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The Cost of Doing Business in South Africa
A recent study 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 in – especially one with a first-world infrastructure and high standard of living. Although a stronger local currency has strengthened against other major currencies in recent years, the rand still makes commercial and residential real estate, quality hotels and restaurants cheap by world standards.
South Africa’s energy costs are also among the lowest in the world. Eskom supplies most of Africa with electricity and is known for its superior supply quality. The country also compares favorably in terms of oil prices, with the private sector and multinational oil companies refining and marketing almost all imported oil products in southern Africa.
The license to another fixed line operator is expected to reduce the cost of telecommunications in South Africa. The new operator is due to start operating in late 2006, giving state-owned Telkom its first taste of real competition.
South Africa’s unit labor costs are significantly lower than in other key growth markets, including Mexico, Hungary, Malaysia and Singapore. In addition, recent years have seen an increase in the country’s labor productivity. South Africa has comprehensive labor legislation in place which facilitates working conditions and contributes to a significant reduction in the number of lost working days due to industrial action since 1994.
South Africa’s corporate tax rate – down to 29% for 2005/06 – compares favorably with a number of developing companies, and the prospects for further reductions are good.
Ease of doing business in South Africa:
South Africa is among the top 30 countries in the world for ease of doing business, according to a 2005 World Bank report. The result suggests that South Africa is making progress in creating an environment conducive to investment, which the government has identified as key to achieve a growth rate of 6%.
The study ranked 155 countries according to the number of procedures, time and costs involved in: starting a business; dealing with licenses; employment and dismissal of workers; registration of property; get credit; protection of investors; pay taxes; trade across borders; enforcement of contracts; and close a business.
South Africa was ranked 28th, ahead of Spain (ranked 30th), Austria (32nd), France (44th), Russia (79th), China (91st) and Brazil (119th). Overall, SA had the highest ranking of light business on the African continent.
Industrial capacity, cutting-edge technology:
South Africa’s industrial production growth is well above the average for developing markets.
The country’s manufacturing output is becoming increasingly technology-intensive, with high-tech manufacturing sectors – such as machinery, scientific equipment and motor vehicles – enjoying a growing 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 energy and fuel, steel production, deep-level mining, telecommunications and information technology.
A number of industrial support measures have been introduced since 1994 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 support programs).
The government has provided incentives for value-added manufacturing projects, support for industrial innovation, improved access to finance and an enabling environment for the development of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMME).
Industrial Development Zones have been established in close proximity to major ports and airports, offering world-class infrastructure, dedicated customs support and reduced taxation.
South Africa has a well-developed and regulated competition regime based on best international practice. The Competition Act of 1998 fundamentally reformed the country’s competition law and strengthened the powers of competition authorities, similar to EU, US and Canadian models.
The Act variously prohibits anti-competitive conduct, restrictive practices (such as price-fixing, undercutting and secret bidding) and “abuse” by “dominant” firms (firms with a market share of 35% or more).
Authorities have been appointed to monitor implementation and compliance with the law, and regulators have been appointed to oversee natural monopolies and promote universal access to utilities.
I incorporate material from the South African Department of Trade and Industry.
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