article banner

Doing business in South Africa

An interview with Deepak Nagar


How do you assess the outlook for your economy?

The outlook has improved somewhat since the ANC’s Manguang conference at the end of last year. It is encouraging for business leaders to see the adoption of the national development plan, with various measures to tackle unemployment, poverty and inequality; measures to reassure investors; and a line drawn under the issue of nationalism. The latest IBR figures suggest optimism is in line with the BRIC average which seems about right.

The long term impact of the contagion of strikes in the mining sector is a concern and the mixed signals coming out of government even more so. There is no doubt that the violent strikes in the mining sector and the killings in Marikana hurt our country’s reputation as a destination of choice for foreign direct investment.

What are the top three strengths of your economy as a potential target for investors?

Our financial systems are sophisticated, robust and well regulated. South African banking regulations rank with the best in the world, while the sector has long been rated among the top 10 globally. Foreign banks are well represented and electronic banking facilities are extensive, with internet banking a growth feature of the sector.

A mature, efficient, secure market with a world class securities exchange. The JSE Limited is the largest securities exchange in Africa and it also rates amongst the top 20 exchanges in the world in terms of market capitalisation.

The country has world-class infrastructure, including a modern transport network, relatively low-cost and widely available energy, and sophisticated telecommunications facilities. These were significantly upgraded and expanded ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but the investment didn’t stop there. The government has identified massive infrastructure projects as key to boosting the country’s economic growth rate and creating employment, and is spending billions on getting the investment ball rolling.

What three things should business leaders be aware of when investing in your economy?

Exchange control is virtually non-existent. Thus, the ease of funds introduced and remitted is extremely comforting for foreign investors.

South African businesses face fewer constraints to business expansion that their BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) counterparts.

South Africa has very competitive labour costs. For professional jobs, labour costs are less than half of the cost of European countries. For manufacturing jobs, labour costs are around a third of the cost of Europe.

What sectors does your firm specialise in?

We have experts in a number of sectors including mining, tourism, hospitality & leisure, real estate & construction, sustainability/cleantech and food & beverage.

Deepak Nagar is National Chairman, Grant Thornton South Africa.