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The Cost of Doing Business in South Africa
A recent survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked South Africa as highly cost-effective (10th out of 31 countries surveyed).
South Africa’s exchange rate makes it one of the cheapest countries to do business – especially a country with first-class infrastructure and a high standard of living. Although the stronger local currency has appreciated against other major currencies in recent years, the rand exchange rate still makes commercial and residential real estate, quality hotels and restaurants cheap by world standards.
Energy costs in South Africa are also some of the lowest in the world. Eskom supplies most of Africa with electricity and is known for its excellent quality of supply. The country is also doing well in terms of oil prices, with the private sector and multinational oil companies refining and selling almost all of the imported petroleum products in southern Africa.
The licensing of a second fixed-line operator is expected to reduce telecommunications costs in South Africa. The new operator is due to be operational by the end of 2006, giving state-owned Telkom its first taste of real competition.
Unit labor costs in South Africa are significantly lower than in other key emerging markets, including Mexico, Hungary, Malaysia and Singapore. In addition, there has been a sharp increase in labor productivity in the country in recent years. South Africa has comprehensive labor legislation in place that facilitates labor relations and has contributed to a significant decrease in the number of man-days lost due to industrial action since 1994.
South Africa’s corporate tax rate – down to 29% in 2005/06 – compares favorably with many emerging companies and prospects for further reductions are good.
Ease of doing business in South Africa:
According to a 2005 World Bank report, South Africa is among the 30 countries with the best business opportunities in the world. The finding suggests South Africa is making progress in creating an investment-friendly environment, which the government has identified as key to achieving the 6% growth rate.
The survey ranked 155 countries according to the number of procedures, time and costs associated with: starting a business; processing licenses; hiring and firing workers; property registration; obtaining credit; investor protection; paying taxes; cross-border trading; contract enforcement; and closing the deal.
South Africa was ranked 28th ahead of Spain (30), Austria (32), France (44), Russia (79), China (91) and Brazil (119). Overall, SA had the highest ranking for ease of doing business on the African continent.
Industrial capacity, cutting-edge technology:
Industrial production growth in South Africa is well above the average for developing markets.
The country’s manufacturing output is increasingly technology-intensive, with high-tech manufacturing sectors – such as machinery, scientific equipment and motor vehicles – enjoying an increasing share of total manufacturing output since 1994.
SA’s technological research and quality standards are world renowned. The country has developed a number of leading technologies, particularly in the fields of energy and fuels, steelmaking, deep mining, telecommunications and information technology.
Since 1994, a number of industrial support measures have been introduced to increase the competitiveness of South Africa’s industrial base. These include placing more emphasis on supply-side rather than demand-side measures (such as tariffs and expensive export promotion programs).
The government has provided incentives for value-added manufacturing projects, support for industrial innovation, better access to finance and an enabling environment for the development of small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs).
Industrial development zones have been established in close proximity to major ports and airports, offering world-class infrastructure, specialized customs support and reduced taxation.
South Africa has a well-developed and regulated competition regime based on international best practice. The Competition Act of 1998 fundamentally reformed the country’s competition legislation and strengthened the powers of competition authorities along the lines of the European Union, the US and Canada.
The law imposes various prohibitions on anti-competitive conduct, restrictive practices (such as price-fixing, predatory pricing and secret tendering) and “abuses” by “dominant” firms (firms with a market share of 35% or more).
Authorities were appointed to monitor implementation and compliance with the law, and regulators were tasked with overseeing natural monopolies and promoting universal access to public services.
I am including material from the South African Department of Trade and Industry.
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