headwinds.

“With the cabinet reshuffle out of the way, our local assets will continue to reprice in line with the global macro environment,” said fixed income trader at Rand Merchant Bank Gordon Kerr in a note.

The dollar index remained near 5-week highs early on Thursday, still drawing support after the Federal Reserve’s new chief Jerome Powell struck an optimistic tone on the U.S. economy, raising bets of at least four rate hikes by the bank in 2018.

Stocks opened softer with the benchmark Top-40 index down 0.13 percent.

Bonds were also softer, with the yield on the benchmark paper due in 2026 up 4 basis points to 8.165 percent.


(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Ed Stoddard)


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South Africa economic confidence to get a lift after cabinet reshuffle.

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy, Leaders, Politics

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Confidence in South Africa’s economy will get a boost after Monday’s cabinet reshuffle by President Cyril Ramaphosa returned trusted hands to crucial budget-related ministries, a Reuters poll showed on Thursday.

Seventeen of the 20 economists surveyed in the past three days said Monday’s reshuffle would have a significant positive impact on South Africa’s economic confidence this year.

One economist said it would be very significant, while the remaining two said it would have an insignificant impact.

In that same sample, 18 indicated they were optimistic the country’s business sector would play a bigger part in job creation in the next two years. One economist was very optimistic while the remaining one was pessimistic.

“Both business and consumer confidence is likely to be boosted by the election of Cyril Ramaphosa to President of the Republic and the cabinet reshuffle that (followed),” said Jeffrey Schultz, economist at BNP Paribas in Johannesburg.

South Africa’s business confidence rose for a third month in a row in January to its highest since late 2015, on expectations the new leadership of the ruling party would stabilise economic policy, a survey showed last month.

“President Ramaphosa clearly has his sights set on improving the domestic business climate and promoting more public-private sector participation,” said Schultz.

Gross domestic fixed investment – normally capital spending, such as buying new machinery for future production – fell into a recession in 2016, recovering only slightly early last year before hitting another slump in the second quarter.

The private sector makes up nearly two-thirds of the gross domestic fixed investment contribution to GDP, although it has played a smaller role in recent years, with government pushing infrastructure projects to raise jobs.

Schultz added that it would take some time for the trust between business and the government to be rebuilt, but it was clear the new government has realised it needs business sector buy-in to get growth and reduce unemployment.

Unemployment was at just over 20 percent a decade ago and now more than a quarter of South Africa’s labour force is jobless.



Ramaphosa appointed Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister on Monday and Pravin Gordhan as public enterprise minister. All but one of the 20 economists polled singled out these two National Executive appointments as most likely to inspire economic confidence.

Both Nene and Gordhan served as finance ministers in the last administration but were unceremoniously sacked by former President Jacob Zuma.

A poll last month suggested South Africa’s new leadership would need to be prudent and creative in managing the economy to avoid a credit rating downgrade, by raising taxes without suffocating a chance for growth. [ECILT/ZA]

Moody’s is due to publish a review later this month, which economists said in February would offer the country a reprieve.



(By Vuyani Ndaba; Editing by William Maclean)

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Woolworths Holdings’ H1 profit falls on Australia arm write-down

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Australia, Business, Economy, Politics

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African retailer Woolworths Holdings Ltd posted a 15 percent fall in half-year profit on Thursday hurt by a hefty write-down charge on the value of its David Jones business in Australia and tough trading conditions in its home market and Australia.

Woolworths paid a big premium to bulk up in Australia via David Jones as part of Chief Executive Ion Moir’s ambitions to turn the firm into a leading southern hemisphere retailer, but the delayed execution of certain initiatives aimed at transforming David Jones is threatening that ambition.

“A challenging market, along with some mistakes in the implementation of new systems and ranges, has had an impact on our clothing businesses both in South Africa and Australia,” Moir said in a statement.

Australia has recorded soft retail sales growth for months as cut-throat competition, relentless price discounts and online competition sap demand for brick-and-mortar shopping.

While in South Africa retailers have struggled to grow earnings as weak economic growth and clothing markdowns by competitors hit sales.

Woolworths, which sells groceries, food and homeware, said headline earnings per share (HEPS) fell to 206.3 South African cents in the six months to Dec. 24, from 242.6 cents a year earlier, while earnings per share turned into a loss of 505.9 cents on the David Jones impairment.

Woolworths booked a non-cash impairment charge of A$712.5 million ($556.04 million) against the carrying value of David Jones as a result of the cyclical downturn and structural changes that have hurt performance across the Australian retail sector.

The retailer, which paid 21.4 billion rand ($1.84 billion) for David Jones in 2014, said the impact of these changes have been exacerbated by poor or delayed execution in certain key initiatives in David Jones.

David Jones sales were 3.3 percent lower on a comparable basis, while comparable store sales were 3.4 percent lower in Woolworths South Africa, hurt by underperformance in Woolworths Fashion, Beauty and Home.

The group declared an interim cash dividend of 108.5 cents, an 18.4 percent decrease on the prior period.

“Encouragingly, we are seeing signs of recovery now, with political change in South Africa expected to lead to increased consumer confidence,” Moir said.

South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, was sworn in as head of state last Thursday after his scandal-plagued predecessor Jacob Zuma resigned on orders of the ruling African National Congress.


($1 = 1.2814 Australian dollars)

($1 = 11.6563 rand)


(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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In “tough but hopeful” budget, South Africa raises VAT for first time in 25 years

Comments (0) Actualites, Africa, Economy, Politics

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) – South Africa’s new leadership announced on Wednesday it was taking the politically risky step of raising value-added tax for the first time in 25 years, part of efforts to cut the deficit and stabilise debt under new President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The government of Africa’s most industrialised country has to plug a revenue hole in its budget and repair its economy after nine years of mismanagement under the scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma.

The move to raise VAT to 15 percent from 14 starting in April is expected to generate an additional 23 billion rand ($2 billion) of revenue in 2018/19.

But with the VAT rate unchanged since 1993 the move was likely to prove unpopular ahead of a national election next year.

“This is a tough, but hopeful budget,” Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said, acknowledging the reality in his budget speech to parliament on Wednesday.

“We decided that increasing VAT was unavoidable if we are to maintain the integrity of our public finances.”

As Gigaba read his budget speech, the rand extended gains to 0.81 percent against the dollar, government bonds firmed and retail shares on the stock exchange fell.

Whatever cabinet Ramaphosa finally settles on will face an uphill battle to revitalise growth and create jobs in a nation still polarized by race and inequality more than two decades after the end of white-minority rule in 1994.

Much of the blame for the state of the economy has been laid at the door of Zuma and his allies. He was forced to step down as president this month by the ruling African National Congress (ANC), following a series of scandals. He has denied all wrongdoing.

But treasury officials sought to project a relatively optimistic outlook as they assessed economic prospects for the immediate future.

Gigaba said poor households would be cushioned against the VAT rate rise through a zero-rating of basic food items such as maize meal and beans, and welfare payments increases.

And the Treasury saw GDP growth at 1.5 percent this year, up from an estimated 1 percent last year, helped by a recovery in agriculture and improved investor sentiment.

South African debt faces the risk of a downgrade to “junk” by Moody’s after downgrades to sub-investment grade by S&P Global Ratings and Fitch last year. Moody’s said it would make a ratings decision soon after the budget announcement.

“We believe we have done enough to avoid a downgrade. We have taken the tough decisions. You can see our debt rates stabilising, you see our budget deficit improving,” Gigaba told a media briefing separately.



But opposition leader and head of the Democratic Alliance party Mmusi Maimane said the budget meant the cost of living for poor people would rise sharply.

“This is a budget that is an assault against poor people. What we saw today is a consequence of nine years of mismanagement of the economy by the ANC.”

The ultra-left Economic Freedom Fighters, which has six percent of the seats in parliament, boycotted the speech. It demanded that Gigaba, a Zuma ally, be removed.

The Treasury said South Africa faced a 48.2 billion rand revenue gap in the current 2017/18 fiscal year ending in March, down from an earlier estimate of 50.8 billion rand, and that the revenue shortfall was expected to continue into the medium term.

In a sign that it was mostly middle to high income earners who were targeted by the tax increases, the Treasury said the excise duty on luxury goods would be raised to 9 percent from 7 percent, among other taxes.

The budget deficit is expected to narrow to 3.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020 from 4.3 percent in the 2017/18 fiscal year, while gross debt is seen narrowing to 56 percent of GDP in the 2020/21 fiscal year from nearly 60 percent seen in the October mid-term budget statement.

($1 = 11.6359 rand)


(By Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Mfuneko Toyana. Additional reporting by Wendell Roelf and Alexander Winning in Cape Town; Editing by James Macharia and Richard Balmforth)

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Growth in African wealth brings more philanthropy

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Mo Ibhrahim Foundation

As the number of millionaires and billionaires on the continent grow, many give back to programs promoting health, education and entrepreneurship.

As the wealth of the continent increases, African philanthropy is on the rise.

For example, Aliko Dangote of Nigeria, the richest person in Africa recently joined with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to pledge $100 million to fight malnutrition in Nigeria.

Dangote has supported programs in education, youth empowerment and health as well as a program that offers micro grants to rural women and young people to help them start businesses.

Now he will help in the battle against malnutrition in his home country, where one in five children are malnourished and one in three suffers from stunted growth – the highest number in Africa.

With a fortune of $17 billion built in cement and sugar manufacturing, Dangote is considered the richest person in Africa.

Philanthropy increasing across Africa

Dangote is not alone in using some of his considerable wealth to help others.

A recent report by UBS and Trust Africa said philanthropy on the continent is on the increase, building on longstanding African traditions of giving back to family and community.

“Over the past ten to fifteen years, there has been phenomenal growth in philanthropic institutions across Africa,” according to the study, “Africa’s Wealthy Give Back” (pdf). “We have begun to see the emergence of more strategic philanthropy,” along with more formal infrastructure for giving, the report said.

The USB-Trust Africa study cited projections by McKinsey Global Institute that gross domestic product in sub-Saharan Africa will grow to $2.6 trillion by 2020. With that will come corresponding increases in the number of wealthy individuals.

Dangote with Bill Clinton

Dangote with Bill Clinton

Growing wealth fuels giving

It said there were nearly 150,000 wealthy people in African in 2013, and the number had increased 3.7 percent over the previous year. At the same time, the total wealth of this group increased by 7.3% to $1.3 trillion.

There are about 25 major foundations on the continent.

Patrice Motsepe, a South African mining tycoon, in 2010 was the first African to sign the Giving Pledge that was started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. In 2013, Motsepe donated half his fortune to his own foundation to help those in need. His net worth is estimated at $1.4 billion.

Sudanese billionaire Mohamed Ibrahim’s foundation produces an index of African governance and Ibrahim is known for fighting government corruption on the continent. His Mo Ibrahim foundation also offers scholarship aid to young African leaders. A pioneer of telecoms in Africa with Celtel International, his fortune is estimated at $1.1 billion.

Tony Elumelu, a Nigerian banker, whose foundation is funding 10,000 African startups at a cost of $100 million. The program provides entrepreneurs with $10,000 each, half for training and half to start the business. Elumelu’s goal is to create one million jobs and add up to $10 billion to Africa’s gross domestic product. Elumelu’s net worth is estimated at $700 million

Jim Ovia, the founder of Zenith Bank, one of the largest banks in Nigeria, and of the telecom Visafone, which has three million subscribers, supports technology startups. His wealth is estimated at $550 million.

With a fortune estimated at $450 million, Cyril Ramaphosa, vice president of South Africa, supports South African entrepreneurs through his Shanduka Foundation. His Adopt-a-School Foundation has already built 454 schools.

Philanthropy builds on African tradition

Halima Mahomed, a philanthropy advisor to Trust Africa, said the wealthy Africans are following deeply ingrained traditions of African culture. “Rich or poor, everyone gives in Africa” and the newly wealthy are following that trend, Mahomed said.

Gregorie Muhr, a philanthropy analyst at UBS, said the approach is changing, as the new philanthropists take a more business-like approach to their giving, having seen that millions of dollars previously donated in Africa have not always reached the intended objectives.

The advent of billionaire philanthropists is not unique to Africa. “The trend is global’’ in developing markets where a new class of super rich emerges, according to Jenny Hodgson, executive director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations.

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