In 2019 we successfully introduced the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC) data onto WOWEB, which gives users access to all registered companies in South Africa. While the information is limited and is provided by the company itself or an outsourced third party and has not been validated, it is useful to have access to the full South African business universe. If you do not have access to CIPC and would like to trial it, please let us know. Together with Amabhungane and the Helen Suzman Foundation, we have made considerable progress toward the introduction of legislation by the DTI for companies to disclose ultimate beneficial ownership to CIPC with their annual returns. This will enhance the CIPC data set considerably. We also have the support of Corruption Watch, the Financial Intelligence Centre and Business Leadership South Africa with this initiative. WOWEB now has ownership of 188 586 companies, full profiles of 18 875 companies and reports on 374 industries across Africa. This year we onboarded twenty four new clients, employed two additional researchers in our PE office and one in the JHB office and put two disabled learners through a year’s technology course via Afrika Tikkun. Carla has also employed a team of students to enhance our municipality data set during their holidays. If you are travelling over the festive season, please do so safely and may 2020 meet all your expectations.
South African imports from Africa have grown by a multiple of five to 12% of total imports since 1995 and its exports to the continent have almost doubled from 14% to 27% of total exports over the same period, positioning it second only to Asia as the major exporter to the continent. As such it is interesting that Who Owns Whom has recently had a number of report requests on the food and beverage, telecoms and energy industries in Angola, Eswatini, Kenya, and Mozambique. South Africa competes with Portugal for wine exports to Mozambique, and in 2017 imports of South African wine declined to 970,000 litres (45% was white, 30% red and 25% sparkling) from 1.2 million litres, according to statistics from SA Wine Industry Information and Systems. About 10% of the wine consumed by Angolans is South African. South Africa’s three biggest sugar companies, Illovo Sugar, Tongaat Hulett and RCL Foods, are heavily involved in the Eswatini sugar industry through co-ownerships in production estates and mills. While we are aware of the significant market share MTN has in Nigeria it also has a material footprint in Kenya as has Vodacom via Safaricom. Due to Sasol’s liquified natural gas operations in Mozambique, South Africa is the main trade partner for petroleum gas, and further funding models for industry infrastructure, such as private-public partnerships, are being implemented. In the pipeline arebanking sector reports on Botswana, Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Already published is the banking sector in Angola. Following the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, it is forecast that 90% of trade on the continent could be duty-free by July 2020. That is the African opportunity.
The effects of a long civil war, an Ebola crisis from 2014 to 2016 and the subsequent withdrawal of peacekeeping forces and aid continue to weigh heavily on the Liberian economy. Estimates of the country’s GDP, and its growth outlook, vary widely. African Development Bank figures indicate GDP growth was an estimated 3.2% in 2018, from 2.5% in 2017, driven largely by growth in mining and manufacturing. It said agriculture, forestry, and fishing dominate the economy, contributing 70.3% of GDP in 2017. It expects GDP growth of 4.7% in 2019 and 4.8% in 2020, but warns of the risk of debt distress, which could increase if borrowing to meet large public investment needs increases while the output of key export sectors declines. The World Bank’s lower estimates put Liberia’s 2018 GDP at 1.2% from 2.5% in 2017. It expects growth to slow to 0.4% in 2019 and remain at about 1.5% over the medium term to 2021, well below the rate of population growth of 2.6%, due to a lack of new investments in the mining sector and a modest improvement in agriculture With inflation reaching 28.5% at the end of 2018 and employment opportunities few, the population remains under serious financial pressure. According to an August article in the Economist, the world has “lost interest” in Liberia, and aid had slumped. United Nations peacekeepers, whose budget was about a quarter of GDP between 2007 and 2018, have gone, leaving a failing economy and weak state beleaguered by corruption. Ex footballer George Weah, elected in 2017, has done little to transform the country’s politics or economy. All Africa reported that the opposition Alternative National Congress has called government “economic criminals” getting large salaries, allowances and benefits, “while the economy bleeds and the citizenry wallop in abject poverty.” There is one area where Liberia remains world class. Who Owns Whom’s report on The Maritime Transport Sector and Marine Manufacturing states that Panama has the world’s largest ship’s registry, followed by the Marshall Islands and Liberia as these countries offer incentives for ship and boat owners who register under their liberal “flags of convenience”. Liberia claims to have 4,400 vessels, or 12% of the world’s oceangoing fleet, in its registry, which is headquartered in Virginia, in the US. However, few benefits flow through to the Liberian people or the economy, which continues to be vulnerable to external shocks, and whose infrastructure deficit continues to constrain development.
Who Owns Whom’s MD Andrew McGregor believes South Africa needs to have tough conversations about labour broking if it wants to change direction on inequality. Read more on The Africa Report