Finding treasure in the National Treasury

The National Treasury assures us that South Africa is not in a worst case scenario, despite the downgrade by two rating agencies, South Africa is still considered in the investment grade by Moody and Standard & Poor’s. This recognition is enough to create a staircase for. The critical issue at present is to evade further downgrades. With great focus on properly implementing existing policies, there are still many possibilities for the country’s economy to grow. With growth spurred by higher demand in China and a growing economy in the United States, South Africa could yet walk out of its economic downfall.

South African Finance minister Malusi Gigaba will meet International counterparts at the IMF and the World Bank meeting in Washington DC on 21 April 2017  with the aim to reassure, reaffirm and instill confidence in the South African economic stability. The South African Treasury is confident that the economy is resilient and robust enough to bounce back to investment grade, it has policies already being implemented to ensure a lift in the economy and a curb in the decline of the rand. The treasury is assuring citizens of its plans and efforts to boost the nation’s financial situation.

“Radical means it must be quick‚ there must be change and something must happen immediately and transform the economy to serve all our people.” Cyril Ramaphosa

Read more on restoring SA economy here

IMF sees sub-Saharan Africa growth near two-decade low in 2016 – by FIN24

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Johannesburg – Economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa will likely slow this year to its weakest in nearly two decades, hurt by a slump in commodity prices, the Ebola virus outbreak and drought, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Tuesday.

In its African Economic Outlook, the fund said the region would likely grow 3% this year – the lowest rate since 1999 – after expanding by 3.4% in 2015.

Growth was seen recovering to 4% next year, helped by a slight recovery in commodity prices, and the fund said it was still optimistic about the region’s prospects in the longer term.

“However, to realise this potential, a substantial policy reset is critical in many cases,” the fund said.

Affected countries needed to contain fiscal deficits as the reduction in revenue from the commodities sector was expected to persist, it added.

Major oil exporters Angola and Nigeria were hardest hit by the slump in commodities prices, as were Ghana, South Africa and Zambia, the report said.

Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone were only gradually recovering from the Ebola epidemic, while several southern and eastern African countries including Ethiopia, Malawi and Zimbabwe were suffering from a severe drought, the IMF added.

On the upside, Ivory Coast, Kenya and Senegal would see growth of more than 5%, mostly “supported by ongoing infrastructure investment efforts and strong private consumption,” the report said.

“The decline in oil prices has also helped these countries, though the windfall has tended to be smaller than expected, as exposure to the decline in other commodity prices and currency depreciations have partly offset the gains in many of them,” it added.

Reflecting on SDG’s in Relation to the WEF Resolutions

 

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World Economic Forum (WEF’s) theme for the year of “Mastering the 4th Industrial Revolution” presented some of the challenges that developing countries face, although opportunities of creating new markets, re-engineering on the existing business strategies seemed to be the focus. A shift in mind set and capacity building to support national plans stemmed up as an engine for building towards a positive socio – economic activity in the near future. The core of the conversations aligned directly and indirectly to the Paris agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) of supporting responsible business practises, narrowing the gap between the developed and developing countries and “making the world a better place”.

Progress Review

As an emerging market, South Africa (SA) is currently not yielding the expected growth prospects. Progress has been uneven in whether it is in ensuring access to internet connection or in being innovative in the prevention of illnesses instead of treating diseases. Limitations to internet connectivity impede transfer of knowledge, business expansion and creation of small businesses – while the latter tends to decrease the rate of production and adversely having a ripple effect in the economic activity of the country. Entrepreneurship has been cited as the driver of change for the African economies. However, gender imparity, quality education, access to finance, data sharing, sound governance structures, bridging human capital and infrastructure gaps are the keys to unlocking the full realisation of a transformative, inclusive and sustainable economic growth path. SA has taken great strides in addressing gender equality and women empowerment in both corporate and public enterprises, but there is still some rhetoric that needs to be transformed into action. Authentic support thereof for entrepreneurship through industrialisation still needs to be re-invented.

With climate change revolutionising the way business is done, SA and Africa at large have an opportunity to turn the renewables market into a massive growth area. According to the World Bank “one investor characterized the renewable programme as the most successful public-private partnership in Africa in the last 20 years. Important lessons can be learned for both South Africa and other emerging markets contemplating investments in renewables and other critical infrastructure investments”. The role of regional infrastructure development is critical in building a continuing socio and economic development.

Like many of the developing countries SA has the world’s youngest population to train and develop in building agile and robust sustainable business and government strategies in the future.  With climate change threatening food security and exacerbating slow economic growth. The emergence of new technology, as in biotechnology can be further developed in building a resilient and sustainable agriculture. Each country has to consider the ethical issues that this new wave of technology also brings forth as it develops its policies and regulations.

Whilst the prime responsibility to deliver rests with the government, according to PwC 87% of SA businesses are aware and understand that company responsibility lies beyond profit and that its performance is interlinked to the triple bottom line. The accountancy profession has a critical role to play in supporting the building blocks of a

What is occupying the Minds of CFOs?

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ACCA’s market position as leader in support and research provides assistance to members and industry, drawing on current and future trends. ACCA as an association calls on members to provide feedback from the industry in order to assist with the correct support and research data.

The financial landscape brings a fair share of stress. CFO’s are required to juggle multiple tasks in order to remain loyal to a prescribed objective. This juggling “effect” is found in majority of local and international companies as they go about their day-to-day duties. In a recent networking, CFOs and Finance Directors shared what is occupying their minds and also the challenges they face in trying to find success in their roles.

CFO SA director Melle Eijckelhoff kicked the discussion off, asking guests what’s keeping them occupied at the moment. Amanda Albäck, Financial Director at Tongaat Hulett, replied – “the margin squeeze” as the biggest consumer of mind focus. The paradox of balancing ever-increasing operating costs against keeping customer price increases reasonable, and showing satisfactory profit growth is a reality that businesses find themselves having to deal with every day.”

Peter Walsh, Group CFO at Servest, mentioned “expanding into Africa” as one of the most stressful parts of his work. “There is a lot of pressure to get it right, but people we deal with quite unashamedly ask for facility payments, as they call it. There are massive opportunities in the continent, but there are also plenty of headaches.” Domestically, Walsh sometimes senses distrust for his company, because it can provide an integrated package of many different services, ranging from security to lawn mowing. “When we manage a property, there is one point of contact. If any part, regardless if it is security or landscaping, does not do well, it brings risks for the whole development. That is certainly a risk that we face.”

The challenges of Jobo Moshesh, CFO of SITA, are different. His parastatal company consolidates and coordinates the State’s information technology resources, leading to some unique issues. “A significant majority of our clients get money from National Treasury.  My role at SITA requires consistently maintaining a creative balance between ensuring the financial sustainability of the organisation, while effectively lowering the cost of delivering ICT services and solutions to our clients. This environment is governed with laws such as the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), a piece of legislation that requires a combination of sound fiscal management and a commitment in practice to implementing effective governance” (http://cfo.co.za/profiles/blogs/cfos-discuss-their-challenges-during-successful-executive-dinner )

The mark that truly sets successful CFOs and Financial Directors from those that fail is the ability to; handle the challenges that exist currently and ensure that sound solutions are crafted to turn them to success; and further to look at the future and see the trends that may have direct or indirect impact on the business and the operations.

The upcoming ACCA event titled the Future of Finance Leadership Summit on the 20th August 2015 will look at future challenges on the horizon that will affect the way finance professionals in South Africa do business. Borrowing from the findings of the ACCA research reports titled, Future Pathways to Finance Leadership, one of the subjects discussed will be the twin peaks model of regulation. This regulation that will be monitored by the SARB and the FSB will modify the methods of operation that finance practitioners are used to.

The summit will also delve into the issue of Generation-Y (Report: Generation Y: Realising the Potential) and the motivations that drive this market. The need to understand this market needs no emphasis; this cohort will in the years to come be the backbone that the country leans on. The transfer of skills from the old generations to Generation-Y cannot be ignored by HR Specialists. This market is important to employers and also to the industry.

The rapid speed that the financial sector is evolving requires constant learning and re-learning. The ability to learn from the past, manage the present and anticipate the movements of the future will be the difference between efficient finance practitioners and those that struggle to confirm.

The Role of Fraud in the Economy

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According to various reports, fraud is South Africa’s number one economic crime and considering that fraud accounts for 7% of company revenue worldwide, any further increases in this figure could prove detrimental to an organisation in these difficult economic times. In South Africa alone, it is estimated that fraud costs the economy in excess of R2 billion a year. There are a number of reasons why people fall victim to the pressures of fraud. In the economic state that we find ourselves in there is scarcity of jobs and this has resulted in people using unethical methods for financial gain. On the other hand, in an attempt to reduce costs, companies usually resort to measures like retrenching staff (which may affect the segregation of duties doctrine), reduced training, abandoning cheques and balances which may be in place, or cutting back on internal audits, amongst various other things. In such conditions, an organisation is susceptible to fraudulent behaviour from its employees both internally, as well as externally in transactions binding the firm. Ever since the 2008 downturn the relationship between the finance industry and consumers has changed. According to an ACCA report titled Culture vs regulation: what is needed to improve ethics in finance, “the crisis shattered the public’s trust in the banking system and as the examination of financial institutions continues the relationship between the bank and the public continues to deteriorate as ever more scandals are announced”. A number of policies have been drafted to aid this situation, but policies and regulations can only go so far. Regulations and policies alone will not be able to combat fraud in business. Regulation failed to prevent the 2008 crisis; risk was constantly discounted. In some instances it was considered non-existent. Technological developments and complex products can be created rapidly, which means that the regulator will always be playing “catch-up”. So maybe in highlighting the impacts of fraud on the economy and how these affect each of us directly there might be some improvements that emerge. Below are some of the impacts of fraud on the country:

  • Corrupt activity hinders development
  • Contributes to the depletion of the public purse and distorts markets
  • Hinders local and foreign direct investment.

Countless studies around the world show how corruption can interrupt investment, restrict trade, reduce economic growth and distort the facts and figures associated with government expenditure. But the most alarming studies are the ones directly linking corruption in certain countries to increasing levels of poverty and income inequality. The issue of ethics comes to play, and these are determined by the culture of an organisation. The ACCA report looks at the culture of tolerance in an organisation, for instance, is profit valued more than the means. Does an organisation promote a culture of high risk overlooking regulations and policies? It is important that business managers realise that these “insignificant” hints lay foundations to bad or good behaviour. Over-reliance on regulators has been found wanting in days of old when dealing with fraud and corruption, it is therefore important that business managers understand that the most power lies in the culture of the organisation and they have the most influence on this than external regulators.

Entrepreneurial Activity in Africa

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Africa is open for business it seems, many investors from all over the world are attracted to the African landscape. Africa is competing with major economies for investor dollars.

But how has the concept of entrepreneurship been received by the African youth? In 2012 the Global Entrepreneurship Index sited a decline in entrepreneur activity in South Africa, this was after the anticipated increase after the 2010 World Cup. This loss of entrepreneurial spirit was attributed to a complicated cocktail of problems, including the poor education system, difficult and onerous labour laws, crime, government corruption and nepotism and generally unfavourable conditions for entrepreneurs in South Africa.

These results have however changed, it seems that the problems that countries faced presented an opportunity. History has proven that when the state of the economy declines, entrepreneurship plays a major role in getting it stable again. In the 2014 GEI, South Africa places 53 out of 130 countries participating and by virtue of its score is operating at 40% of its entrepreneurship capacity. By comparison the index suggest that, as a whole, the world is at 52 % of its entrepreneurial capacity. This score places South Africa at the top of the Sub Saharan Africa region, well above the next highest ranked country, Botswana which placed 66.

An ACCA study titled, 100 Drivers of Change for the Global Accountancy Profession, panel members outlined different factors that have changed the face of the business discipline in our age. These factors, it seems, know no boundaries, they affect Africans that wish to enter the entrepreneurial space too. They are: technology, education and the economic state. Technology has made its effects felt in Africa, the most notable factor is its ability to lower entry barriers to industries/markets that Africans could not get into in the past. Access to information through the internet, although not at its peak, has become easier for African entrepreneurs.

The ACCA study highlights the costs of university fees and the greater demand from students as another factor that has led the youth into entrepreneurship. There are a lot of efforts that governments have done in helping the youth get the proper education sought-after, but with the increase in population, those efforts have not been able to help everyone. In embracing the entrepreneurial spirit, the African youth seems to have adopted the belief that universities are not the only way to be prepared for entrepreneurship. Abai Schulze, owner of ZAAF Collections based in Ethopia, “I don’t think business school was going to teach me how to run a business in Ethiopia. You don’t go by the book when you are running a business here. You just have to jump into it and learn as you go.”

It is only fair that Africans exploit the fertile ground of their land first before external investors can enjoy the fruits that Africa offers in business. Entrepreneurship plays a huge role in dealing with issues such as unemployment. It is pleasing to see that there is a rise in entrepreneurial activity and that the African youth is charting its own thinking regarding entrepreneurship. Business in Africa needs careful study and as many big corporations have discovered, strategies that worked in other parts of the world cannot just be copied and pasted if one desires to enjoy success in the African context.

The change in thinking by the African youth also poses a new challenge for professionals that service the industries in Africa. Salin Talavdekar, senior accountant at Citadel Risk, advises that accountants evolve into businesses partners rather than just service providers. It is professionals that understand the mindset that African entrepreneurs employ that will be service this market.

Part 2: Digitalisation: The Vehicle of Transformation – CXO African Convention

Dubbed by a renowned media publication in the late 90s as the “Hopeless Continent”, Africa has managed to transition and surpass its dark shadow of doom and gloom. At ACCA’s recently held CXO African Convention echoed positive statements from experts regarding Africa’s evolution into realm of digitalisation. At the convention, top level economists deliberated on a range of themes from opportunities of Africa as the emerging digital continent, to the possibilities presented from access to the world’s youngest talent pool.

According to Professor Oliver Saasa, Managing Consultant and CEO of Premier Consult Ltd, there’s a new wave of optimism sweeping the continent. Africa’s overall Gross Domestic Product has indicated a steadily increase from 5.5% between 2005 and 2008. In 2009, the GDP increased by an additional 2.4%, continuing to a 4.7% upturn in 2010 and reaching 5.2% in 2014. If you look deep into the African continent you will see that Africa is greatly sustained by its agricultural activities, at 12.7% GDP in 2009, which continue to generate a 6% increase paralleled to the global rate of only 3.2%. Evidently, Africa is indeed blossoming.

The world of digitalisation has marked the onset of the new world order, where technology is incorporated into trades and merged with strong marketing strategies. Although the continent is growing economically at a rapid pace, Africa still needs to adopt an adaptive trait in order to remain relevant and secure growth transformation.

“In a digital world, innovative technology offers ample prospects. However, digitalisation is not primarily about technology” states Theo Bensch, Managing Executive, Telkom Cybernest. Digitalisation not only enhances business output and operational efficiency but it also improves consumer engagement, education and health. It can be seen as a transformational tool which spreads beyond daily life and business relations.

 “The landscape of the digital age is increasingly being driven by innovations. It is important to understand and appreciate the factors that are ushering in such changes and how these are impacting the modern day business” – Karen Smal, Acting Head, ACCA South Africa

The CXO African Convention which boasted seven of the top ten African economies provided great sight and an unparalleled access to hear transformational growth strategies adopted by best-in-class businesses.