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The Fintech solution

The #feesmustfall campaign has brought about some robust discussions around the future of the youth in South Africa. The focus on youth un(der) employment is one of the topics that has been pushed to the forefront. With the current unemployment rate of 26.6%, there needs to be more emphasis on self-empowerment to allow us as a country to move forward economically. The traditional approach to job hunting should be attuned to the future where technology can be embraced and tactical thinking is used to drive the economy. This involves entrepreneurial endeavours, looking for opportunities in young companies and upskilling manual labourers.

Given the fragile state of the economy, the private sector, which represents a considerable contributor to gross domestic product (GDP) is placed under pressure and as a result many companies have cut costs through retrenchments.

As the economy contracts, start-up companies have shown resilience and may be the solution to the country’s joblessness woes. The growth of financial technology (Fintech) companies in South Africa in particular is on the rise.

Fintech companies are companies that find inefficiencies in the market and using innovative thinking and technology to provide solutions and products to combat those inefficiencies in order to add value to consumers. The balance between technology and human workforce is a fine one, but how can the solution to eradicating or improving unemployment be innovation and technology when innovation and technology are replacing human resources?

“The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo” – Bob Iger (Chairman and CEO, Walt Disney Company).

fintech

(Source: innovation-village.com)

Small and medium enterprises (SME’s) play a key role in driving the economy and aiding job creation, however, some of the systems that are in place are not necessarily geared for small business but aimed rather at traditional institutions. This imposes restrictions on the ability for SME’s to prosper. Measures have been implemented by government such as government grants and tax concessions to assist the growth of SME’s. Although progress has been made to stimulate SME’s, gaps and inefficiencies still exist.

Fintech companies which thrive in the banking and financial services space are disrupting the playing field by providing services and products that are more accessible and bespoke to the consumer.

Fintech companies are able to provide funding solutions, mobile money transactions, mobile billing systems and trading platforms (to name a few) to SME’s in order for them to grow their business. Since funding remains a stumbling block for many SME’s, Fintech companies are allowing these SME’s access to funding that banks are often not willing to provide. Thus, Fintech companies have a vital role to play in the success of SME’s.

uncovered-ventureburn-lists-south-africas-fintech-ecosystem-update-02

(Source: ventureburn.com)

I recently attended the Finance Indaba held on the 13th and 14th of October which also hosted the African Fintech awards ceremony. Easy Equities/SatrixNow won the best African Fintech company for 2016. This company has changed the landscape of investments by making it accessible and affordable to all individuals. SatrixNow allows individuals to easily purchase exchange-traded funds (ETF) as well as vouchers via the app. Easy Equities was able to identify the need for affordable investments and as such patented fractional ownership of shares. Individuals who were previously unable to afford to invest in shares can now pool their funds with other individuals to purchase shares.

Some other examples of Fintech companies are as follows:

Lulalend[1]

Lulalend provides funding in a transparent and understandable manner. Funding is applied for online and the outcome of the application will be provided within minutes. Funding amounts are between R20 000 and R250 000 and payable within 6 months.

Thundafund[2]

Thundafund works on the crowdfunding model through which people with great ideas can access capital, establish an initial market for their products/services and receive business/mentorship support. Thundafund aims at channelling R271 million to 5200 enterprises/projects and creating 15000 jobs in the next four years.

Payments and transfers

Peach payments[3]

Peach Payments provides payment solutions to online and mobile businesses enabling them to easily accept payments from consumers across the globe and especially from those in the emerging markets. Payments can be accepted through websites, mobile sites and mobile applications.

Pocket slip[4]

Pocketslip has developed the world’s first fully integrated digital receipt technology App that provides secure and live cloud based storage of receipts and integrates with all POS systems. It is ‘cost savings’, ‘CRM’ and ‘Green’ rolled into one and it’s free to the user. A customer shops at a Pocketslip enabled retailer and automatically receives their receipt on their email, app and online to use later on for warrantees, returns, tax and accounting. Retailers love the solution as they have access to their customers and can send them relevant offers based on historic purchases. This is facilitated through the Pocketslip NEWTON machine learning engine. Pocketslip currently processes in excess of 1000 receipts per day.

Potential gaps that can be filled in the South African market

The potential for growth in the Fintech environment seems endless and gaps still exist in South Africa and Africa for future Fintech companies to take advantage of. An example of this is a UK established company, Fingenious, which is a global supplier of artificial intelligence to the finance industry. Fingenious has changed the banking environment by providing tailor made solutions to customer questions instantaneously without employing help desks or call centres. Through technology and innovation, Fingenious has created help desk automation[5].

Fintech companies are the way forward, for both SME’s and consumers alike. We have a long way to go as a country in overcoming unemployment but the possibilities do exist and need to be taken advantage of. Our stringent labour laws can be relied on to protect those that need protection but should also allow for flexibility in dealing with technological advancements that are inevitable and which will alter the traditional labour environment. The real question is how to balance the efficiencies that technology brings about with the dire need for more employment opportunities.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Natasha Bhowani Seeth CA (SA)

                                                              

 


[1] www.lulalend.co.za

[2] www.fintech-africa.com

[3] www.peachpayments.com

[4]www.pocktslip.com

[5] www.fingenious.com

Small business tips

It has been a gruelling year thus far for individuals and businesses alike and the rollercoaster is not over yet. We have been inundated with news on the economy, and rightfully so as it is integral to the success or failure of our country. In previous newsletters I’ve informed you of some of the macro economic factors that impact our economy and hopefully this has allowed you to analyse the impact of the recent developments in your environment.

One of the areas impacted by the poor performance of the economy and one that is close to my heart for obvious reasons is the impact on small business and the challenges they face.

In dealing with small business I have noticed a common dilemma; the administrative burden for small business makes it difficult to operate effectively.

I have tried my best to summarise the requirements as well as provide tips and useful links to those of you interested in starting your own business or for those small businesses that need some direction.

Where to begin?

Getting your company registered begins with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). The process is relatively straight forward and everything can be done online. The CIPC also requires all companies registered to submit an annual return. The CIPC will calculate a fee based on the turnover submitted.

South African Revenue Service (SARS)

These are the summarised details you need to be aware of as a small business owner;

  1. Types of registration

-       Income tax registration: You will normally automatically be allocated a tax reference number when you register your company via CIPC.

-       VAT registration: This is not mandatory but can be voluntary. It is mandatory for any business to register for VAT if the income earned in any consecutive twelve-month period exceeded or is likely to exceed R1 million.

-       PAYE, UIF and SDL registration: If you have employees, you must register for Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and Skills Development Levy (SDL). These amounts must be withheld by the employer and paid over to SARS.

-       Import Export licences: Should your business be involved in importing or exporting, you will need to apply for a licence.


  1. Submission requirements

Income tax

Income tax must be submitted annually (within 12 months after the end of the company’s financial year end). This submission is the ITR14. The ITR14 is basically a disclosure of a company’s financial statements to SARS.

Provisional tax

Provisional tax is enough to turn any business owner’s hair grey prematurely. Provisional tax must be submitted twice a year with a possible third submission. The first submission is halfway through the tax year and due at the end of August. The second submission is due at the end of the tax year being February. The submission is the IRP6. The first provisional tax payment is an estimate of the amount of tax due for the entire tax financial year (1 March – 28/29 Feb). This amount estimated must be within eighty percent of the final assessment, if not, SARS may impose a penalty. The third submission (top-up) is only required if insufficient tax was paid in the first two submissions.

VAT

When you register for VAT, you will be allocated a VAT period (VAT period is dependent on certain criteria being met). The period determines when you will submit and pay VAT to SARS.

  • Category A
  1. Under this category, a vendor is required to submit one return for every two calendar months, ending on the last day of January, March, May, July, September and November.
  2. The Commissioner will determine whether a vendor falls within this category.
  • Category B
  1. Under this category, a vendor is required to submit one return for every two calendar months, ending on the last day of February, April, June, August, October and December.
  2. The Commissioner will determine whether a vendor falls within this category.
  • Category C
  1. Under this category, a vendor is required to submit one return for each calendar month.
  2. A vendor will fall within this category if :
  • the total value of taxable supplies made by the vendor has exceeded or is likely to exceed R30 million in any consecutive period of 12 months,
  • the vendor has applied in writing to be placed in this category, or
  • the vendor repeatedly failed to perform any obligations as required by the VAT legislation.
     
  • Category D
  1. Under this category, a vendor submits one return for every six calendar months, ending on the last day of February and August.
  2. This category applies mainly to a vendor who –
  • carries on farming activities, where the total value of taxable supplies is less than R1.5 million for a period of 12 months,
  • is a micro business that is registered in terms of the Sixth Schedule to the Income Tax Act.

PAYE, SDL and UIF

The PAYE, SDL and UIF submissions are made monthly in the form of an EMP 201. On an annual basis, businesses are required make a declaration (EMP 501). This is a reconciliation between what was declared on a monthly basis, what was submitted on employees IRP5’s and what was paid over to SARS.

Other taxes such as dividends tax, estate duty and customs and excise etc. are also applicable to those businesses that require it.

Department of labour

If you have employees working in your business full time or part-time, you will need you meet the Department of Labour (DoL) requirements.

UIF

Please note that the UIF registration for SARS differs to that of the DoL. Monthly submissions need to be made to the DoL in the form of a U19 submission. This is a declaration to the DoL and no payment is due to the DoL.

Compensation for Occupational Diseases and Injuries (COID)

All employers who employ one or more workers in connection with their business or farming activities, are required to register with the Compensation Fund. Once registered, an annual submission (Return of Earnings) to the DoL is required and a fee payable.

The above requirements serve as a starter kit for small business. Depending on the nature of the business, additional licences and registrations may be applicable.


Saving on your taxes

As part of governments efforts to assist small business, SARS introduced reduced tax rates for business qualifying as either Small Business Corporations (SBC) or micro businesses.

If a business meets the requirements for a SBC (Appendix 1) then the business pays tax on the following table:

[1]Tax rates 1 April 2016 - 31 March 2017

​Taxable income (R)

Rate of tax​ (R)

0 – 75 000

0% of taxable income

75 001 – 365 000

7% of taxable income above 75 000

365 001 – 550 000

​20 300 + 21% of taxable income above 365 000

550 001 and above

​59 150 + 28% of taxable income above 550 000

A business can also register for turnover tax if the requirements (Appendix 2) of a micro business are met:

Turnover tax is a simplified system aimed at making it easier for micro business to meet their tax obligations. The turnover tax system replaces Income Tax, VAT, Provisional Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Dividends Tax for micro businesses with a qualifying annual turnover of R 1 million or less. A micro business that is registered for turnover tax can, however, elect to remain in the VAT system (from 1 March 2012).

Turnover tax is worked out by applying a tax rate to the taxable turnover of a micro business. The rates are applicable for any year of assessment ending during the period of 12 months ending on 28 February 2017:

Turnover​ (R)

Rate of tax (R)

0 - 335 000

0%​

335 001 - 500 000

1% of each R1 above 335 000

500 001 - 750 000

1 650 + 2% of the amount above 500 000

750 001 and above

6 650 + 3% of the amount above 750 000

Table 1: Turnover Tax Rates for any year of assessment ending during the period of 12 months ending on 28 February 2017.

Aside from the legal requirements, many small business struggle to finance operations long enough to allow the business an opportunity to succeed. There may be many avenues to explore in terms of financing but many of these are unknown to small businesses. I have included a few financing possibilities below:

www.sefa.org.za

http://www.nefcorp.co.za/HomebrPage.aspx

http://www.businesspartners.co.za/general-finance-solutions/

A trend that seems to be gaining momentum is crowd funding. If you are looking for funding and want to try this new age method, check out www.startme.co.za

Along these lines is also something referred to as angel investors. These are individuals who will finance projects that they believe will be profitable in exchange for equity or some form of return. You can visit these sites to find out more:

www.investmentnetwork.co.za

http://www.angelhub.co.za/

A host of government grants are available for various industries and have specific requirements. The process can be difficult and time consuming but if successful can change your business. The different grants offered can be found at: http://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_assistance.jsp

Conclusion

If you have begun on path of entrepreneurship or are thinking about diving into the unknown, be committed, stay motivated and persist. The journey is not an easy one, but small business plays a vital role in our economy and is instrumental in job creation.

Natasha Bhowani Seeth CA (SA)

SBC pic

Appendix 2

Questions[1]

​Will the “qualifying turnover” of the business be less than or equal to R1 million for the year of assessment?

​Do you declare that the business is not a “personal service provider” or a “labour broker” without a SARS exemption certificate?

​Does the business trade in one of the following forms: sole proprietor, partnership, close corporation, co-operative or company?

​If the business is a partnership, do you declare that all the partners will be individuals throughout the year of assessment?

​If the business is a close corporation, co-operative or company, do you declare that all of the shareholders/members will be individuals throughout the year of assessment?

​Do you declare that the business is not a public benefit organisation, recreational club, association of persons or a small business funding entity?

​Does the business have a year of assessment that ends on the last day of February?

​Do you declare that the owner, any partner, shareholders, members and the business do not hold shares/interests in a close corporation, company, or cooperative other than the following exceptions:

  • Listed South African companies;
  • Collective investment schemes;
  • Body corporates and share block companies;
  • Venture capital companies;
  • Less than 5% in social or consumer co-operatives;
  • Less than 5% in cooperative burial societies or primary savings co-operative banks;
  • Friendly societies;
  • Any other company that did not trade during any year of assessment and which did not own assets with a total market value that exceeds R5 000 during any year of assessment;
  • Any company that has taken steps to liquidate, wind up or deregister?

      a) If you are a natural person, do you declare that the income from "professional services" is not expected to exceed 20% of your total receipts during the year of assessment
      b) If the business is a company, close corporation or co-operative, do you declare that income from "professional services" and "investment income" is not expected to exceed 20% of the total receipts for the year of assessment?

      ​Do you declare that the income from the disposal of assets by the business over the year of assessment and the past two years of assessment is not expected to exceed R1.5 million in total?

      ​Do you declare that the business was not previously registered for the Turnover Tax?

      If the answer to any one of the questions is “NO”, the business will not qualify for turnover tax registration for that year of assessment.  

       




      [1] www.sars.gov.za

      Failing institutions

      South Africa’s financial institutions rank well globally, specifically our JSE, banking sector and governance in general ranks very well when compared to the rest of the world (including developed countries).

      In addition, our King Code of Corporate Governance and regulatory framework that guides our financial institutions has been highly acclaimed worldwide for many years. Institutions that have stood out include:

      - The Financial Services Board (‘FSB’)

      - National Treasury (‘NT’)

      - Ministry of Finance ('MOF') and,

      - South African Revenue Service ('SARS')

      Until recently….

      What has transpired over the past year at these institutions is somewhat laughable. However, we cannot ignore these problems that point to deeper underlying issues.

      financial-failure

      Let’s start with the Financial Services Board. The below is directly from an FSB brochure:

      “The FSB is the statutory regulator of the following financial industries in South Africa and carries out its functions in terms of the Financial Services Board Act No.97 of 1990, in the public interest:

      - insurance;

      - retirement funds;

      - financial markets;

      - collective investments; and

      - financial advisory and intermediary services.

      The FSB also has some jurisdiction in the banking sector with respect to market conduct issues. The mandate of the FSB is to:

      - supervise and enforce compliance with laws regulating financial institutions and the provision of financial services;

      - advise the Minister on matters concerning financial institutions and financial services; either of its own accord or at the request of the Minister; and

      - promote programmes and initiatives by financial institutions and bodies representing the financial services industry to inform and educate users and potential users of financial products and services.”

      The FSB should essentially ensure that the public is not prejudiced in any manner by any of the above institutions. Unfortunately over the past week information has come to light that all is not well WITHIN the FSB. In fact the Deputy Registrar of Pension Funds herself has ‘filed a notice with the North Gauteng High Court to force her employer to make public two potentially damning reports on the way in which it relied on major pension fund administrators to expedite the closure of so-called orphaned funds – one by former Constitutional Court Justice Kate O’Regan, and a forensic investigation by auditors KPMG.’

      These reports are allegedly supposed to demonstrate that when closing down pension funds, the FSB cut corners by handing control to major pension administrators.

      “I fear that it is probable that the members and beneficiaries of a significant number of funds ... may have been unlawfully deprived of retirement fund benefits,” she states in her affidavit.

      She goes on further to state that: “This has resulted in considerable benefit to the fund administrators and related service providers of financial products and services.”

      If you have followed any news in SA, it is clear that savings is a huge problem and with the majority of the retired population dependant on the State Old Age pension of R1 420 per month and R1440 per month for persons over the age of 75, the accusations mentioned above will anger many, especially as this is an institution that should protect retirement fund members from exploitation from service providers, not facilitate this exploitation as appears to be the case above.

      National Treasury or National Embarrassment?

      NT are the policy makers of the country that together with the MOF should guide the country to economic success. The Tax Law Amendment Act which has been signed in by the Presidency to take effect 1 March 2016 is under massive criticism by what seems like all unions in the country.

      Let’s talk about the implementation of the legislation. Communication is absolutely essential to avoid misunderstandings, unfortunately the manner in which NT communicated the changes in tax laws with stakeholders has left a lot to be desired. This has resulted in union members believing that government is going to access their hard earned retirement savings, and many of these members have resigned simply to get access to these funds. Definitely not the desired outcome in a country with an extremely poor savings record.

      In addition, while NT may have had the retirement outcomes of members in mind when the legislation was drafted (refer 27.5% tax deductibility of contributions to retirement savings vehicles), to me there seems to be a few other motives behind the change that Unions have caught on to. The most glaring of these is forced annuitisation at retirement for contributions to retirement funds post 1 March 2016. At first glance this seems great as many members squander their lump sum at retirement and this new legislation forces them to secure some kind of income in retirement. However, members would still like access to a state old age pension. What NT has failed to communicate is that members will still have access to a government pension subject to a ‘means test’ as has been the case in the past. The actual criteria for the means test has actually been extended and will be more inclusive going forward.

      What is clear of late is that NT has used fantastic case studies conducted world-wide in first world countries such as the UK, Canada and Australia in the drafting of new legislation especially when it comes to retirement savings. What NT have failed to take into account is that South Africa is not a first world country especially when you look at the distribution of income which is at the heart of the union discontent in this matter. The populations of UK, Canada, and Australia etc. have a large proportion of middle class, South Africa does not. So why would we even consider implementing a first world solution in a country that does not share the same characteristics of those first world countries? I’m still looking for an answer to that one.

      The realities of our country cannot be forgotten when implementing legislation that has worked elsewhere.

      Ministry of Finance or Ministry of musical chairs?

      Musical chairs fl20081230zga

       

      Let’s look at MOF next. The fracas that ensued over December 2015 will not be forgotten for a very long time. Three Finance Ministers in four days defies belief. With Pravin Gordhan replacing David van Rooyen a semblance of sense seems to have returned.

      However our extremely important off shore investors are not yet convinced. Remember the graph of the Rand depreciation from our last article?

      There is further talk of a downgrading of South Africa to ‘junk status’ which would most probably see the Rand decrease to around R20 to the US Dollar. This would be catastrophic for a country that was seen as the gateway to Africa and the African country with the best regulated financial services industry.

      Mr Gordhan has a lot of work on his hands if he is to restore investor confidence. Unfortunately he now seems to have a bit more on his plate, particularly disagreements with the SARS Commissioner.

      South African Revenue Service or MI6?

      Speaking of the SARS Commissioner, recent information in the form of a top secret report by KPMG regarding an even more top secret spy team within SARS has been met with disbelief by many. SARS has stood as one of the most efficient divisions within the government and has been the epitome of integrity and sound governance. It is very interesting to note the number of confidential reports being leaked of late and even more interesting to note is the butting of heads between our current Minister of Finance and the SARS Commissioner.

      Where this one ends up could determine the future of one of these heads (hopefully not yet another Minister of Finance!).

      What does the future hold?

      Well, if you had to look at the past as a reasonable indicator of what could happen in the future, we can believe that various commissions will be set up to investigate all of the above. There will be discrepancies in the findings of these commissions and this will result in more commissions being set up to investigate the commissions themselves. Ultimately we will lose interest in the abysmal waste of the tax payer’s money and nothing will come of any of it.

      That’s the pessimists view anyway. An optimist would say that the above will lead to a shake-up of these institutions that will result in improved operations going forward.

      Tough to be an optimist of late when the very institutions set up to look after the nation are seen to be the biggest threats to the nation, isn’t it?

      On a positive note, the Proteas seem to be on the right track finally.

       

       

       

       

       

       

      2015 Roundup

      2016 has come around like a whirlwind, and I would have liked to have begun the first article of the year on a lighter note, however, the demons of 2015 seem to have gained momentum and entered 2016 with vengeance, making them difficult to ignore. The economy has been a hot topic even for those who don’t normally follow financial news. The articles relating to the weakening Rand, the Chinese economy and 2016 outlook have come in abundance. I thought it may be worthwhile to re-visit some of my blogs from 2015 and see exactly how they tie into what is happening in 2016 as well as summarise some of the events that have lead up to our current economic condition.

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      China

      The impact of the Chinese stock market crash in 2015 had severe consequences for South Africa’s export of iron ore and other commodities and contributed to the weakening Rand due to China being South Africa’s largest trading partner.

      China’s continued slow-down of its economy has been exacerbated in the start of 2016 when the Chinese government once again suspended trading in an attempt to ease the fall in the stock market.

      “Direct and indirect trade impacts from a sharper than anticipated slowdown in China will harm the already struggling mining sector. In the South African context, that has a direct impact on labour in that industry.”- Mamokgethi Molopyane, Moneyweb

      The slow-down in the Chinese economy means less export opportunities for South Africa and reduced investment into the African continent. 

      The interest rate

      As mentioned in a previous newsletter (South Africa- Repo rate adjustment), one of the reasons the interest rates were increased in July 2015 was to reduce the effect of the pending US interest rate increase on the Rand.

      Since then, the Rand has continued to weaken due to drought which has significantly affected the agricultural sector resulting in a decline in exports, the US interest rate increase and reduced investor confidence to name a few.

      No one expected the removal of finance minister Nhlanhla Nene in early December. Given the already low investor confidence, the Rand was sent spiralling out of control. The following graph depicts the Rands fall:

      Reserved.ReportViewerWebControl

      (South African Reserve Bank)

      The following article by Fathima Bhoola (WITS) also give a good summary of the weakening Rand:

      http://qz.com/596693/how-to-explain-why-the-south-african-rand-keeps-falling/

      Furthermore, South Africa was downgraded by Standard and Poors and Moody’s and given a negative outlook. The fear of a junk status rating hangs over us and (official) recession is a very real possibility.

      The Reserve Bank is likely to increase the interest rate by 50 basis points to 6.75% at the end of January. Given the increasing cost of food, electricity and possibly water in the near future, together with South African’s indebtedness, one may wonder how this is intended to help.

      The South African economy is currently so fragile that decisions taken must be done so with the utmost care and consideration. An increase in the interest rate is intended to avoid investors from pulling out their investments by attempting to offer higher rewards for those investing over a long period of time.

      There is only so much that can be done going forward to attempt to mend decisions taken in the past that adversely affected the economy.

      AGOA

      south-africa- 2

      In another prior newsletter (South Africa close to recession), the following was mentioned which is now even more relevant given the developments of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA):

      Fin24 published an article on 1 October 2015 relating to South Africa’s trade restrictions imposed on the importation of American chicken and cattle. Understandably, this is to protect the local market from an influx of cheaper imports.

      In June, the US also complained that its products were being shut out of South Africa as a result of the South African-European Union trade, development and cooperation agreement.- Business Day

      South Africa is a member of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which allows preferential trade agreements with the US. Under these agreements, ALGOA members are free from import levies on more than 7000 products.

      “AGOA has enabled South Africa to more than double its exports to the US since 2000, with vehicles and agriculture products benefiting the most. Shipments under AGOA accounted for more than a fifth of the nation’s exports to the US last year, according to data compiled by the Tralac Trade Law Centre, based in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town.”

      If the US succeeds in proving South Africa no longer qualifies for membership, the consequences for South African exports is far reaching. In protecting the poultry industry, many other industries will be adversely affected. South Africa’s part in the AGOA agreement has been a contentious issue for over a year and while we have struggled to remain a member of AGOA, we need to invest in ways that allow better trading conditions.

      Current AGOA development

      The US has provided South Africa with an ultimatum; either allow imports of poultry cattle and poultry or South Africa will be removed from the agreement. South Africa has until 15 March in which to finalise negotiations to allow the importation of these products to avoid suspension.

      You should expect to see American produce hitting the shelves in the next 30-60 days!

      So what does 2016 hold for us?

      It is difficult to predict at this point, but we do know that the following will have an effect:

      Determination of the political hierarchy (Is all the power really in one man’s hands?)

      The quantum of interest rates hikes

      Municipal election results

      Management of wage disputes

      Exchange rate weakness

      The above are among others that will determine the economic environment for 2016.

      - Natasha Bhowani Seeth CA (SA)

      Social media matters

      Social media has become a significant element of our daily existence. For many, it is as necessary as a limb or organ – can be done without, but with great difficulty!

      I recently heard an interview with Emma Sadlier who is a media law consultant. In the interview, she spoke about the ramifications that social media has in all areas of our life but particularly in our careers. This thought echoed a similar sentiment to that shared by a professor who told us to go back to our Facebook pages and other social media platforms and edit/delete photos and posts that you feel do not represent the person you want to be portrayed as in your career.

      social-media-branding

      At the time, I didn’t really pay too much attention to it, but over the last few years, it has become apparent that what you put out there is in essence your brand. What does your brand on social media say about you?

      I am by no means a social media expert, but I found this topic to be interesting enough to research further. Emma Sadlier mentioned in an interview that we should just use common sense when posting on social media, but haven’t you found that common sense is the exact opposite, meaning not common at all? We have all ticked the little box that says we agree to the terms and conditions of use, but I do not know of a single person who actually reads those terms and conditions. Regardless, we are still accountable for the content that is put out there and can face legal recourse as a result. 

      It is astonishing what can be revealed about you based on your interaction on social media. Usama Fayyad who is the Chief Data Officer and Group Managing Director at Barclays PLC gave a talk on ‘big data’ (topic for another day) where he spoke about how easy it was for two interns to develop a commercial profile on him based on his Facebook profile. He mentioned that he was not very active on Facebook and maybe ‘liked’ twelve things. The significance is that a profile can be drawn up not only on your own individual behaviour, but also from the behaviour of those you are associated with.

      Social media etiquette

      Is there such a thing a social media etiquette? Isn’t the point of social media to provide a platform to publically voice thoughts and opinions freely? It is, but information on a public platform allows companies or recruitment agencies, for example, to get a ‘character reference’ by merely looking at what is available about you on social media.

      A recent article posted in NSBC’s My Business Mag highlighted the impact of social media in the recruitment process.

      the-essential-guide-to-social-media-etiquette-2-638

      “Many companies have dismissed or rejected candidates based on information found on social media. Research has shown that the following information found on social media platforms impacts the candidate’s possible placement:

      - drinking or any drug related photos

      • - poor communication skills including the use of ‘slang’

      • - provocative photos

      • - an unprofessional screen name

      • - lying about qualifications”

      You may think that this is a bit extreme and an invasion of personal space, however it must be remembered that personal is relative on social media.

      I know many of you may not agree with what is contained in the points above, and even I was a bit sceptical, but after reading quite a bit about the topic, it seems like these points should not be taken lightly. Posting pictures, the type of content you are commenting on and the type of comments you provide should all be considered.

      It is not only the recruitment process that you should be weary of, but all employed individuals of all levels should be mindful.

      It was just last week that we heard of the expulsion of Dianne Kohler Barnard from the DA for comments made on Facebook which went against the social media policy of the party. There are many other cases of less known individuals who were dealt the same fate. The mentality of “It can’t happen to me” should be forgotten. The good thing is that you are in control.

      Legal matters

      There are no separate laws that deal explicitly with social media in South Africa. According to Excelsur Legal Services (Excelsur), “The same employment laws that apply to employees in the real world applies to their conduct online. These employment laws include the right to discipline employees for social media misconduct.

      ‘Excelsur’ also notes that the so-called disclaimers of “but it is outside of working hours”, “I am posting in my personal capacity” and “but it’s on my private page with privacy settings” have no effect as the employees personal and professional life is not clear-cut on social media.

      There are no rules governing what you should post on social media however the following point by Rosalind Davey, a partner at Bowman Gilfillan Attorney’s should be borne in mind “It’s just about being careful. Everyone knows they have a right to freedom of expression. The difficulty is that not everyone realises that freedom of expression will take second place if by exercising your freedom of expression, you are infringing on someone’s privacy or dignity.” (Source: You can get fired for what you say- Jessica Wood)

      Enjoy social media. It is a great way to engage with others, build your brand and stay connected. But remember; #thinkbeforeyoupost and #bemindful J

      Natasha Bhowani Seeth CA (SA)

       

      South Africa close to recession

      2015 has been a tough year on the economy on a global scale. South Africa has not been shielded from the events that negatively impacted countries around the world. On Wednesday 30 September 2015, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) reported a trade deficit of R9.95 billion. This means that we are importing more goods than we are exporting. As you can imagine, this is not good news for our struggling economy.

      export-importtrans

      According to Fin24, the rand has weakened 16% to the US dollar this year and fell to a new record low this week. The weakening rand should imply that export value will increase since more dollars will be coming into the country. This is one of the benefits of a weakening rand, however, exports have actually declined resulting in the increased deficit.

      A few things have led up to this:

      1. The events that occurred in China as well the effect of the US rate hike aided in depreciating the rand. (South Africa repo rate adjustment – (http://www.anconsult.co.za/blog-articles/149-south-africa-repo-rate-adjustment and China unravelled- http://www.anconsult.co.za/blog-articles/147-china-unravelled). Commodity prices have dropped. This means that exporters of commodities like gold, platinum, coal, diamonds and iron ore are forced to export for a lower value than a few months ago.

      2. China has also reduced its imports of iron ore as a result of its stock market crash.

      3. The rising cost of electricity has made it difficult for mines to be profitable. 

      Does this mean the South African economy is in recession?

      In order to answer this, it must be understood what it means for an economy to be in recession. A recession generally occurs when the gross domestic product (GDP) shows negative growth in two successive quarters. GDP is an indicator of economic health as it represents the value of goods and services produced over a specific time period.

      During the first quarter of 2015, GDP reflected a 1.3% growth whereas in the second quarter, GDP fell to negative 1.3%. South Africa is therefore not currently in a recession.

      “Moody’s said on Wednesday it expects South Africa to avoid sliding into a recession this year, despite signs that the economy is struggling after contracting in the second quarter this year.”- Reuters

      The economy may not be in recession, but certain traits of recession must be addressed.

      One of the topics you may have been reading about lately is South Africa’s stringent import policies which is driving away investments.

      If it is exports that we are trying to improve, why should we care so much that we have strict import regulations?

      SA vs USA

       Countries will trade where there are favourable circumstances, i.e. if a country can export easily, it will allow imports with its trading partner country.

      Fin24 published an article on 1 October 2015 relating to South Africa’s trade restrictions imposed on the importation of American chicken and cattle. Understandably, this is to protect the local market from an influx of cheaper imports.

      In June, the US also complained that its products were being shut out of South Africa as a result of the South African-European Union trade, development and cooperation agreement.- Business Day

      South Africa is a member of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which allows preferential trade agreements with the US. Under these agreements, ALGOA members are free from import levies on more than 7000 products.

      “AGOA has enabled South Africa to more than double its exports to the US since 2000, with vehicles and agriculture products benefiting the most. Shipments under AGOA accounted for more than a fifth of the nation’s exports to the US last year, according to data compiled by the Tralac Trade Law Centre, based in Stellenbosch, near Cape Town.”

      If the US succeeds in proving South Africa no longer qualifies for membership, the consequences for South African exports is far reaching. In protecting the poultry industry, many other industries will be adversely affected. South Africa’s part in the AGOA agreement has been a contentious issue for over a year and while we have struggled to remain a member of AGOA, we need to invest in ways that allow better trading conditions.

      Job Creation

      The unemployment rate is and has been a cause for concern for a while. Unemployment will improve significantly if GDP grows by at least 5% annually. 

      One of the priority outcomes of the National Development Plan (NDP) is to enhance the quality of basic education. If the standard of education is increased, young adults have a better chance of finding employment. We need to remember that we are moving into the shift age where borders no longer exist in the world of the smartphone/tablet/laptop. In this shift age, we are competing with people in other countries and not just our own.

      In order to address this priority, Operation Phakisa was launched today 2 October 2015.

       “Operation Phakisa is a results-driven approach, involving setting clear plans and targets, on-going monitoring of progress and making these results public.

      The methodology consists of eight sequential steps. It focusses on bringing key stakeholders from the public and private sectors, academia as well as civil society organisations together to collaborate in:

      • - detailed problem analysis;

      • - priority setting;

      • - intervention planning; and

      • - delivery”

      This methodology differs from others in that it requires collaboration from both the public and private sectors. The use of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) as a teaching aid will be instrumental in its success.

      Moving forward

      South Africa has many issues to resolve in order to grow its GDP. At the forefront of these are electricity shortages, poverty and labour unrest. Each of these issues are complex and there is no easy solution. Hopefully we are moving in the right direction. We need to constantly ask ourselves, what are we as individuals, small and large business doing to assist in alleviating these problems.

      Natasha Bhowani Seeth CA (SA)

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