Liberia offers opportunities for investment, especially in natural resources such as mining, agriculture, fishing, and forestry, but also in more specialized sectors such as energy, telecommunications, tourism, and financial services. The economy, which was severely damaged by more than a decade of civil wars that ended in 2003, has been slowly recovering, but Liberia has yet to attain pre-war levels of development. Liberia’s largely commodities-based economy relies heavily on imports even for most basic needs like fuel, clothing, and rice – Liberia’s most important staple food. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many sectors of the economy, which contracted in 2019 and 2020. However, the World Bank and IMF expect per capita GDP to return to pre-COVID-19 levels by 2023. Growth will be driven mainly by the mining sector, although structural reforms are also expected to increase activity in agriculture and construction.
Low human development indicators, expensive and unreliable electricity, poor roads, a lack of reliable internet access (especially outside urban areas), and pervasive government corruption constrain investment and development. Most of Liberia lacks reliable power, although efforts to expand access to the electricity grid are ongoing through an extension from the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant, connection to the West Africa Power Pool, and other internationally supported energy projects. Public perception of corruption in the public sector is high, as indicated by Liberia’s poor showing in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, where Liberia ranked 136 out of 180 countries. Low public trust in the banking sector and seasonal currency shortages result in most cash being held outside of banks. To remedy this, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) in 2021 initiated a plan to print and circulate additional currency. The new printing and minting will provide 48 billion Liberian dollars through 2024. The CBL and commercial banks have also successfully pushed the adoption of mobile money, which Liberians access through their mobile phones to make everyday purchases and pay bills. However, the government has yet to activate the “national switch,” meaning banking instruments like ATMs and mobile money accounts remain unintegrated and are not interoperable.
The government-backed Business Climate Working Group (BCWG) works with public and private sector stakeholders to explore how to create a friendlier business environment. International donors also work with the government to improve the investment climate, which ranks toward the global bottom by most global measures. Despite these numerous challenges, Liberia is rich in natural resources. It has large expanses of potentially productive agricultural land and abundant rainfall to sustain agribusinesses. Its rich mineral resources offer significant potential to investors in extractive industries. Several large international concessionaires have invested successfully in agriculture and mining, though negotiating these agreements with the government often proves to be a lengthy and byzantine struggle. The fishing industry, long dormant compared to pre-war levels, is making improvements that should make it more attractive for investment.
In practice, however, the government does much to discourage investors and investment. Some business leaders report it is difficult even to meet with government representatives to discuss new investment or policies damaging to the business climate. A weak legal and regulatory framework, lack of transparency in contract awards, and widespread corruption inhibit foreign direct investment. Investors are often treated as opportunities for graft, and government decisions affecting the business sector are driven more by political cronyism than investment climate considerations. Many businesses find it easy to operate illegally if the right political interests are being paid, whereas those that try to follow the rules receive little if any assistance from government agencies. The Investment Act restricts market access for foreign investors, including U.S. investors, in certain economic sectors or industries. See “Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Foreign Ownership and Establishment” below for more detail.
Foreign and domestic private entities may own and establish business enterprises in many sectors. The Liberian constitution restricts land ownership to citizens, but non-Liberians may hold long-term leases to land. Examples are rubber, oil palm, and logging concessions that cover a quarter of Liberia’s total land mass. See Real Property, below, for further details.
The National Investment Commission is the oversight agency to screen and monitor investments. The Investment Act and Revenue Code mandate that only Liberian citizens may operate businesses in the following sectors and industries, but it is not clear to what degree this mandate is enforced:
Supply of sand
Retail sale of rice and cement
Ice making and sale of ice
Tire repair shops
Auto repair shops with an investment of less than USD 550,000
Shoe repair shops
Retail sale of timber and planks
Operation of gas stations
Operation of taxis
Importation or sale of second-hand or used clothing
Distribution in Liberia of locally manufactured products
Importation and sale of used cars (except authorized dealerships, which may deal in certified used vehicles of their make)
The Investment Act also sets minimum capital investment thresholds for foreign investors in other business activities, industries, and enterprises. (See Section 16 of the Act: http://www.moci.gov.lr/doc/TheInvestmentActof2010(1).pdf.) For enterprises owned exclusively by non-Liberians, the Act requires at least USD 500,000 in investment capital. For foreign investors partnering with Liberians, the Act requires at least USD 300,000 in total capital investment and at least 25 percent aggregate Liberian ownership.
Investment contracts, such as concessions, are reviewed by the Inter-Ministerial Concessions Committee (IMCC). Concessions are ratified by the national legislature and approved by the president. Businesses register with the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) for taxes and the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) for social security.
It is possible for foreign companies to obtain investment incentives through the National Investment Commission. In 2021, two companies, Mano Manufacturing Company and Jetty Rubber LLC, received long-term investment incentives, according to NIC’s 2021 Annual Report. Foreign companies must use local counsel when establishing a subsidiary. If the subsidiary will engage in manufacturing and international trade, it must obtain a trade license from the LBR. For more information about investment laws, bilateral investment treaties, and other treaties with investment provisions, see: https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/country-navigator/121/liberia.
Liberia is a member of the OECD Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting and a party to the Inclusive Framework’s October 2021 deal on the two-pillar solution to global tax challenges, including a global minimum corporate tax.
The government neither promotes nor incentivizes outward investment but it does not restrict Liberian citizens from investing abroad.
3. Legal Regime
Companies are required to adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) consistent with international norms. In many instances, however, authorities do not consistently enforce or apply national laws and international standards. Furthermore, no systematic oversight or enforcement mechanisms exist to ensure government authorities correctly follow administrative rules. Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures are often not transparent. The government does not require environmental, social, and governance (ESG) disclosure to facilitate transparency or help investors and consumers distinguish between high-and low-quality investments. Liberia passed a Freedom of Information Law in 2010 requiring government agencies to appoint a public information officer and make records available to the public, but access to government records is often difficult or impossible. Some government ministries and agencies have overlapping responsibilities, resulting in inconsistent application of laws. Government agencies are not legally required to disclose regulations before or after enactment and there is no requirement for public comment, although finalized regulations are often published. No central clearinghouse exists to access proposed regulations. Government finances, including revenues and debt obligations, are partially captured in national budgets, but are not fully transparent. Some budget documents are accessible online. For more information on regulatory transparency, see: https://rulemaking.worldbank.org/en/data/explorecountries/liberia.
Liberia’s legal system uses common law alongside local customary law. The common law-based court system operates in parallel with local customary law, which incorporates unwritten, indigenous practices, culture, and traditions. Adjudication under these dual systems often results in conflicting decisions between entities based in Monrovia and communities outside of Monrovia, as well as within communities.
The Commercial Court hears commercial and contractual issues, including debt disputes of USD 15,000 and above. In theory, the Commercial Court presides over all financial, contractual, and commercial disputes, serving as an additional avenue to expedite commercial and contractual cases. Under the Liberian constitution, the judicial branch is independent from the executive, but reports regularly indicate that the executive branch frequently interferes in both judicial and legislative matters. Cases can be subject to extensive delays and procedural and other errors, and investors have questioned the fairness and reliability of judicial decisions. There are widespread reports that court officials solicit bribes to act on cases. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable, and appeals are adjudicated in the Supreme Court. The high volume of appeals is a significant burden on the court’s five judges and often results in long delays.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI) reviews domestic and international trade transactions for competition-related concerns. If the MOCI cannot resolve the issue or it requires investigation, it may be referred to the Department of Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The MOJ refers potential violations of civil or criminal law to the court system, including the Commercial Court. There were no significant competition cases during the review period. Liberia does not have anti-trust laws.
The Liberian Constitution permits the government to expropriate property for “national security issues or where the public health and safety are endangered, or for any other public purposes.” The government must pay just compensation and landowners may challenge the expropriation in court. When property taken for a purpose is no longer used for that purpose, the former owner has the right of first refusal to reacquire the property. The 2010 Investment Act further defines the circumstances under which the government can legally expropriate property and includes protections for foreign enterprises against expropriation or nationalization. Liberia is a signatory to the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) Convention.
4. Industrial Policies
The government provides tax deductions for equipment, machinery, cost of buildings and fixtures used in manufacturing. It also provides exemptions on import duties and goods and services taxes as investment incentives for the following sectors:
Hospitals and Medical
Agriculture and Agro-processing (fisheries, poultry, aquaculture, food processing)
Investments in economically deprived regions qualify for additional incentives of up to 12.5 percent. Additional investment incentives are available if an investment creates more than 100 direct jobs, or if an investment uses at least 60 percent local materials to manufacture finished products.
The government does not issue guarantees or jointly finance foreign direct investment projects.
In 2019, the government established a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Steering Committee, “to create, drive, guide, enhance, coordinate, and manage single, multiple and mixed-use (SEZs) in Liberia.” The government identified the port city of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County for the first special economic zone, now known as the Buchanan Special Economic Zone. In 2021, the African Development Bank (AfDB) announced it would fund a Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone (SAPZ) Project in the Buchanan Special Economic Zone.
Liberia has no performance or data localization requirements.
5. Protection of Property Rights
Liberian law protects property rights and interests, but with weak enforcement mechanisms. “Long term” mortgages or construction loans of up to 10 years are only available through the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment. Only Liberians may own land, with the limited exception provided in Article 22(c) of the Constitution that non-citizen missionary, educational, and other benevolent institutions shall have the right to own property, if that property is used for the purposes for which acquired. Property no longer so used reverts to the Government of Liberia.
Other foreigners and non-resident investors may acquire land on leases, which ordinarily run for 25 to 50 years. Liberian law provides for no official waiver mechanisms for limitations on foreign land ownership.
The Liberia Land Authority (LLA), a one-stop-shop for all land-related matters, is working with international partners, including USAID, to implement strategic and targeted programs aimed at resolving critical land issues. Although the LLA encourages property owners to identify and register land titles, it does not have systemic enforcement programs. The LLA estimates that less than 25 percent of the country’s total land is formally registered. Conflicting land ownership records are common. Investors sometimes experience costly and complex land dispute issues, even after concluding agreements with the government.
The Land Rights Act, enacted in 2018, was designed to resolve historical land disputes that have caused conflict and communal strife in the past. The Act defines four categories of land ownership as follows:
Public land, which is owned, but currently not used by the government
Government land, which is used by government agencies (for office buildings or other purposes)
Customary land, on which the livelihoods of most rural communities depend
Private land owned by private citizens.
Public awareness of the Land Rights Act is growing, but still limited.
Foreign companies seeking to lease land may lease privately or publicly held land. Frequently, foreign companies seeking to acquire land leases do so through direct negotiations with landlords or owners.
Liberia has a weak legal structure and regulatory environment for enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The Liberia Intellectual Property Act covers domain names, traditional knowledge, transfer of technology, patents, and copyrights. The Liberia Intellectual Property Office (LIPO) operates as a semi-autonomous agency under the oversight of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. LIPO, however, lacks the technical and financial capacity to address infringements of intellectual property rights.
The Copyright Society of Liberia (COSOL) collaborates with the MOCI and LIPO to develop legal and international frameworks to guide the collection and distribution of royalties. In February 2021, LIPO and COSOL rolled out nationwide public awareness and inspection campaigns to remove pirated copyright materials from the Liberian market. In October 2021, during a meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the government recommitted to global efforts to protect and promote intellectual property rights.
There is no system to track and report on seizures of counterfeit goods. The government rarely prosecutes intellectual property violations. Many Liberians are unfamiliar with intellectual property rights, and intellectual property infringement is common, including unauthorized duplication of movies, music, and books. Counterfeit drugs, apparel, cosmetics, mobile phones, computer software, and hardware are sold openly.
Liberia is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.
The government welcomes foreign investment, but Liberia’s capital market is highly underdeveloped. Private investors have limited credit and investment options. The country does not have a domestic stock market and does not have an effective system to encourage portfolio investments. In 2019, Liberia committed to non-discriminatory foreign exchange auctions consistent with its obligations under IMF Article VIII , and the country does not restrict international payments and transfers. Commercial credit is allocated on market terms, and foreign investors can get credit on the local market. Many foreign investors prefer to obtain credit from foreign banks.
The country’s financial sector regulatory authority is the Central Bank of Liberia. Foreign banks or branches can establish operations in Liberia subject to the CBL’s regulations. There are 10 commercial banks. Most are foreign-owned with branch outlets in the country. Non-bank financial institutions also provide diverse financial services. These include a development finance company, a deposit-taking microfinance institution, numerous non-deposit-taking microfinance institutions, rural community finance institutions, money remittance entities, foreign exchange bureaus, credit unions, and village savings and loans associations. However, chronic liquidity shortages, especially of Liberian dollars in recent years, have undermined confidence in banks. The CBL’s 2021 third-quarter report described the banking industry as “relatively stable” based on indicators such as total assets, deposits, loans, and total capital. As of November 2021, the capital adequacy ratio of 27.47 was well above the 10% regulatory minimum, and the liquidity ratio was 44.17, above the 15% regulatory minimum. Although the banking sector is sufficiently capitalized, it is not well positioned to withstand shocks. The sector’s primary weaknesses include a high number of non-performing loans (21% in November 2021), low profitability due to high operating expenses, periodic cash shortages for depositors, low public confidence, and inadequate policing and prosecution of money laundering and other financial crimes. There are no restrictions on a foreigner’s ability to establish a bank account.
The Government of Liberia does not maintain a Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) or similar entity.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Liberia has approximately 20 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which are governed by boards of directors and management teams overseen by government ministries. All are wholly government-owned and semi-autonomous. The president of Liberia appoints board members and directors or managers to govern and run SOEs. The Public Financial Management (PFM) Act defines the requirements for SOEs.
SOEs employ more than 10,000 people in sea and airport services, electricity supply, oil and gas, water and sewage, agriculture, forestry, maritime, petroleum importation and storage, and information and communication technology services. Not all SOEs are profitable, and some citizens and advocacy groups have called for SOEs to be dissolved or privatized. Liberia does not have a clearly defined corporate code for SOEs. Reportedly, high-level officials, including some who sit on SOE boards, influence government-owned enterprises to conduct business in ways not consistent with standard corporate governance. Not all SOEs pay taxes, or do so transparently, and SOE revenue is not always transparently reported or adequately reflected in national budgets.
In 2016 Liberia’s Ministry of Education initiated a school privatization program that, as of the 2021-22 school year, had privatized 525 schools. Operation of the schools was outsourced to domestic and foreign for-profit and nonprofit education providers and NGOs. There have been numerous calls from political leaders and government officials to privatize government-owned enterprises, including the Liberia Electricity Corporation, the Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation, and Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, but the government does not have an official privatization program.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
Liberian authorities have not clearly defined responsible business conduct (RBC). The Liberian Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), however, includes RBC requirements in policies such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Strategy (2020-2030), the National Climate Change Response Strategy (2018), and the National Adaptation Plan (2020-2030). Foreign companies are encouraged, but not required, to publicly disclose their policies, procedures, and practices to highlight their RBC practices.
Some non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), and workers organizations/unions promote or monitor foreign company RBC policies and practices. However, NGOs and CSOs monitoring or advocating for RBC do not conduct their activities in a structured and coordinated manner, nor do they tend to monitor locally owned companies.
Most Liberians are generally unaware of RBC standards. Generally, the government expects foreign investors to offer social services to local communities and contribute to a government-controlled social development fund for the area in which the enterprise conducts its business. Some communities complain that these contributions to social development funds do not reach them. The government frequently includes clauses in concession agreements that oblige investors to provide social services such as educational facilities, health care, and other services which other governments typically provide. Foreign investors have reported that some local communities expect benefits in addition to those outlined in formal concession agreements.
Liberia is a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The National Bureau of Concessions monitors and evaluates concession company compliance with concession agreements, but it does not design policies to promote and encourage RBC. Some NGOs report that several concessions have violated human or labor rights, including child labor and environmental pollution. Liberia has several private security companies, but the country is not a signatory to the Montreux Document on Private and Security Companies. Private security companies are regulated by the Ministry of Justice, and they perform a range of tasks such as providing security or surveillance to large businesses, international organizations, diplomatic missions, and some private homes.
Liberia ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol in 2002. In 2018, Liberia ratified the Paris Agreement and adopted the Liberia National Policy and Response Strategy on Climate Change. Liberia released its revised Nationally Determined Contribution in 2021, when it committed to reducing economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 64 percent below business-as-usual levels by 2030. The revised NDC targets nine sectors: Agriculture, Forests, Coastal zones, Fisheries, Health, Transport, Industry, Energy, and Waste. Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains a director of climate finance instruments eligible for Liberia that can be used for public or private sector projects. Liberia has been working with national and international development partners since 2008 to reform its forestry sector and is currently implementing Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) readiness activities, which include a National Forest Inventory, and institutionalizing its National Forest Monitoring System. In 2019, Liberia set up its Safeguard Information System, a free public web-based platform hosted by the EPA to provide information on how social and environmental safeguards are being addressed. However, the site does not appear to be updated regularly.
Liberia has laws against economic sabotage, mismanagement of funds, bribery, and other corruption-related acts, including conflicts of interest. However, Liberia suffers from corruption in both the public and private sectors. The government does not implement its laws effectively and consistently, and there have been numerous reports of corruption by public officials, including some in positions of responsibility for fighting corrupt practices. On December 9, 2021, the United States Treasury Department sanctioned Nimba County Senator Prince Yormie Johnson under the Global Magnitsky Act for personally enriching himself through pay-for-play funding schemes with government ministries and organizations. In 2021, Liberia ranked 136 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index . See http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview.
The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) currently cannot directly prosecute corruption cases without first referring cases to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for prosecution. If the MOJ does not prosecute within 90 days, the LACC may then take those cases to court, although it has not exercised this right to date. The LACC continues to seek public support for the establishment of a specialized court to exclusively try corruption cases.
In October 2021 the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), launched “The Anti-Corruption Innovation Initiative Project.” LACC will hire at least 15 officers around the country who will report on corruption to the LACC. LACC is also developing a national digital platform for the public to report corruption.
Foreign investors generally report that corruption is most pervasive in government procurement, contract and concession awards, customs and taxation systems, regulatory systems, performance requirements, and government payments systems. Multinational firms often report paying fees not stipulated in investment agreements. Private companies do not have generally agreed and structured internal controls, ethics, or compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of public officials. No laws explicitly protect NGOs that investigate corruption.
Liberia is signatory to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on the Fight against Corruption, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), and the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), but Liberia’s association with these conventions has done little to reduce rampant government corruption.
Contact at government agencies responsible for combating corruption:
Contact at a “watchdog” organization (local or nongovernmental organization operating in Liberia that monitors corruption):
Anderson Miamen, Executive Director
Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL)
Tel: (+231) 886-818855
10. Political and Security Environment
President Weah’s inauguration in January 2018 marked the first peaceful transfer of power in Liberia from one democratically elected president to another since 1944. International and domestic observers have said midterm senatorial and special elections since then have been largely peaceful, although there were reported instances of vote tempering, election violence, intimidation, and harassment of female candidates. Liberia’s relatively free media landscape has led to vigorous pursuit of civil liberties, resulting in active, often acrimonious political debates, and organized, non-violent demonstrations. Liberia adopted a press freedom law in 2019, but there have been reports and instances of violence and harassment against the media and journalists. Numerous radio stations and newspapers distribute news throughout the country. The government has identified land disputes and high rates of youth and urban unemployment as potential threats to security, peace, and political stability.
The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), a peacekeeping force, withdrew from Liberia in March 2018 and turned over responsibility for security to the government. Protests and demonstrations may occur with little warning. The Armed Forces of Liberia and law enforcement agencies, including the Liberia National Police (LNP), Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), and Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA), maintain security in the country. There are also many private security firms. Most security personnel are in the capital city Monrovia and other urban areas. The effectiveness of soldiers and police is limited by lack of money and poor infrastructure.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
With a literacy rate of just under 50 percent, much of the Liberian labor force is unskilled. Most Liberians, particularly those in rural areas, lack basic vocational or computer skills. Liberia has no reliable data on labor force statistics, such as unemployment rates. Government workers comprise the majority of formally employed Liberians.
An estimated four out of five Liberian workers engage in “vulnerable” or “informal” employment. Many work in difficult and dangerous conditions that undermine their basic rights. The Ministry of Labor (MOL) largely attributes high levels of vulnerable and informal employment to the private sector’s inability to create employment. There is an acute shortage of specialized labor skills, particularly in medicine, information and communication technology, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Migrant workers are employed throughout the country, particularly in service industries, artisanal diamond and gold mining, timber, and fisheries.
The predominantly female workers who sell in markets and on the streets face significant challenges, including a lack of access to credit and banking services, limited financial literacy and business training, few social protections or childcare options, harassment from citizens and local authorities, and poor sanitation within marketplaces. Through the Bureau of Small Business Administration (SBA) at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, businesses owned by female informal workers are being formalized using a “one-stop shop” registration mechanism. Development partners are also designing programs aimed at empowering women businesses and entrepreneurs.
Liberia’s labor law, the 2015 Decent Work Act, gives preference to employing Liberian citizens, and most investment contracts require companies to employ a defined percentage of Liberians, including in top management positions. In 2021, the Ministry of Labor issued an order that restricts certain employment opportunities in commercial business establishments with branches in Monrovia and other parts of the country to Liberians. The order was the result of a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Labor and the Liberia Chamber of Commerce calling for the creation of five hundred jobs for new college and university graduates.
Foreign companies often report difficulty finding local skilled labor. Child labor is a problem, particularly in extractive industries. The Decent Work Act guarantees freedom of association and gives employees the right to establish labor unions. Employees can become members of organizations of their own choosing without prior authorization. Workers, except for civil servants and employees of state-owned enterprises, are covered by the Act. The Act allows workers’ unions to conduct activities without interference by employers. It also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of membership in or affiliation with a labor organization. Unions are independent from the government and political parties. Employees, through their associations or unions, often demand and sometimes strike for better compensation. When company ownership changes, workers sometimes seek payment of obligations owed by previous owners or employers.
The Decent Work Act provides that labor organizations, including trade or employees’ associations, have the right to draw up constitutions and rules regarding electing representatives, organizing activities, and formulating programs.
There were no major labor union-related negotiations affecting workers or the labor market during 2021.
While the law prohibits anti-union discrimination and provides for the reinstatement of workers dismissed because of union activities, it allows for dismissal without cause provided the company pays statutory severance packages. The Decent Work Act sets out fundamental rights of workers and contains provisions on employment and termination of employment, minimum conditions of work, occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation, industrial relations, and employment agencies. It also provides for periodic reviews of the labor market as well as adjustments in wages as the labor conditions dictate. The government does not waive labor laws to attract or retain investment, but the National Investment Commissions (NIC) provides investment incentives based on economic sectors and geographic areas (see Investment Incentives in section 4 above).
The MOL does not have an adequate or effective inspection system to identify and remedy labor violations and hold violators accountable. It lacks the capacity to effectively investigate and prosecute unfair labor practices, such as harassment or dismissal of union members or instances of forced labor, child labor, and human trafficking.
Nigeria’s economy – Africa’s largest – exited recession with a 3.4% GDP growth rate in 2021 following a contraction of 1.9% the previous year. The IMF forecasts growth rates of under 3% in 2022 and 2023 while the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics predicts a more robust 4.2% growth rate in 2022. President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has prioritized diversification of Nigeria’s economy beyond oil and gas, with the stated goals of building a competitive manufacturing sector, expanding agricultural output, and capitalizing on Nigeria’s technological and innovative advantages. With the largest population in Africa, Nigeria is an attractive consumer market for investors and traders, and offering abundant natural resources and a low-cost labor pool.
The government has undertaken reforms to help improve the business environment, including by facilitating faster business start-up by allowing electronic stamping of registration documents and making it easier to obtain construction permits, register property, obtain credit, and pay taxes. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows nevertheless declined from roughly $1 billion in 2020 to $699 million in 2021 as persistent challenges remain.
Corruption is a serious obstacle to Nigeria’s economic growth and is often cited by domestic and foreign investors as a significant barrier to doing business. Nigeria’s ranking in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index fell slightly from its 2020 score of 149 out of 175 countries to154 of 180 in 2021. Businesses report that corruption by customs and port officials often leads to extended delays in port clearance processes and to other issues importing goods.
Nigeria’s trade regime is protectionist in key areas. High tariffs, restricted foreign exchange availability for 44 categories of imports, and prohibitions on many other import items have the aim of spurring domestic agricultural and manufacturing sector growth. The government provides tax incentives and customs duty exemptions for pioneer industries including renewable energy. A decline in oil exports, rising prices for imported goods, an overvalued currency, and Nigeria’s expensive fuel subsidy regime continued to exert pressure on the country’s foreign exchange reserves in 2021. Domestic and foreign businesses frequently cite lack of access to foreign currency as a significant impediment to doing business.
Nigeria’s underdeveloped power sector is a bottleneck to broad-based economic development and forces most businesses to generate a significant portion of their own electricity. Reform of Nigeria’s power sector is ongoing, but investor confidence continues to be weakened by regulatory uncertainty and limited domestic natural gas supply.
Security remains a concern to investors in Nigeria due to violent crime, kidnappings for ransom, and terrorism in certain parts of the country. The ongoing Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa (ISIS-WA) insurgencies have included attacks against civilian and military targets in the northeast of the country. Nigeria has experienced a rise in kidnappings for ransom and attacks on villages by armed gangs in the North West and North Central regions. Criminal attacks on oil and gas infrastructure in the Niger Delta region that restricted oil production in 2016 have eased, but a significant rise in illegal bunkering and oil theft has left the sector in a similar state of decreased output.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) Act of 1995, amended in 2004, dismantled controls and limits on FDI, allowing for 100% foreign ownership in all sectors, except those prohibited by law for both local and foreign entities. These include arms and ammunitions, narcotics, and military apparel. In practice, however, some regulators include a domestic equity requirement before granting foreign firms an operational license. Nevertheless, foreign investors receive largely the same treatment as domestic investors in Nigeria, including tax incentives. The Act also created the NIPC with a mandate to encourage and assist investment in Nigeria. The NIPC features a One-Stop Investment Center (OSIC) that includes participation by 27 governmental and parastatal agencies to consolidate and streamline administrative procedures for new businesses and investments. The NIPC is empowered to negotiate special incentives for substantial and/or strategic investments. The Act also provides guarantees against nationalization and expropriation. The NIPC occasionally convenes meetings between investors and relevant government agencies with the objective of resolving specific investor complaints. The NIPC’s role and effectiveness is limited to that of convenor and moderator in these sessions as it has no authority over other government agencies to enforce compliance. The NIPC’s ability to attract new investment is thus limited due to its inability to resolve certain such investment challenges.
The Nigerian government continues to promote import substitution policies such as trade restrictions, foreign exchange restrictions, and local content requirements in a bid to funnel investment toward domestic production capacity and to reduce Nigeria’s reliance on foreign imports. The import bans and high tariffs used to advance Nigeria’s import substitution goals have been undermined by smuggling of targeted products through the country’s porous borders, and by corruption in the import quota systems developed by the government to incentivize domestic investment. The government opened land borders in December 2020, which were progressively closed to commercial trade starting in August 2019 with the aim of curbing smuggling and bolstering domestic production.
Investment by foreign and domestic private entities is prohibited in industries contained in the “negative list.” These include production of arms and ammunition, narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, and military and paramilitary wear and accoutrements. The Federal Executive Council maintains the right to amend the list as it deems fit. There are currently no limits on foreign control of investments; however, some Nigerian regulatory bodies have insisted on domestic equity as a prerequisite to doing business. The NIPC Act of 1995, amended in 2004, liberalized the ownership structure of business in Nigeria, allowing foreign investors to own and control 100% of the shares in any company. One hundred percent ownership of firms is allowed in the oil and gas sector while ownership of mineral resources is vested in the federal government. However, the dominant models for oil extraction are joint venture and production sharing agreements between oil companies (both foreign and local) and the federal government. Foreign investors must register with the NIPC after incorporation under the Companies and Allied Matters Act reviewed in 2020. A foreign company intending to operate in Nigeria must incorporate a company or subsidiary. It may apply for an exemption to this requirement if it meets certain conditions including working on a specialized project specifically for the government, or on a project funded by a multilateral or bilateral donor or a foreign state-owned enterprise. However, a foreign entity can invest in a Nigerian company without incorporation. Importers of foreign technology must obtain a certificate from the National Office of Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP). One of the prerequisites for obtaining the certificate is the provision of a Technology Transfer Agreement duly approved by NOTAP. The NIPC Act prohibits the nationalization or expropriation of foreign enterprises except in cases of national interest and stipulates modalities for “fair and adequate” compensation should that occur.
The government established the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) in 2016 with the objective of removing constraints to starting and running a business in Nigeria. PEBEC’s implementation was supported by Presidential Executive Orders aimed at improving business transparency and efficiency. PEBEC’s focus areas include: starting a business, cross-border and domestic movement of people and goods, obtaining credit and resolving insolvency, enforcing contracts, registering property, acquiring construction permits and electricity, and paying taxes. PEBEC’s significant achievements were in the areas of starting a business, acquiring construction permits and electricity, registering property, and enforcing contracts. Despite these improvements, Nigeria remains a difficult place to do business, with companies suffering from regulatory uncertainty, policy inconsistency, poor infrastructure, foreign exchange shortages and customs inconsistency and inefficiency. These many challenges are reflected in the fact that Nigeria’s leading trade indices lag behind regional averages.
The One-Stop Investment Center (OSIC), housed within the NIPC, co-locates 27 relevant government agencies including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and the Immigration Service to provide fast-tracked, efficient, and transparent services to investors. The OSIC assists with visas for investors, company incorporation, business permits and registration, tax registration, immigration, and customs issues. Investors may pick up documents and approvals that are statutorily required to establish an investment project in Nigeria. In 2021, NIPC launched the electronic OSIC which allows investors to register businesses, submit documents, and pay fees remotely on its Single Window Investors’ Portal (SWIP).
All businesses, both foreign and local, are required to register with CAC before commencing operations. CAC began online registration as part of PEBEC reforms. Online registration is straightforward and consists of three major steps: name search, reservation of business name, and registration. A registration guideline is available on the website as is a post-registration portal for enacting changes to company details. The CAC online registration website is https://pre.cac.gov.ng/home. The registration requires the signature of a Legal Practitioner and attestation by a Notary Public or Commissioner for Oaths. Business registration can be completed online but the certificate of incorporation is usually collected at a CAC office upon presentation of the original application and supporting documents. Online registration can be completed in as little as three days if there are no issues with the application. On average, a limited liability company (LLC) in Nigeria can be established in seven days. This average is significantly faster than the 22-day average for Sub-Saharan Africa. It is also faster than the OECD average of nine days. Timing may vary in different parts of the country.
Companies must register with the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for tax payments purposes. If the company operates in a state other than the Federal Capital Territory, it must also register with the relevant state tax authority. CAC issues a Tax Identification Number (TIN) to all businesses on completion of registration which must be validated on the FIRS website https://apps.firs.gov.ng/tinverification/ and subsequently used to register to pay taxes. The FIRS then assigns a tax office with which the business will engage for tax payments purposes. Some taxes may also be filed and paid online on the FIRS website.
Foreign companies are also required to register with NIPC which maintains a database of all foreign companies operating in Nigeria. Investors can register online through NIPC’s SWIP platform: https://swip.nipc.gov.ng/auth.php?a=r.
Companies which import capital must do so through an authorized dealer, typically a bank, after which they are issued a Certificate of Capital Importation. This certificate entitles the foreign investor to open a bank account in foreign currency and provides access to foreign exchange for repatriation, imports, and other purposes.
A company engaging in international trade must get an import-export license from the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS). Businesses may also be required to register with and/or obtain licenses from other regulatory agencies which supervise the sector within which they operate.
Nigeria does not promote outward direct investments. Instead, it focuses on promoting exports especially as a means of reducing its reliance on oil exports and diversifying the sources of its foreign exchange earnings. The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) administered a revised Export Expansion Grant (EEG) in 2018 when the federal government set aside 5.1 billion naira ($13 million) in the 2019 budget for the EEG scheme. The Nigerian Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank provides commercial bank guarantees and direct lending to facilitate export sector growth, although these services are underused. NEXIM’s Foreign Input Facility provides normal commercial terms of three to five years (or longer) for the importation of machinery and raw materials used for generating exports.
Agencies created to promote industrial exports remain burdened by uneven management, vaguely defined policy guidelines, and corruption. Nigeria’s inadequate power supply and lack of infrastructure, coupled with the associated high production costs, leave Nigerian exporters at a significant disadvantage. Many Nigerian businesses fail to export because they find meeting international packaging and safety standards is too difficult or expensive. Similarly, firms often are unable to meet consumer demand for a consistent supply of high-quality goods in sufficient quantities to support exports and meet demand. Most Nigerian manufacturers remain unable to or uninterested in competing in the international market, given the size of Nigeria’s domestic market.
Domestic firms are not restricted from investing abroad. However, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN mandates that export earnings be repatriated to Nigeria, and controls access to the foreign exchange required for such investments. Noncompliance with the directive carries sanctions including expulsion from accessing financial services and the foreign exchange market.
Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in April 2020 prohibited investment and trading platforms from facilitating Nigerians’ purchase of foreign securities listed on other stock exchanges. SEC cites Nigeria’s Investment and Securities Act of 2007, which mandates that only foreign securities listed on a Nigerian exchange should be sold to the Nigerian investing public.
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
Nigeria belongs to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a free trade area comprising 15 countries located in West Africa. Nigeria signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) – a free trade agreement consisting of 54 African countries, which became operational on January 1, 2021 – but its legislature has yet to ratify it and implementation of the agreement remains nascent. Nigeria has bilateral investment agreements with: Algeria, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Jamaica, the Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Morocco, the Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Uganda, and the United Kingdom. Fifteen of these treaties (those with China, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Romania, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom) have been ratified by both parties.
The government signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States in 2000. U.S. and Nigerian officials held their latest round of TIFA talks in 2016. In 2017, Nigeria and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding to formally establish the U.S.–Nigeria Commercial and Investment Dialogue (CID). The ministerial-level meeting with private sector representatives was last held in February 2020. The CID coordinates bilateral private sector-to-private sector, government-to-government, and private sector-to-government discussions on policy and regulatory reforms to promote increased, diverse, and sustained trade and investment between the United States and Nigeria, with an initial focus on infrastructure, agriculture, digital economy, investment, and regulatory reform.
Nigeria has 14 ratified double taxation agreements, including: Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Nigeria does not have such an agreement with the United States. Nigeria’s Finance Act of 2021 empowered the FIRS to collect corporate taxes from digital firms at a “fair and reasonable turnover” rate, which translates to 6% of turnover generated in Nigeria. This will address the profit attribution issues raised following the ambiguity of the Finance Act of 2019 which subjected non-resident companies with significant economic presence to corporate and sales taxes. Most of the affected companies are digital firms, many with U.S. headquarters. Nigeria enacted the Petroleum Industry Act (2021) which overhauled the institutional, regulatory, administrative, and fiscal arrangements for the oil and gas industry. While the legislation provides long-awaited additional clarity and updates Nigeria’s governance structures and fiscal terms for the traditional energy sector, U.S. oil companies contend that it has not increased Nigeria’s competitiveness relative to other oil producing countries and may fail to attract significant new investments in the sector.
Nigeria is a member of the OECD Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Sharing but declined to sign the two-pillar solution to global tax challenges in October 2021.
3. Legal Regime
Nigeria’s legal, accounting, and regulatory systems comply with international norms, but application and enforcement remain uneven. Opportunities for public comment and input into proposed regulations rarely occur. Professional organizations set standards for the provision of professional services, such as accounting, law, medicine, engineering, and advertising. These standards usually comply with international norms. No legal barriers prevent entry into these sectors.
Ministries and regulatory agencies are meant to develop and make public anticipated regulatory changes or proposals and publish proposed regulations before their application. The general public should have the opportunity to comment through targeted outreach, including business groups and stakeholders, and during the public hearing process before a bill becomes law, but this is not always the case. There is no specialized agency tasked with publicizing proposed changes and the time period for comment may vary. Ministries and agencies do conduct impact assessments, including environmental, but assessment methodologies may vary. The National Bureau of Statistics reviews regulatory impact assessments conducted by other agencies. Laws and regulations are publicly available.
Fiscal management occurs at all three tiers of government: federal, 36 state governments and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, and 774 local government areas (LGAs). Revenues from oil and non-oil sources are collected into the federation account and then shared among the different tiers of government by the Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) in line with a statutory sharing formula. All state governments can collect internally generated revenues, which vary from state to state. The fiscal federalism structure does not compel states to be accountable to the federal government or transparent about revenues generated or received from the federation account. However, the federal government can demand states meet predefined minimum fiscal transparency requirements as prerequisites for obtaining federal loans. For instance, compliance with the 22-point Fiscal Sustainability Plan, which focused on ensuring better state financial performance, more sustainable debt management, and improved accountability and transparency, was a prerequisite for obtaining a federal government bailout in 2016. The federal government’s finances are more transparent as budgets are made public and the financial data are published by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Debt Management Office (DMO), the Budget Office of the Federation, and the National Bureau of Statistics. The state-owned oil company (Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)) began publishing audited financial data in 2020.
Foreign companies operate successfully in Nigeria’s service sectors, including telecommunications, accounting, insurance, banking, and advertising. The Investment and Securities Act of 2007 forbids monopolies, insider trading, and unfair practices in securities dealings. Nigeria is not a party to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA). Nigeria generally regulates investment in line with the WTO’s Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS) Agreement, but the government’s local content requirements in the oil and gas sector and the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector may conflict with Nigeria’s commitments under TRIMS.
ECOWAS implemented a Common External Tariff (CET) beginning in 2015 with a five-year phase in period. An internal CET implementation committee headed by the Fiscal Policy/Budget Monitoring and Evaluation Department of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) was set up to develop the implementation work plans that were consistent with national and ECOWAS regulations. The CET was slated to be fully harmonized by 2020, but in practice some ECOWAS Member States have maintained deviations from the CET beyond the January 1, 2020, deadline. The country has put in place a CET monitoring committee domiciled at the Ministry of Finance, consisting of several ministries, departments, and agencies related to the CET. The country applies five tariff bands under the CET: zero duty on capital goods, machinery, and essential drugs not produced locally; 5% duty on imported raw materials; 10% duty on intermediate goods; 20% duty on finished goods; and 35% duty on goods in certain sectors that the Nigerian government seeks to protect including palm oil, meat products, dairy, and poultry. The CET permits ECOWAS member governments to calculate import duties higher than the maximum allowed in the tariff bands (but not to exceed a total effective duty of 70%) for up to 3% of the 5,899 tariff lines included in the ECOWAS CET.
Nigeria has a complex, three-tiered legal system comprised of English common law, Islamic law, and Nigerian customary law. Most business transactions are governed by common law modified by statutes to meet local demands and conditions. The Supreme Court is the pinnacle of the judicial system and has original and appellate jurisdiction in specific constitutional, civil, and criminal matters as prescribed by Nigeria’s constitution. The Federal High Court has jurisdiction over revenue matters, admiralty law, banking, foreign exchange, other currency and monetary or fiscal matters, and lawsuits to which the federal government or any of its agencies are party. The Nigerian court system is generally slow and inefficient, lacks adequate court facilities and computerized document-processing systems, and poorly remunerates judges and other court officials, all of which encourages corruption and undermines enforcement. Judges frequently fail to appear for trials and court officials lack proper equipment and training.
The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary; however, the judicial branch remains susceptible to pressure from the executive and legislative branches. Political leaders have influenced the judiciary, particularly at the state and local levels.
The Doing Business report credited business reforms for improving contract enforcement by issuing new rules of civil procedure for small claims courts, which limit adjournments to unforeseen and exceptional circumstances but noted that there can be variation in performance indicators between cities in Nigeria (as in other developing countries). For example, resolving a commercial dispute takes 476 days in Kano but 376 days in Lagos. In the case of Lagos, the 376 days includes 40 days for filing and service, 194 days for trial and judgment, and 142 days for enforcement of the judgment with total costs averaging 42% of the claim. In Kano, however, filing and service only takes 21 days with enforcement of judgement only taking 90 days, but trial and judgment accounts for 365 days with total costs averaging lower at 28% of the claim. In comparison, in OECD countries the corresponding figures are an average of 589.6 days and averaging 21.5% of the claim and in sub-Saharan countries an average of 654.9 days and averaging 41.6% of the claim.
The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) Act allows 100 percent foreign ownership of firms. Foreign investors must register with the NIPC after incorporation under the Companies and Allied Matters Act of 2020. The NIPC Act prohibits the nationalization or expropriation of foreign enterprises except in case of national interest, but the Embassy is unaware of specific instances of such interference by the government. The NIPC website (nipc.gov.ng) provides information on investing in Nigeria, and its One-Stop Investment Center co-locates 27 government agencies with equities in the foreign company registration process.
The Nigerian government enacted the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection (FCCPC) Act in 2019. The Actrepealed the Consumer Protection Act of 2004 and replaced the previous Consumer Protection Council with a Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission while also creating a Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal to handle issues and disputes arising from the operations of the Act. Under the terms of the Act, businesses will be able to lodge anti-competitive practices complaints against other firms in the Tribunal. TheAct prohibits agreements made to restrain competition, such as price fixing, price rigging, collusive tendering, etc. (with specific exemptions for collective bargaining agreements and employment, among other items). The Act empowers the President of Nigeria to regulate prices of certain goods and services on the recommendation of the Commission.
The law prescribes stringent fines for non-compliance. The law mandates a fine of up to 10% of the company’s annual turnover in the preceding business year for offences. The law harmonizes oversight for consumer protection, consolidating it under the FCCPC.
An entity may seek redress from a court of law if it is not satisfied with the ruling of the FCCPC.
The federal government has not expropriated or nationalized foreign assets recently, and the NIPC Act forbids nationalization of a business or assets unless the acquisition is in the national interest or for a public purpose. In such cases, investors are entitled to fair compensation and legal redress.
The federal government’s drive to domesticate foreign investments has led to a number of seemingly discriminatory actions against a prominent South African firm. Nigeria’s attorney general demanded the payment of $2 billion which he alleged the company owed in taxes over ten years, a suit which was later dropped in 2020 in favor of negotiations with the FIRS. In 2018, the company paid $53 million to settle a CBN case in which it was accused of illegally repatriating $8.1 billion. Another South African company is involved in a $4.7 billion tax dispute with the FIRS.
Reflecting Nigeria’s business culture, entrepreneurs generally do not seek bankruptcy protection. Claims often go unpaid, even in cases where creditors obtain judgments against defendants. Under Nigerian law, the term bankruptcy generally refers to individuals whereas corporate bankruptcy is referred to as insolvency. The former is regulated by the Bankruptcy Act of 1990, as amended by Bankruptcy Decree 109 of 1992. The latter is regulated by the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) revised in 2020. Insolvency solutions in CAMA 2020 focus on rescuing insolvent corporates, where debt recovery options are feasible, instead of the former objective which focused largely on the wind-up process. Once determined insolvent, company shareholders are allowed to enter into a binding agreement with creditors or apply to a court to appoint an administrator thereby obviating the need for claims by creditors. The debt threshold required for triggering compulsory liquidation is 200,000 naira ($480). The Act also ranks the claims of secured creditors above all other claims and forbids shareholders or administrators from favoring a creditor above another within the same creditor class. The Embassy is not aware of U.S. companies that have had to avail themselves of the insolvency provisions under Nigerian law.
4. Industrial Policies
The Nigerian government maintains different and overlapping incentive programs. The Industrial Development/Income Tax Relief Act provides incentives to pioneer industries deemed beneficial to Nigeria’s economic development and to labor-intensive industries, such as apparel. There are currently 99 industries and products that qualify for the pioneer status incentive through the NIPC, following the addition of 27 industries and products to the list in 2017. The government has added a stipulation calling for a review of the qualifying industries and products to occur every two years. Companies that receive pioneer status may benefit from a tax holiday from payment of company income tax for an initial period of three years, extendable for one or two additional years. A pioneer industry sited in an economically disadvantaged area is entitled to a 100% tax holiday for seven years and an additional 5% depreciation allowance over and above the initial capital depreciation allowance. Additional tax incentives are available for investments in domestic research and development, for companies that invest in local government areas deemed disadvantaged, for local value-added processing, for investments in solid minerals and oil and gas, and for several other investment scenarios. The NIPC in conjunction with FIRS published a compendium of investment which houses all fiscal incentives backed by Nigerian law as well as sectoral fiscal concessions approved by the government. The compendium is available at https://www.nipc.gov.ng/compendium/preface/.
The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) administers an Export Expansion Grant (EEG) scheme to improve non-oil export performance. The program was suspended in 2014 due to concerns about corruption on the part of companies that collected grants but did not actually export. It was revised and relaunched in 2018. The NEXIM Bank provides commercial bank guarantees and direct lending to facilitate export sector growth, although these services are underused. NEXIM’s Foreign Input Facility provides normal commercial terms for the importation of machinery and raw materials used for generating exports. Repayment terms are typically up to seven years, including a moratorium period of up to two years depending on the loan amount and the project being finance. Agencies created to promote industrial exports remain burdened by uneven management, vaguely defined policy guidelines, and corruption.
The NIPC states that up to 120% of expenses on research and development (R&D) are tax deductible, provided that such R&D activities are carried out in Nigeria and relate to the business from which income or profits are derived. Also, for the purpose of R&D on local raw materials, 140% of expenses are allowed. Long-term research will be regarded as a capital expenditure and written off against profit.
The government similarly offers incentives for the importation of equipment, parts, and machinery used in renewable energy generation, transmission, and/or storage. Solar cells in modules or panels attract zero import duty and are exempt from paying value added tax (VAT). Solar-powered coolers, solar-powered generators, wind-powered generators, battery-manufacturing inputs, and nuclear reactors are subject to a relatively low duty rate of 5% and are exempt from paying VAT.
The Nigerian Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA) allows duty-free import of all equipment and raw materials into its export processing zones. Up to 100% of production in an export processing zone may be sold domestically based on valid permits and upon payment of applicable duties. Investors in the zones are exempt from foreign exchange regulations and taxes and may freely repatriate capital. Foreign investors still face challenges with unreliable implementation of the regulations applied to export processing zones and are sometimes asked to pay import duties or restricted from accessing foreign exchange. The Nigerian government also encourages private sector participation and partnership with state and local governments under the free trade zones (FTZ) program. There are three types of FTZs in Nigeria: federal or state government-owned, private sector-owned, and public-private partnerships. NEPZA regulates Nigeria’s FTZs regardless of the ownership structure. Workers in FTZs may unionize but may not strike for an initial ten-year period.
Nigeria ratified the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in 2016 and the Agreement entered into force in 2017. Nigeria already implements items in Category A under the TFA and has identified, but not yet implemented, its Category B and C commitments. In 2016, Nigeria requested additional technical assistance to implement and enforce its Category C commitments. (See https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tradfa_e/tradfa_e.htm)
Foreign investors must register with the NIPC, incorporate as a limited liability company (private or public) with the CAC, procure appropriate business permits, and register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (when applicable) to conduct business in Nigeria. Manufacturing companies sometimes must meet local content requirements. Long-term expatriate personnel do not require work permits but are subject to needs quotas requiring them to obtain residence permits that allow salary remittances abroad. Expatriates looking to work in Nigeria on a short-term basis can either request a temporary work permit, which is usually granted for a two-month period and extendable to six months, or a business visa, if only traveling to Nigeria for the purpose of meetings, conferences, seminars, trainings, or other brief business activities. Authorities permit larger quotas for professions deemed in short supply, such as deep-water oilfield divers. U.S. companies often report problems in obtaining quota permits. The Nigerian government’s Immigration Regulations 2017 introduced additional means by which foreigners can obtain residence in Nigeria. Foreign nationals who have imported an annual minimum threshold of capital over a certain period may be issued a permanent residence permit if the investment is not withdrawn. The Nigerian Oil and Gas Content Development Act of 2010 restricts the number of expatriate managers to 5% of the total number of personnel for companies in the oil and gas sector.
The National Office of Industrial Property Act of 1979 established the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP) to regulate the international acquisition of technology while creating an environment conducive to developing local technology. NOTAP recommends local technical partners to Nigerian users in a bid to reduce the level of imported technology, which currently accounts for over 90% of technology in use in Nigeria. NOTAP reviews the Technology Transfer Agreements (TTAs) required to import technology into Nigeria and for companies operating in Nigeria to access foreign currency. NOTAP reviews three major aspects prior to approval of TTAs and subsequent issuance of a certificate:
Legal – ensuring that the clauses in the agreement are in accordance with Nigerian laws and legal frameworks within which NOTAP operates;
Economic – ensuring prices are fair for the technology offered; and
Technical – ensuring transfer of technical knowledge.
U.S. firms complain that the TTA approval process is lengthy and can routinely take three months or more. NOTAP took steps to automate the TTA process to reduce processing time to one month or less; however, from the date of filing the application to the issuance of confirmation of reasonableness, TTA processing still requires 60 business days.
The Nigerian Oil and Gas Content Development Act of 2010 contains certain technology-transfer requirements that may violate a company’s intellectual property rights.
In 2013, the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), under the auspices of the Ministry of Communication, issued the Guidelines for Nigerian Content Development in the ICT sector. NITDA re-issued an updated version of the Guidelines in 2019. The Guidelines require telecommunications companies to ensure that at least 80% of network infrastructure value and volume be locally sourced, use indigenous companies to build network infrastructure, and use locally developed or manufactured software components. The Guidelines also require multinational ICT equipment manufacturers operating in Nigeria to provide a detailed local content development plan for the creation of jobs, recruitment of Nigerians, human capital development, use of indigenous ICT products and services for value creation; all government agencies to procure at least 40% computer hardware and associated devices from NITDA-approved original equipment manufacturers; and ICT companies to host all consumer and subscriber data locally. Enforcement of the Guidelines is largely inconsistent. The government generally lacks capacity and resources to monitor labor practices, technology compliancy, and digital data flows. There are reports that individual Nigerian companies periodically lobby the National Assembly and/or NITDA to address allegations (warranted or not) against foreign firms that they are in non-compliance with the guidelines.
The goal of the Guidelines is to promote development of domestic production of ICT products and services for the Nigerian and global markets, but some assessments indicate they pose risks to foreign investment and U.S. companies by interrupting their global supply chain, increasing costs, disrupting global flow of data, and stifling innovative products and services. Industry representatives remain concerned about whether the guidelines would be implemented in a fair and transparent way toward all Nigerian and foreign companies. All ICT companies, including Nigerian companies, use foreign manufactured equipment as Nigeria does not have the capacity to supply ICT hardware that meets international standards.
The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) exercise exclusive jurisdiction over customs services and port operations respectively. Nigerian law allows importers to clear goods on their own, but most importers employ clearing and forwarding agents to minimize tariffs and lower landed costs. The Nigerian government closed land borders to trade in August 2019, purportedly to stem the tide of smuggled goods entering from neighboring countries. Nigeria reopened land borders to trade in December 2020, but it continues to restrict the import of items such as rice and vehicles through its land borders. The NCS maintains a wider import prohibition list available at https://customs.gov.ng/?page_id=3075, while the CBN continues to restrict access to foreign exchange for the importation of 44 classes of goods. The initial list that contained 41 items (https://www.cbn.gov.ng/out/2015/ted/ted.fem.fpc.gen.01.011.pdf) has since been expanded to include fertilizer, maize, dairy products, and sugar (except for three companies that the CBN exempts from the lack of access to foreign exchange for sugar imports) with the CBN adding items in an ongoing basis as part of its “backward integration” strategy.
The Nigerian government implements a destination inspection scheme whereby all inspections occur upon arrival into Nigeria, rather than at the ports of origin. In 2013, the NCS regained the authority to conduct destination inspections, which had previously been contracted to private companies. NCS also introduced the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS) platform and an online system for filing customs documentation via a Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) process. The NCS still carries out 100% cargo examinations, and shipments take more (sometimes significantly more) than 20 days to clear through the process. In addition to creating significant delays and additional fees for security and storage for items awaiting customs clearance, NCS’s continued reliance on largely manual customs processes creates opportunities for significant variation, individual discretion, and corruption in the application of customs regulations. At the time of this report, a growing number of companies were engaged in disputes with the customs agency due to NCS arbitrarily reclassifying their imports into new classification categories with higher import tariffs.
Shippers report that efforts to modernize and professionalize the NCS and the NPA have largely been unsuccessful – port congestion persists and clearance times are long. A presidential directive in 2017 for the Apapa Port, which handles over 40% of Nigeria’s legal trade, to run a 24-hour operation and achieve 48-hour cargo clearance has not met its stated goals. The port is congested, inefficient and the proliferation of customs units incentivizes corruption from official and unofficial middlemen who complicate and extend the clearance process. Delays for goods entering the country via the Apapa Port were exacerbated under COVID; U.S. companies have reported wait times to berth ships at the port of up to 90 days. Freight forwarders usually resort to bribery of customs agents and port officials to avoid long delays clearing imported goods through the NPA and NCS. The NPA set up an Electronic Truck Call-up System in January 2021 to increase efficiency in the management of cargo movement across the Apapa Port. However, the impact made by this initiative remains to be felt. Other ports face logistical and security challenges leaving most operating well below capacity. Nigeria does not currently have a true deep-sea port although one is under construction near Lagos and expected to be operational by 2023.
Investors sometimes encounter difficulties acquiring entry visas and residency permits. Foreigners must obtain entry visas from Nigerian embassies or consulates abroad, seek expatriate position authorization from the NIPC, and request residency permits from the Nigerian Immigration Service. In 2018, Nigeria instituted a visa-on-arrival system, which works relatively well but still requires lengthy processing at an embassy or consulate abroad before an authorization is issued. Some U.S. businesses have reported being solicited for bribes in the visa-on-arrival program. The visa-on-arrival system is not an option for employment or residence. Investors report that the residency permit process is cumbersome and can take from two to 24 months and cost $1,000 to $3,000 in facilitation fees. The Nigerian government announced a visa rule in 2011 to encourage foreign investment, under which legitimate investors can obtain multiple-entry visas at points of entry. Obtaining a visa prior to traveling to Nigeria is strongly encouraged.
5. Protection of Property Rights
The Nigerian government recognizes secured interests in property, such as mortgages. The recording of security instruments and their enforcement remain subject to the same inefficiencies as those in the judicial system. In the World Bank Doing Business 2020 Report, Nigeria ranked 183 out of the 190 countries surveyed for registering property, a decline of one point over its 2019 ranking. Property registration in Lagos required an average of 12 steps over 105 days at a cost of 11.1% of the property value while in Kano registering property averages 11 steps over 47 days at a cost of 11.8% of the property value.
Owners transfer most property through long-term leases, with certificates of occupancy acting as title deeds. Property transfers are complex and must usually go through state governors’ offices, or the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory for lands located in the federal capital, as state governments have jurisdiction over land ownership. Authorities have often compelled owners to demolish buildings deemed to be in contravention of building codes or urban masterplans, including government buildings, commercial buildings, residences, and churches, even in the face of court injunctions. Acquiring and maintaining rights to real property can be problematic.
Clarity of title and registration of land ownership remain significant challenges throughout rural Nigeria, where many smallholder farmers have only ancestral or traditional use claims to their land. Nigeria’s land reforms have attempted to address this barrier to development but with limited success. Proof of ownership in the absence of land titles may be established through traditional history of ownership, proving possession over a sufficient length of time, and showing sustained enjoyment of the land. The government may acquire land for an overriding public purpose which may be excised to an individual or entity if the land has not been committed.
Enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) in Nigeria faces challenges in three areas: (1) limited capacity within the judicial and law enforcement systems, (2) weak regulatory and statutory regimes, (3) and poor funding and resource allocation. Nigeria’s legal and institutional infrastructure for protecting IPR remains in need of further development, even though laws on the books can enforce most IPR. The areas in which the legislation is deficient include online piracy, geographical indications, and animal breeders’ rights. In 2021, Nigeria enacted a new law giving plant breeders IPR over new and improved seeds for increased crop production. Draft copyright bills, one sponsored by a Senator and the other approved by the Federal Executive Council, were harmonized into one earlier this year. The harmonized bill defines technological protection measures (known as TPMs), remuneration rights, and broadcasting. It also provides anti-piracy penalties and prohibits the circumvention of TPMs as well as the falsification, alteration, or removal of electronic rights management information (RMI).
The International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (IACC) has long noted that the Copyright Act should be amended to provide stiffer penalties for violators. Statutory penalties for copyright offenses remain relatively low and rights-holders note that offenses are typically met with non-deterrent, modest fines. The harmonized bill proposes stricter penalties for IPR infractions. However, a firm timeline for passage of a new copyright law remains elusive.
Existing copyright protection in Nigeria is governed by the Copyright Act Chapter C28, Laws of the Federation 2004, which provides an adequate basis for enforcing copyright and combating piracy. The Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), an agency supervised by the Ministry of Justice, administers the Act. Nigeria is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and in 2017 it ratified two WIPO treaties that it signed in 1997: the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT), as well as the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, and the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for persons who are Blind, Visually impaired persons, or otherwise Print disabled. These treaties address important digital communication, broadcast, and online infringement issues that have become increasingly relevant in the globalized economy. The pending Copyright Bill of 2021 would domesticate the ratified treaties. The NCC has primary responsibility for copyright enforcement but is understaffed and underfunded relative to the magnitude of the copyright challenges in Nigeria. Nevertheless, the NCC continues to carry out enforcement actions on a regular basis.
Violations of IPRs continue to be widespread. Anti-counterfeiting groups such as the IACC report that the Nigerian police work to combat counterfeiting and readily engage with trademark owners but lacks the capacity to fully enforce these laws. Authorized penalties for counterfeiting and trademark infringements remain relatively low and rightsholders note that offenses are typically met with non-deterrent, modest fines. A Senator has introduced legislation, the Trademarks Bill 2019, which remains pending and may address some of these issues. Depending on the scale and type of counterfeiting involved, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) would be responsible for enforcing counterfeiting and trademark infringement offenses.
The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) has general authority to seize and destroy contraband. If NCS suspects unauthorized importation of copyright protected works, it will require the presumed copyright owner to issue a notice for NCS to treat such works as infringing. The implementing procedures for this practice have not been developed as it is handled on a case-by-case basis between the NCS and the NCC. Once seizures are made, the NCS invites the NCC to inspect and subsequently take delivery of the consignment of fake goods for purposes of further investigation because the NCC has the statutory responsibility to investigate and prosecute copyright violations. The NCC bears the costs of moving and storing infringing goods. If, after investigations, any persons are identified with the infringing materials, a decision to prosecute may be made. Where no persons are identified or could be traced, the NCC may obtain an order of court to enable it to destroy such works. The NCC works in cooperation with rights owners’ associations and stakeholders in the copyright industries on such matters. Similarly, NAFDAC and FCCPC work in cooperation with rights owners’ associations and stakeholders in the counterfeiting and trademark industries.
Nigeria is not listed in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List. For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see the WIPO country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/.
6. Financial Sector
The NIPC Act of 1995, amended in 2004, liberalized Nigeria’s foreign investment regime, which has facilitated access to credit from domestic financial institutions. The government, and the CBN in particular, has sought to diversify foreign exchange inflows by encouraging foreign portfolio investments (FPI). High returns on the CBN’s open market operation (OMO) bills as well as the exclusion of certain classes of domestic investors from the market yielded high levels of FPI. However, a tightening of monetary policy, foreign exchange shortages, revised CBN guidelines on OMO bills, and capital restrictions amidst COVID-19 disruptions have led to a decline in FPI. CBN officials indicate that OMO offerings to foreigners will be phased out – a departure from its strategy of attracting hard currency investments to shore up foreign exchange supply – once current obligations have been redeemed due to the large interest repayment burden placed on the CBN.
Foreign investors who have incorporated their companies in Nigeria have equal access to all financial instruments. Some investors consider the capital market, specifically the Nigerian Exchange Group (NXG), a financing option, given commercial banks’ high interest rates and the short maturities of local debt instruments. Financial institutions provide credit on market terms, but rates are relatively high due to high inflation and a high benchmark interest rate. The NXG completed a demutualization process in 2021 which transformed the company, previously privately held and called the Nigerian Stock Exchange, to a public company limited by shares. The NXG all-share index closed 2021 with over 42,000 points, a 4% increase from the end of 2020. As of December 2021, the NXG had 157 listed companies with an equity market capitalization of 22.3 trillion naira ($53.5 billion), an increase of 6% from 2020. The share of foreign investment in equity trading declined to 22% in 2021 from 35% in 2020 and over 50% in 2018. This decline is indicative of foreign investors’ diminishing appetite for Nigerian securities especially as repatriation concerns continue to mount. The NXG sovereign bond index declined year-on-year by 14% in 2021.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the government agency tasked with regulating and developing the capital market. SEC creates operational guidelines and licenses securities and market intermediaries. The Nigerian government has considered requiring companies in certain sectors such as telecoms, oil, and gas, or over a certain size to list on the NXG as a means to encourage greater corporate participation and sectoral balance in the Nigerian stock exchange, but those proposals have not been enacted.
The government employs debt instruments, issuing treasury bills of one year or less, and bonds of various maturities ranging from two to 30 years. Nigeria is increasingly relying on the bond market to finance its widening deficit, especially as domestic bond rates fell well below Nigeria’s Eurobond rates in 2021. In addition, Nigeria continues its reluctance or refusal to accept certain conditionalities attached to multilateral borrowing, and has increasingly forgone World Bank and Africa Development Bank loans that have required it to free the exchange rate, eliminate subsidies, create an agricultural exchange, easing trade restrictions, amont other macro/fiscal reforms. The government’s preferred option in recent times has been the capital market, foreign or domestic. It has also made increased use of Export–Import Bank of China loans, as these conditions are not as rigorous as is the case with multilateral institutions.
Domestic borrowing accounted for 76% of new government borrowings in the first eleven months of 2021. Some state governments have issued bonds to finance development projects, while some domestic banks have used the bond market to raise additional capital. Nigeria’s SEC has issued stringent guidelines for states wishing to raise funds on capital markets, such as requiring credit assessments conducted by recognized credit rating agencies.
The CBN is the apex monetary authority of Nigeria; it was established by the CBN Act of 1958 and commenced operations on July 1, 1959. It has oversight of all banks and other financial institutions and is designed to be operationally independent of political interference although the CBN governor is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The amended CBN Act of 2007 mandates the CBN to have the overall control and administration of the monetary and financial sector policies of the government. The new Banking and Other Financial Institutions Act (BOFIA) of 2020 broadens CBN’s regulatory oversight function to include financial technology companies as it prohibits the operations of unlicensed financial institutions. The revised BOFIA also grants partial immunity to the CBN and its officials from judicial intervention on actions arising from activities undertaken to implement the Act. Furthermore, the Act forbids restorative orders and limits remedies sought against the CBN where it has revoked a license to monetary compensation.
Foreign banks and investors are allowed to establish banking business in Nigeria provided they meet the current minimum capital requirement of 25 billion naira ($60 million) and other applicable regulatory requirements for banking license as prescribed by the CBN. The CBN regulations for foreign banks regarding mergers with or acquisitions of existing local banks in the country stipulate that the foreign institutions’ aggregate investment must not be more than 10% of the latter’s total capital.
Any foreign-owned bank in Nigeria that wishes to acquire or merge with a local bank must have operated in Nigeria for a minimum of five years. To qualify for merger or acquisition of any of Nigeria’s local banks, the foreign bank must have achieved a penetration of two-thirds of the states of the federation, that is, to have branches in at least 24 out of the 36 states in Nigeria. The CBN also stipulates that the foreign bank or investors’ shareholding arising from the merger or acquisition should not exceed 40% of the total capital of the resultant entity.
The CBN currently licenses 24 deposit-taking commercial banks in Nigeria. Following a 2009 banking crisis, CBN officials intervened in eight commercial banks and worked to stabilize the sector through reforms, including the adoption of uniform year-end International Financial Reporting Standards to increase transparency, a stronger emphasis on risk management and corporate governance, and the nationalization of three distressed banks. The CBN has since intervened in the sector using bridge banks and capital injections to avoid bank failures. The CBN has licensed three non-interest banks since it released operational guidelines in 2011. There are six licensed merchant banks which provide asset management and capital market activities, the latter through a subsidiary registered by SEC, and 882 microfinance banks licensed by the CBN to provide services largely to those not served by conventional banks.
The CBN reiterated its commitment to increasing the level of financial inclusion in the country from 60% in 2020 to 95% by 2024. The CBN plans to achieve this goal by leveraging technology and relaxing its criteria for financial services market entry. Most notably, telecom companies previously excluded from providing financial services are now eligible for payment service banking and digital financial services licenses. The CBN also licenses agents to provide financial services on behalf of commercial banks and other licensed financial services providers in underserved areas. According to the IMF’s Financial Access Survey for 2021, there were 5,158 bank branches in Nigeria in 2020 which amounted to 4.5 branches per 100,000 adults; the number of automated teller machines per 100,000 adults was to 16.1; there were 142 mobile money agents per thousand square kilometers; and the number of registered mobile money agents per thousand adults fell by more than half to 61.
The banking sector remained resilient in 2021 despite the risks and challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The five largest banks recorded 3%, 9% and 6% increases in revenues, profits, and assets, respectively, in the first half of the year. The CBN reported that non-performing loans (NPLs) declined to 4.9% in December 2021, breaching the 5% prudential threshold for the first time in over a decade. This is a significant decline from 6.4% and 9.4% in June of 2020 and 2021, respectively. The steady fall in NPLs is attributable to the CBN’s post-COVID forbearance measures as well as increased banking sector recoveries, disposals, and write-offs. The industry average capital adequacy ratio (CAR) was 14.5% as of December 2021, compared to a minimum regulatory threshold of 10% for ordinary banks and 15% for domestically systemically important banks (D-SIBS) and banks with international authorization. According to the CBN’s 2019 Financial Stability Report, seven D-SIBs account for 64% of banking assets, 65% of industry deposits, and 66% of industry loans, hence their failure could disrupt the entire financial system and the country’s economy. D-SIBS usually record higher CARs while smaller banks pull down the industry average. D-SIBS recorded an average CAR of 19.8% compared to the then average of 15.2%. Weaker banks thereby pose a risk to Nigeria’s financial system stability. In its first monetary policy meeting of 2022, the CBN noted downside risks to the sector were associated with sluggish post-COVID growth and resolved to “closely monitor” and “swiftly respond to emerging challenges.”
Total banking sector assets rose from 51 trillion naira ($122.3 billion) in 2020 to 59 trillion naira ($141.4 billion) while deposits increased to 38.4 trillion naira ($92 billion) in 2021. Nigeria’s five largest banks by assets, considered Tier 1 banks by the CBN, recorded combined total assets of 40 trillion naira ($96 billion) – about two-thirds of the industry total – in the first half of 2021. Access Bank leads the pack with 10.1 trillion naira ($24.2 billion) in assets, followed by Zenith Bank with 8.5 trillion naira (20.4 billion), UBA with 8.3 trillion naira ($20 billion), First Bank with 8 trillion naira ($19.2 billion), and GTB with 5 trillion naira ($12 billion).
The CBN has continued its system of liquidity management using unorthodox monetary policies. The measures included an increase in the cash reserve ratio (CRR) to 27.5% – among the highest globally – to absorb the excess liquidity within the system which was a direct consequence of the lack of investment opportunities. The CBN arbitrarily debited banks for carrying excess loanable deposits on their books resulting in the effective CRR for some banks rising as high as 50%, which limited banks’ capacity to lend. The CBN also enforced a 65% minimum loan to deposit ratio in order to increase private sector credit and boost productivity. In December 2020, the CBN released some of the excess CRR back to banks by selling them special bills in an attempt to improve liquidity and support economic recovery.
Under Nigerian laws and banking regulations, one of the conditions any foreigner seeking to open a bank account in Nigeria must fulfill is to be a legal resident in Nigeria. The foreigner must have obtained the Nigerian resident permit, known as the Combined Expatriate Residence Permit and Aliens Card which can only be processed by a foreigner that has been employed by a Nigerian company through an expatriate quota. Another requirement is the biometric BVN, which every account holder in Nigeria must have according CBN regulations.
Only a company duly registered in Nigeria can open a bank account in the country. Therefore, a foreign company is not entitled to open a bank account in Nigeria unless its subsidiary has been registered in Nigeria.
The Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) manages Nigeria’s sovereign wealth fund. It was created by the NSIA Act in 2011 to harness Nigeria’s robust oil revenues toward economic stability, wealth creation, and infrastructure development. The NSIAreceived $1 billion seed capital in 2013 which grew to $2.1 billion in 2020 as a result of additional investments and retained earnings. The NSIA manages an additional $1.5 billion from third-party-managed funds for a total assets under management of $3.6 billion.
The NSIA is a public agency that subscribes to the Santiago Principles, which are a set of 24 guidelines that assign “best practices” for the operations of Sovereign Wealth Funds globally. The NSIA invests through three ring-fenced funds:
the Future Generations Fund is assigned 30% of NSIA’s assets with the objective of preserving and growing the value of said assets for the benefit of future Nigerians. The minimum investment horizon is 20 years, the investment base currency is the U.S. dollar, and the minimum target return is U.S. inflation + 4%. The Fund invests primarily in “growth assets,” “deflation hedges,” and “inflation hedges.”
the Nigeria Infrastructure Fund aims to plug Nigeria’s infrastructure gap by investing in, and catalyzing foreign investments for, domestic infrastructure projects. The Fund is assigned 50% of NSIA’s assets. Investments are in naira and U.S. dollars and the return-on-investment target is U.S. inflation plus 5%. The Fund cannot allocate more than 50% of its assets to investment managers (not more than 25% to a single manager) or more than 35% to a single infrastructure sector. The Fund may also invest not more than 10% of its assets in “development projects’ in underserved regions or sectors. Priority sectors are power, healthcare, real estate, technology and communications infrastructure, aviation assets, agriculture, water and sewage treatment and delivery, roads, port, and rail.
the Stabilization Fund was created to act as a buffer against short-term economic instability and is assigned 20% of NSIA’s assets. The Fund invests in conservative, short-term, and liquid assets since it may be drawn down to augment government revenue shortages. The base currency is the U.S. dollar. Investment options range from global sovereign and corporate debt, credit focused debt, cash, and to an extent, derivatives. The minimum credit quality rating is “A” over a 12-month period.
At least 50% of the NSIA’s assets are invested domestically in infrastructure projects. The NSIA does not take an active role in the management of companies. The Embassy has not received any report or indication that NSIA activities limit private competition.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The government does not have an established practice consistent with the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for state-owned enterprises (SOEs), but SOEs have respective enabling legislations that govern their ownership. To legalize the existence of state-owned enterprises, provisions have been made in the Nigerian constitution relating to socio-economic development and in section 16 (1). The government has privatized many former SOEs to encourage more efficient operations, such as state-owned telecommunications company Nigerian Telecommunications and mobile subsidiary Mobile Telecommunications in 2014. SOEs operate in a variety of sectors ranging from information and communication; power; oil and gas; transportation including rail, maritime, and airports; and finance.
Nigeria does not operate a centralized ownership system for its state-owned enterprises. Most SOEs are 100% government owned. Others are owned by the government through the Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOFI) or solely or jointly by MOFI and various agencies of government. The enabling legislation for each SOE also stipulates its governance structure. The boards of directors are appointed by the president and occasionally on the recommendation of the relevant minister. The boards operate and are appointed in line with the enabling legislation which usually stipulates the criteria for appointing board members. Directors are appointed by the board within the relevant sector. In a few cases, however, appointments have been viewed as a reward to political allies. Operational autonomy varies amongst SOEs. Most SOEs are parastatals of a supervising ministry or the presidency with minimal autonomy. SOEs with regulatory or industry oversight functions are often technically independent of ministerial supervision; however, ministers and other political appointees often interfere in their operations.
All SOEs are required to remit a share of their profits or operational surpluses to the federal government. This “independent revenue” more than doubled from 2020 to 1.1 trillion naira ($2.6 billion) in 2021 and exceeded budget projections by 13%. This was as a result of the government’s drive to increase non-oil revenues as well as increasingly stringent oversight of SOE remittances. The 60 largest SOEs (excluding the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)) generated a combined 1.2 trillion naira ($2.9 billion) in revenues and spent a total 410 billion naira ($983 million) in the first eleven months of 2021. The government often provides certain grants to SOEs that are inefficiently run and/or loss-making. For example, and over the past five years, the government has allocated 102 billion naira ($245 million) to the Transmission Company of Nigeria, 402 billion naira ($964 million) to the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company, 154 billion naira ($369 million) to the Nigerian Railway Corporation, and 24 billion naira ($58 million) to the Ajaokuta Steel Company. These SOEs wereall ostensibly established to generate and remit revenue.
NNPC is Nigeria’s most prominent state-owned enterprise. Under the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act, NNPC was incorporated as a limited liability company in September 2021, although the incorporation process does not appear to have led to a de facto change in the company’s operations and the government maintains 100% ownership. NNPC Board appointments are made by the presidency, but day-to-day management is overseen by the Group Managing Director (GMD). The GMD reports to the Minister of Petroleum Resources. In the current administration, the President has retained that ministerial role for himself, and the appointed Minister of State for Petroleum Resources acts as the de facto Minister of Petroleum in the president’s stead with certain limitations.
NNPC is Nigeria’s biggest and arguably most important state-owned enterprise and is involved in exploration, refining, petrochemicals, products transportation, and marketing. It owns and operates Nigeria’s four refineries (one each in Warri and Kaduna and two in Port Harcourt), all of which are currently and largely inoperable. NNPC remits proceeds from the sale of crude oil less operational expenses to the federation account which is managed by the federal government on behalf of all tiers of government. It is also expected to pay corporate and petroleum profits taxes to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). NNPC began publishing audited financial statements in 2020 for the three prior fiscal years, a significant step toward improving transparency of NNPC operations. The government generated crude oil net revenue of 1.5 trillion naira ($3.6 billion) in 2020 in large part due to NNPC’s $10 billion gross revenue and the government’s removal of the gasoline subsidy for half of 2020 in the face of low global oil prices. However, despite higher oil prices, crude oil revenue fell to 970 billion naira ($2.3 billion) in the first eleven months of 2021. This is largely due to declining crude production and the significant subsidy costs which NNPC deducts from revenue before remitting the balance to the government.
NNPC’s dual role as industry operator and unofficial regulator as well as its proximity to government lends it certain advantages its competitors lack. For instance, the CBN often prioritizes NNPC’s foreign exchange requests and has offered the corporation a subsidized exchange rate for its importation of petroleum products in the past. In addition, its proximity to government affords it high-level influence. NNPC’s inputs formed a critical part of the government’s position during the drafting of the Petroleum Industry Act of 2021. NNPC’s objection to the sale of an international oil company’s subsidiary with which it operates a joint venture has stayed the government approval required for the divestment.
The government also owns equity in some private-sector-run entities. It retained 60% and 40% equity in the generation and distribution companies, respectively, that emerged from the power sector privatization exercise in 2013. Despite being privately-run, revenues across the power sector value chain are hindered by the overall inefficiencies and illiquidity in the sector. Consequently, a government facility finances a sizeable portion of the sector’s activities. The Transmission Company of Nigeria, of which the government retained full ownership, is largely financed by the government. The government owns 49% of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited (NLNG) with the balance held by several international oil companies. NLNG is one of Nigeria’s most profitable companies and the dividends paid to the government accounted for nearly 3% of federal government revenues in 2021.
The Privatization and Commercialization Act of 1999 established the National Council on Privatization, the policy-making body overseeing the privatization of state-owned enterprises, and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the implementing agency for designated privatizations. The BPE has focused on the privatization of key sectors, including telecommunications and power, and calls for core investors to acquire controlling shares in formerly state-owned enterprises.
The BPE has privatized and concessioned more than 140 enterprises since 1999, including an aluminum complex, a steel complex, cement manufacturing firms, hotels, a petrochemical plant, aviation cargo handling companies, vehicle assembly plants, and electricity generation and distribution companies. The electricity transmission company remains state-owned. Foreign investors can and do participate in BPE’s privatization process. The government also retains partial ownership in some of the privatized companies. The federal government and several state governments hold a 40% stake, managed by BPE, in the power distribution companies.
The National Assembly has questioned the propriety of some of these privatizations, with one ongoing case related to an aluminum complex which is the subject of a Supreme Court ruling on ownership. In addition, the failure of the 2013 power sector privatization to restore financial viability to the sector has raised criticism of the privatized power generation and distribution companies.
The federal government estimates it will raise 91 billion naira ($218 million) from privatization proceeds in 2022. The government did not earn any revenues from privatization in 2021 despite a 205-billion-naira ($492 million) budget projection.
BPE has several ongoing transactions including the sale of government assets in the agricultural sector, the concession of trade fair complexes, and private-public partnership in the Nigeria Commodity Exchange amongst others. Additional information on ongoing transactions can be found on the BPE website: https://bpe.gov.ng/category/transactions/on-going-transactions/.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
There is no specific Responsible Business Conduct law in Nigeria. Several legislative acts incorporate within their provisions certain expectations that directly or indirectly regulate the observance or practice of corporate social responsibility. In order to reinforce responsible behavior, various laws have been put in place for the protection of the environment. These laws stipulate criminal sanctions for non-compliance but are not consistently enforced. There are also regulating agencies which exist to protect the rights of consumers. Additionally, the Nigerian government has no specific action plan regarding OECD Responsible Business Conduct guidelines.
Nigeria participates in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and is an EITI compliant country. Specifically, in February 2019 the EITI Board determined that Nigeria had made satisfactory progress overall with implementing the EITI Standard after having fully addressed the corrective actions from the country’s first Validation in 2017. The next EITI Validation study of Nigeria will occur in 2022.
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (the Commission) also ensure comprehensive standards and guidelines to direct the execution of projects with proper consideration for the environment. These two agencies replaced the now defunct Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and its Environmental Guidelines and Standards of 1991 for the petroleum industry. These two agencies aim to continue the DPR’s mission to preserve and protect the environmental issues of the Niger Delta.
The Nigerian government provides oversight relating to the competition, consumer rights, and environmental protection issues. The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, the Standards Organization of Nigeria, and other entities have the authority to impose fines and ensure the destruction of harmful substances that otherwise may be sold to the general public. The main regulators and enforcers of corporate governance are the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Corporate Affairs Commission (which register all incorporated companies). Nigeria has adopted multiple reforms on corporate governance.
The Companies Allied Matter Act 2020 and the Investment Securities Act provide basic guidelines on company listing. More detailed regulations are covered in the NSX Listing rules. Publicly listed companies are expected to disclose their level of compliance with the Code of Corporate Governance in their Annual Financial Reports.
Domestic and foreign observers identify corruption as a serious obstacle to economic growth and poverty reduction. Nigeria ranked 154 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index.
Businesses report that bribery of customs and port officials remains common and often necessary to avoid extended delays in the port clearance process, and that smuggled goods routinely enter Nigeria’s seaports and cross its land borders.
Since taking office in 2015, President Buhari has focused on implementing a campaign pledge to address corruption, though his critics contend his anti-corruption efforts often target political rivals.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment Act of 2004 established the EFCC to prosecute individuals involved in financial crimes and other acts of economic “sabotage.” Traditionally, the EFCC has achieved the most success in prosecuting low-level internet scam operators. A relatively few high-profile convictions have taken place, such as a former governor of Adamawa State, a former governor of Bayelsa State, a former Inspector General of Police, and a former Chair of the Board of the Nigerian Ports Authority. The EFCC also arrested a former National Security Advisor (NSA), a former Minister of State for Finance, a former NSA Director of Finance and Administration, and others on charges related to diversion of funds intended for government arms procurement. EFCC investigations have led to 5,562 convictions since 2010, with 2,200 in 2021. In 2020 the EFCC announced that the Buhari administration convicted 1,692 defendants and recovered over $2.6 billion in assets over the previous four-year period. In 2021, EFCC’s investigation of a former petroleum minister resulted in seizure of properties valued more than $80M.
The Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act of 2001 established an Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to prosecute individuals, government officials, and businesses for corruption. The Corrupt Practices Act punishes over 19 offenses, including accepting or giving bribes, fraudulent acquisition of property, and concealment of fraud. Nigerian law stipulates that giving and receiving bribes constitute criminal offences and, as such, are not tax deductible. Between 2019-2020 the ICPC filed 178 cases in court and secured convictions in 51 cases. The ICPC announced in early 2022 that it had recovered cash and assets valued at 166.51 billion naira (about $400 million at the official exchange rate) from corrupt persons in the preceding two and half years.
In 2021, the Deputy Commissioner of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and Chief of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Abba Kyari, often publicly referred to as “Nigeria’s Supercop,” was suspended from the NPF and arrested for drug dealing, evidence tampering, and corruption for reportedly accepting bribes from a Nigerian internet fraudster Ramon Abbas, popularly known as “Hushpuppi,” who pleaded guilty to money laundering in the United States. The Nigeria Police Service Commission finalized the suspension of Kyari on July 31, following the release of unsealed court documents filed in a U.S. District Court ordering the arrest of Kyari for his involvement in a $1.1 million fraud scheme with Abbas. Kyari is alleged to have solicited payment for the detainment and arrest of Abbas at Abbas’s behest.
In 2016, Nigeria announced its participation in the Open Government Partnership, a significant step forward on public financial management and fiscal transparency. The Ministry of Justice presented Nigeria’s National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership.
Implementation of its 14 commitments has made some progress, particularly on the issues such as tax transparency, ease of doing business, and asset recovery. The National Action Plan, which ran through 2019, covered five major themes: ensuring citizens’ participation in the budget cycle, implementing open contracting and adoption of open contracting data standards, increasing transparency in the extractive sectors, adopting common reporting standards like the Addis Tax initiative, and improving the ease of doing business. Full implementation of the National Action Plan would be a significant step forward for Nigeria’s fiscal transparency, although Nigeria has not fully completed any commitment to date.
The Buhari administration created a network of agencies intended to work together to achieve anticorruption goals – the EFCC, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) – and which are principally responsible for the recovery of the ill-gotten assets and diverted tax liabilities. The government launched the Financial Transparency Policy and Portal, commonly referred to as Open Treasury Portal, in 2019, to increase transparency and governmental accountability of funds transferred by making the daily treasury statement public. The Open Treasury Portal mandates that all ministries, departments, and agencies publish daily reports of payments in excess of N5m ($13,800). Agencies are also required to publish budget performance reports and other official financial statements monthly. Anticorruption activists demand more reforms and increased transparency in defense, oil and gas, and infrastructure procurement.
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Act of 2007 provided for the establishment of the NEITI organization, charged with developing a framework for transparency and accountability in the reporting and disclosure by all extractive industry companies of revenue due to or paid to the Nigerian government. NEITI serves as a member of the international Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which provides a global standard for revenue transparency for extractive industries like oil and gas and mining. Nigeria is party to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Nigeria is not a member of the OECD and not party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery.
Foreign companies, whether incorporated in Nigeria or not, may bid on government projects and generally receive national treatment in government procurement, but may also be subject to a local content vehicle (e.g., partnership with a local partner firm or the inclusion of one in a consortium) or other prerequisites which are likely to vary from tender to tender. Corruption and lack of transparency in tender processes have been a far greater concern to U.S. companies than discriminatory policies based on foreign status. Government tenders are published in local newspapers, a “tenders” journal sold at local newspaper outlets, and occasionally in foreign journals and magazines. The Nigerian government has made modest progress on its pledge to conduct open and competitive bidding processes for government procurement with the introduction of the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal in 2017 under the Bureau of Public Procurement.
The Public Procurement Law of 2007 established the Bureau of Public Procurement as the successor agency to the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit. It acts as a clearinghouse for government contracts and procurement and monitors the implementation of projects to ensure compliance with contract terms and budgetary restrictions. Procurements above 100 million naira (approximately $243,000) reportedly undergo full “due process,” but government agencies routinely flout public procurement requirements. Some of the 36 states of the federation have also passed public procurement legislation.
Certain such reforms have also improved transparency in procurement by the state-owned NNPC. Although U.S. companies have won contracts in numerous sectors, difficulties in receiving payment are not uncommon and can deter firms from bidding. Supplier or foreign government subsidized financing arrangements appear in some cases to be a crucial factor in the award of government procurements. Nigeria is not a signatory to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement.
10. Political and Security Environment
Political, criminal, and ethnic violence continue to affect Nigeria. Boko Haram and Islamic State – West Africa (ISIS-WA) have waged violent terrorist campaigns, killing of thousands of people in the country’s North East. Boko Haram and ISIS-WA attacked civilians, military, police, humanitarian, and religious targets; recruited and forcefully conscripted child soldiers; and carried out scores of attacks on population centers in the North East and in neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Abductions by Boko Haram and ISIS-WA continue. These attacks resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries, numerous human rights abuses, widespread destruction, the internal displacement of more than three million persons, and the external displacement of at least 327,000 Nigerian refugees to neighboring countries as of the end of 2021. ISIS-WA terrorists demonstrated increased ability to conduct complex attacks against military outposts and formations. During 2021, ISIS-WA terrorists took over significant territory formerly held by Boko Haram. ISIS-WA expanded efforts to implement shadow governance structures in large swaths of Borno State.
President Buhari has sought to address matters of insecurity in Nigeria. While the terrorists maintain the ability to stage forces in rural areas and launch attacks against civilian and military targets across the North East, Nigeria is also facing rural violence in many parts of the country carried out by criminals who raid villages and abduct civilians for ransom. Longstanding disputes between migratory pastoralist and farming communities, exacerbated by increasingly scarce resources and intensified by climate change impacts, also continue to afflict the country.
Due to challenging security dynamics throughout the country, the U.S. Mission to Nigeria has significantly limited official travel in the North East, and travel to other parts of Nigeria requires security precautions. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a political separatist group declared a terrorist organization by the Nigerian government in 2013, established a militant arm in December 2020, the Eastern Security Network (ESN). ESN has been blamed for a surge in attacks in early 2021 against Nigerian police and security installations across the South East, the region in which IPOB claims the most support. Following extradition from Kenya and subsequent arrest of IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu in June 2021, IPOB/ESN issued a “stay at home” order on Mondays for the five states of the South East (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo). Residents or visitors to the area who disobey the order have faced violent intimidation, which has led to a near complete shutdown of activity across the South East each Monday and other days significant to Kanu’s trial. The U.S. Mission to Nigeria does not allow official travel in those states on days that a stay-at-home order is in place.
Decades of neglect, persistent poverty, and environmental damage caused by oil spills and illegal refining activities have left Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta region vulnerable to renewed violence. Though each oil-producing state receives a 13% derivation of the oil revenue produced within its borders, and several government agencies, including the Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC) and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, are tasked with implementing development projects, bureaucratic mismanagement and corruption have prevented these investments from yielding meaningful economic and social development in the region. Niger Delta criminals have demonstrated their ability to attack and severely damage oil instillations at will, as seen when they cut Nigeria’s production by more than half in 2016. Attacks on oil installations decreased due to a revamped amnesty program and high-level engagement with the region at the time, but the underlying economic woes and historical grievances of the local communities were not addressed. As a result, insecurity in various forms continues to plague the region.
More significant in recent years is the region’s shift from attacks against oil infrastructure to illegal oil bunkering and illicit refining. In its July 2021 audit, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) reported that Nigeria lost42.25 million barrels of crude oil to oil theft in 2019, valued at $2.77 billion. While the Nigerian Navy Eastern Naval Command disclosed that it had deactivated 175 illegal refineries and seized 27 vessels throughout its area of operation over a period of 11 months during 2021, such illegal activities have nonetheless continued, and oil theft remains a significant issue for both the industry and the region’s environment. In 2021, Nigeria reportedly lost $3.5 billion in revenue to crude oil theft, representing approximately 10% of the country’s foreign reserves, and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) still reports hundreds of oil spills each year.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Nigeria’s skilled labor pool has declined over the past decade due to inadequate educational systems, limited employment opportunities, and the migration of educated Nigerians to other countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and South Africa. The low employment capacity of Nigeria’s formal sector means that almost three-quarters of all Nigerians work in the informal and agricultural sectors or are unemployed. Companies involved in formal sector businesses, such as banking and insurance, possess an adequately skilled workforce. Manufacturing and construction sector workers often require on-the-job training. The result is that while individual wages are low, individual productivity is also low, which means overall relative labor costs can be high. The Buhari Administration is pushing reforms in the education sector to improve the supply of skilled workers but this and other efforts run by state governments are in their initial stages.
The labor movement has long been active and influential in Nigeria. Labor organizations remain politically active and are prone to call for strikes on a regular basis against the national and state governments. Since 2000, unions have successfully called eight general strikes. While most labor actions are peaceful, difficult economic conditions fuel the risk that these actions could become violent.
Nigeria’s constitution guarantees the rights of free assembly and association and protects workers’ rights to form or belong to trade unions. Several statutory laws, nonetheless, restrict the rights of workers to associate or disassociate with labor organizations. Nigerian unions belong to one of three trade union federations: the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), which tends to represent junior (i.e., blue collar) workers; the United Labor Congress of Nigeria (ULC), which represents a group of unions that separated from the NLC in 2015; and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), which represents the “senior” (i.e., white collar) workers.
According to figures provided by the Ministry of Labor and Employment, total union membership stands at roughly seven million. A majority of these union members work in the public sector, although unions exist across the private sector. The Trade Union Amendment Act of 2005 allowed non-management senior staff to join unions.
Collective bargaining in the oil and gas industry is relatively efficient compared to other sectors. Issues pertaining to salaries, benefits, health and safety, and working conditions tend to be resolved quickly through negotiations. Workers under collective bargaining agreements cannot participate in strikes unless their unions comply with the requirements of the law, which includes provisions for mandatory mediation and referral of disputes to the Nigerian government. Despite these restrictions on staging strikes, unions occasionally conduct strikes in the private and public sectors without warning. In 2021, localized strikes occurred in the education, government, energy, power, and healthcare sectors. The law forbids employers from granting general wage increases to workers without prior government approval, but the law is not often enforced.
In April 2019, President Buhari signed into law a new minimum wage, increasing it from 18,000 naira ($50 at the 2019 official exchange rate) to 30,000 naira ($73 at the 2021 official exchange rate) per month. More than 15 state governments have yet to commence with the implementation of the new minimum wage. [Note: The federal government has even threatened to sanction the management of the National Assembly over its breach of the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2019, for failing to pay its employees at the new minimum rate as of April 18, 2019.] Nigeria’s Labor Act provides for a 40-hour work week, two to four weeks of annual leave, and overtime and holiday pay for all workers except agricultural and domestic workers. No law prohibits compulsory overtime. The Act establishes general health and safety provisions, some of which specifically apply to young or female workers and requires the Ministry of Labor and Employment to inspect factories for compliance with health and safety standards. Under-funding and limited resources undermine the Ministry’s oversight capacity, and construction sites and other non-factory work sites are often ignored. Nigeria’s labor law requires employers to compensate injured workers and dependent survivors of workers killed in industrial accidents.
The Nigerian Minister of Labor and Employment may refer unresolved disputes to the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) and the National Industrial Court (NIC). In 2015, the NIC launched an Alternative Dispute Resolution Center. Union officials question the effectiveness and independence of the NIC, believing it unable to resolve disputes stemming from Nigerian government failure to fulfill contract provisions for public sector employees. Union leaders criticize the arbitration system’s dependence on the Minister of Labor and Employment’s referrals to the IAP.
The issue of child labor remains of great concern in Nigeria, where an estimated 15 million children under the age of 14 are working, and about half this population being exploited as workers in hazardous situations according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). Nigeria’s laws regarding minimum age for child labor and hazardous work are inconsistent. Article 59 of the Labor Act of 1974 sets the minimum age of employment at 12, and it is in force throughout Nigeria. The Act also permits children of any age to do light work alongside a family member in agriculture, horticulture, or domestic service.
The Federal 2003 Child Rights Act (CRA) codifies the rights of children in Nigeria and must be ratified by each State to become law in its territory. To date, 28 states and the Federal Capital Territory have ratified the CRA, with all eight of the remaining states located in northern Nigeria. [Note: The legislatures in Kebbi and Yobe States tentatively approved the law and are only awaiting their governors’ signatures to ratify the bills.]
The CRA states that the provisions related to young people in the Labor Act apply to children under the CRA, but also that the CRA supersedes any other legislation related to children. The CRA restricts children under the age of 18 from any work aside from light work for family members; however, Article 59 of the Labor Act applies these restrictions only to children under the age of 12. This language makes it unclear what minimum ages apply for certain types of work in the country.
While the Labor Act forbids the employment of youth under age 18 in work that is dangerous to their health, safety, or morals, it allows children to participate in certain types of work that may be dangerous by setting different age thresholds for various activities. For example, the Labor Act allows children age 16 and older to work at night in gold mining and the manufacturing of iron, steel, paper, raw sugar, and glass. Furthermore, the Labor Act does not extend to children employed in domestic service. Thus, children are vulnerable to dangerous work in industrial undertakings, underground, with machines, and in domestic service. In addition, the prohibitions established by the Labor Act and CRA are not comprehensive or specific enough to facilitate enforcement. In 2013, the National Steering Committee (NSC) for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Nigeria validated the Report on the Identification of Hazardous Child Labor in Nigeria. The report has languished with the Ministry of Labor and Employment and still awaits the promulgation of guidelines for operationalizing the report.
The Nigerian government adopted the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement, and Administration Act of 2015. While not specifically directed against child labor, many sections of the law support anti-child labor efforts. The Violence against Persons Prohibition Act was signed into law in 2015 and, while not specifically focused on child labor, it covers related elements such as “depriving a person of his/her liberty,” “forced financial dependence/economic abuse,” and “forced isolation/separation from family and friends” and is applicable to minors.
Draft legislation, such as a new Labor Standards Act which includes provisions on child labor, and an Occupational Safety and Health Act that would regulate hazardous work, have remained under consideration in the National Assembly since 2006.
Admission of foreign workers is overseen by the Ministry of the Interior. Employers must seek the consent of the Ministry in order to employ foreign workers by applying for an “expatriate quota.” The quota allows a company to employ foreign nationals in specifically approved job designations as well as specifying the validity period of the designations provided on the quota.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source*
USG or international statistical source
USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)
South Africa boasts the most advanced, broad-based economy in sub-Saharan Africa. The investment climate is fortified by stable institutions; an independent judiciary and robust legal sector that respects the rule of law; a free press and investigative reporting; a mature financial and services sector; and experienced local partners.
In dealing with the legacy of apartheid, South African laws, policies, and reforms seek economic transformation to accelerate the participation of and opportunities for historically disadvantaged South Africans. The Government of South Africa (GoSA) views its role as the primary driver of development and aims to promote greater industrialization, often employing tariffs and other trade measures that support domestic industry while negatively affecting foreign trade partners. President Ramaphosa’s October 2020 Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan unveiled the latest domestic support target: the substitution of 20 percent of imported goods in 42 categories with domestic production within five years. Other GoSA initiatives to accelerate transformation include labor laws to achieve proportional racial, gender, and disability representation in workplaces and prescriptive government procurement requirements such as equity stakes and employment thresholds for historically disadvantaged South Africans. In January 2022, the World Bank approved South Africa’s request for a USD 750 million development policy loan to accelerate the country’s COVID-19 response. South Africa previously received USD 4.3 billion from the International Monetary Fund in July 2020 for COVID-19 response. This is the first time that the institutions have supported South Africa’s public finances/fiscus since the country’s democratic transition.
In November 2021 at COP 26 the GoSA, the United States, the UK, France, Germany, and the European Union (EU) announced the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). The partnership aims to accelerate the decarbonization of South Africa’s economy, with a focus on the electricity system, to help achieve the ambitious emissions reduction goals laid out in South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in an inclusive, equitable transition. The partnership will mobilize an initial commitment of USD 8.5 billion over three-to-five years using a variety of financial instruments.
South Africa continues to suffer the effects from a “lost decade” in which economic growth stagnated, hovering at zero percent pre-COVID-19, largely due to corruption and economic mismanagement. During the pandemic the country implemented one of the strictest economic and social lockdown regimes in the world at a significant cost to its economy. South Africa suffered a four-quarter technical recession in 2019 and 2020 with economic growth registering only 0.2 percent growth for the entire year of 2019 and contracting -6.4 percent in 2020. In a 2020 survey of over 2,000 South African businesses conducted by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), over eight percent of respondents permanently ceased trading, while over 36 percent indicated short-term layoffs. Although the economy grew by 4.9 percent in 2021 due to higher economic activity in the financial sector, the official unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2021 was 34.9 percent. Other challenges include policy certainty, lack of regulatory oversight, state-owned enterprise (SOE) drain on the fiscus, widespread corruption, violent crime, labor unrest, lack of basic infrastructure and government service delivery and lack of skilled labor.
Due to growth in 2021, Moody’s moved South Africa’s overall investment outlook to stable; however, it kept South Africa’s sovereign debt at sub-investment grade. S&P and Fitch ratings agencies also maintain assessments that South Africa’s sovereign debt is sub-investment grade at this time.
Despite structural challenges, South Africa remains a destination conducive to U.S. investment as a comparatively low-risk location in Africa, the fastest growing consumer market in the world. Google (US) invested approximately USD 140 million, and PepsiCo invested approximately USD 1.5 billion in 2020. Ford announced a USD 1.6 billion investment, including the expansion of its Gauteng province manufacturing plant in January 2021.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
The GoSA is generally open to foreign investment to drive economic growth, improve international competitiveness, and access foreign markets. The Department of Trade and Industry and Competition’s (DTIC) Trade and Investment South Africa (TISA) division assists foreign investors. It actively courts manufacturing in sectors where it believes South Africa has a competitive advantage. It favors sectors that are labor intensive and with the potential for local supply chain development. DTIC publishes the “Investor’s Handbook” on its website: HYPERLINKError! Hyperlink reference not valid. and TISA provides investment support through One Stop Shops in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and online at http://www.investsa.gov.za/one-stop-shop/ (see Business Facilitation). The 2018 Competition Amendment Bill introduced a government review mechanism for FDI in certain sectors on national security grounds, including energy, mining, banking, insurance, and defense (see section on Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment). The private sector has expressed concern about the politicization of mergers and acquisitions.
Currently, there are few limitations on foreign private ownership and South Africa has established several incentive programs to attract foreign investment. Under the Companies Act, which governs the registration and operation of companies in South Africa, foreign investors may establish domestic entities as well as register foreign-owned entities. However, the Act requires that external companies submit their annual returns to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission Office (CIPC) for review. Although generally there are no rules that would prohibit foreign companies from purchasing South African assets or engaging in takeovers, the Act does contain national security interest criteria for certain industries, including energy, mining, banking, insurance, and defense (see section on Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment), that could potentially subject transactions covered to additional scrutiny. Reviews will be conducted by a committee comprised of 28 ministers and officials chosen by President Ramaphosa. The law also states that the president must identify and publish in the Gazette, the South African equivalent of the U.S. Federal Register, a list of national security interests including the markets, industries, goods or services, sectors or regions for mergers involving a foreign acquiring firm.
In addition to the Companies Act national security review provisions, there are a small number of industries that are subject to additional requirements through separate acts. On September 28, 2021, President Ramaphosa signed the Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Act, which limits foreign ownership of private security companies to 49 percent based on national security concerns. The Banks Act of 1990 permits a foreign bank to apply to the Prudential Authority (operating within the administration of the South African Reserve Bank) to establish a representative office or a local branch in South Africa. The Insurance Act of 2017 prohibits persons from conducting insurance business in South Africa without being appropriately licensed by the Prudential Authority. The Insurance Act permits a foreign reinsurer to conduct insurance business in South Africa, subject to that foreign reinsurer being granted a license and establishing both a trust (for the purposes of holding the prescribed security) and a representative office in South Africa. The Electronic Communications Act of 2005 imposes limitations on foreign control of commercial broadcasting services. The Act Provides that a foreign investor may not, directly or indirectly, (1) exercise control over a commercial broadcasting licensee; or (2) have a financial interest or an interest in voting shares or paid-up capital in a commercial broadcasting licensee exceeding 20 percent. The Act caps the percentage of foreigners serving as directors of a commercial broadcasting licensee at 20 per cent. Lastly, foreign purchasers of South African securities are obliged to notify an authorized dealer (generally commercial banks) of the purchase and have the securities endorsed “non-resident.”
DTIC’s TISA division assists foreign investors, actively courting manufacturers in sectors where it believes South Africa has a competitive advantage. DTIC publishes the “Investor’s Handbook” on its website: www.the DTIC.gov.za and TISA provides investment support through One Stop Shops in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, and online at http://www.investsa.gov.za/one-stop-shop/ (see Business Facilitation). Foreign companies may be eligible for incentives in South Africa under several ad hoc initiatives as well as the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) Act of 2014, which promotes regional industrial development by providing incentives for foreign (and local) investors that elect to operate within the country’s SEZs. More information regarding incentive programs may be found at: http://www.thedtic.go/v.za/financial-and-non-financial-support/incentives/ and below in Incentives. The 2018 Competition Amendment Bill introduced a government review mechanism for FDI in certain sectors on national security grounds,
Although South Africa welcomes foreign investment, there are policies that potentially disadvantage foreign companies, including the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act of 2013 (B-BBEE). B-BBEE represents one avenue that South Africa has taken to re-integrate historically disadvantaged individuals (HDIs) into the economy by requiring companies meet certain thresholds of black ownership and management control to participate in government tenders and contracts. While companies support the Act’s intent, it can be difficult to meet the B-BBEE requirements, which are tallied on B-BBEE scorecards and are periodically re-defined. The higher the score on the scorecard, the greater preferential access a company must bid on government tenders and contracts.
In recognition of the challenge the scorecards place on foreign business, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition created an alternative Equity Equivalence Investment Program (EEIP) program for multinational or foreign owned companies to allow them to show alternative paths to meeting B-BBEE ownership and management requirements under the law. Many companies still view the terms as onerous and restrictive. Multinationals, primarily in the technology sector such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, participate in the EE program. J.P. Morgan was the first international investment bank in South Africa to launch a DTIC-approved equity equivalent investment program in August 2021. The company will deploy R340 million (approximately USD 22 million) of financing into the South African economy and create more than 1000 permanent jobs.
The B-BBEE program has come under sharp criticism in the past several years on the grounds that the Act has not gone far enough to shift ownership and management control in the commercial space to HDIs. In response, the GoSA has increasingly taken measures to strengthen B-BBEE through more restrictive application, increasing investigations into the improper use of B-BBEE scorecards, and is considering additional legislation to support B-BBEE’s policies. For instance, the GoSA is considering a new Equity Employment Bill that will set a numerical threshold, purportedly at the discretion of each Ministry, for employment based on race, gender, and disability, over and above other B-BBEE criteria. The bill is currently with the National Council of Provinces and if it passes, it will move to President Ramaphosa for signature.
South Africa has not undergone any third-party investment policy reviews through organizations such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), or UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.
In November 2021, civil society organizations launched a constitutional lawsuit against the GoSA, demanding that it cancel plans to build 1,500 Mega Watts (MW) of coal-fired power because this would worsen air and water pollution along with health hazards and global warming. They filed the case in the North Gauteng High Court on the grounds that the new power would pose “significant unjustifiable threats to constitutional rights” and to the climate by pushing up greenhouse gas emissions. South Africa is the 12th worst greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter in the world. The Center for Environmental Rights provided a review at: https://cer.org.za/news/new-coal-power-will-cost-south-africans-much-more-report-shows.
In November 2021, environmental activists gathered at the oil and gas giant Sasol’s annual general meeting demanding commitment to move away from fossil fuels. Activists also want Sasol and its shareholders to accelerate the country’s just transition, which commits to significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and moving towards greener energy alternatives. A domestic shareholder activism organization called JustShare released a report on Sasol and climate change claiming that Sasol is not planning to decarbonize, despite climate science.
DTIC has established One Stop Shops (OSS) to simplify administrative procedures and guidelines for foreign companies wishing to invest in South Africa in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg. In theory, OSS should be staffed by officials from government entities that handle regulation, permits and licensing, infrastructure, finance, and incentives, with a view to reducing lengthy bureaucratic procedures, reducing bottlenecks, and providing post-investment services. However, some users of the OSS complain that some of the inter-governmental offices are not staffed, so finding a representative for certain transactions may be difficult. The virtual OSS web site is: http://www.investsa.gov.za/one-stop-shop/.
The CIPC issues business registrations and publishes a step-by-step guide for online registration at (http://www.cipc.co.za/index.php/register-your-business/companies/), which can be done through a self-service terminal, or through a collaborating private bank. New businesses must also request through the South African Revenue Service (SARS) an income tax reference number for turnover tax (small companies), corporate tax, employer contributions for PAYE (income tax), and skills development levy (applicable to most companies). The smallest informal companies may not be required to register with CIPC but must register with the tax authorities. Companies must also register with the Department of Labour (DoL) – www.labour.gov.za – to contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and a compensation fund for occupational injuries. DoL registration may take up to 30 days but may be done concurrently with other registrations.
South Africa does not incentivize outward investments. South Africa’s stock foreign direct investments in the United States in 2019 totaled USD 4.1 billion (latest figures available), a 5.1 percent increase from 2018. The largest outward direct investment of a South African company was a gas liquefaction plant in the State of Louisiana by Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) and NASDAQ dual-listed petrochemical company SASOL. There are some restrictions on outward investment, such as a R1 billion (USD 83 million) limit per year on outward flows per company. Larger investments must be approved by the South African Reserve Bank and at least 10 percent of the foreign target entities’ voting rights must be obtained through the investment. https://www.resbank.co.za/RegulationAndSupervision/FinancialSurveillanceAndExchangeControl/FAQs/Pages/Corporates.aspx
3. Legal Regime
South African laws and regulations are generally published in draft form for stakeholder comment at: https://www.gov.za/document?search_query=&field_gcisdoc_doctype=545&field_gcisdoc_subjects=All&start_date=&end_date=. South Africa’s process is similar to the U.S. notice and comment consultation process and full draft texts are available to the public; however, foreign stakeholders have expressed concern over the adequacy of notice and the GoSA’s willingness to address comments. Legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are generally transparent and consistent with international norms. The GoSA’s regulatory regime and laws enacted by Parliament are subject to judicial review to ensure they follow administrative processes.
DTIC is responsible for business-related regulations. It develops and reviews regulatory systems in the areas of competition, standards, consumer protection, company and intellectual property registration and protections, as well as other subjects in the public interest. It also oversees the work of national and provincial regulatory agencies mandated to assist DTIC in creating and managing competitive and socially responsible business and consumer regulations. DTIC publishes a list of bills and acts that govern its work at: http://www.theDTIC.gov.za/legislation/legislation-and-business-regulation/?hilite=%27IDZ%27
South Africa has a number of public laws that promote transparency of the business regulatory regime to aid the public in understanding their rights. For instance, South Africa’s Consumer Protection Act (2008) reinforces various consumer rights, including right of product choice, right to fair contract terms, and right of product quality. The law’s impact varies by industry, and businesses have adjusted their operations accordingly. A brochure summarizing the Consumer Protection Act can be found at: http://www.theDTIC.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/CP_Brochure.pdf. Similarly, the National Credit Act of 2005 aims to promote a fair and non-discriminatory marketplace for access to consumer credit and for that purpose to provide the general regulation of consumer credit and improves standards of consumer information. A brochure summarizing the National Credit Act can be found at: http://www.theDTIC.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/NCA_Brochure.pdf
The South African National Treasury is developing new legislation that will “seek to enhance the transformation imperatives of the South African financial services sector.” In August 2021, the former Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni said that a new version of the Conduct of Financial Institutions (COFI) bill contains provisions that, if enacted, will require financial institutions to develop transformation plans and commitments around B-BBEE. The bill seeks to enhance market conduct, market development and financial inclusion. National Treasury also published a draft policy document on financial inclusion for public comment, which focuses on general ‘economic inclusiveness’ for South Africa. A summary statement of the draft policy can be found at: http://www.treasury.gov.za/comm_media/press/2020/20201028%20Media%20Statement%20-%20Updated%20Financial%20Inclusion%20Policy.pdf.
Parliament’s National Assembly passed the Employment Equity Amendment Bill in November 2021 and has sent the draft law to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence. The bill will allow the Employment and Labor minister to set employment equity targets for different business sectors and for different designated groups (that is, black people, women, and persons with disabilities).
In South Africa the financial sector has been a leader in integrating environmental, social, and governance issues into its practices. For example, regulation 28 of the Pension Funds Act, 1956 requires a pension fund and its board to “before investing in, and whilst invested in an asset, consider any factor which may materially affect the sustainable long-term performance of the asset including but not limited to those of an environment, social and governance character.” There are no specific ESG disclosure rules for companies, but several ESG related laws include a carbon tax law and energy efficiency legislation.
The Financial Sector and Deposit Insurance Levies (Administration) and Deposit Insurance Premiums Bill was tabled in parliament in January 2022. The National Treasury had published the bill for comment in December 2021. The bill seeks to “facilitate the funding of financial sector regulators, ombuds and other bodies, to ensure that they are able to effectively regulate the financial sector for the benefit of financial customers.” According to the bill’s memorandum, the deposit insurance premiums will be imposed on licensed banks, mutual banks, co-operative banks and branches of foreign banks that conduct business in South Africa. The model imposes huge expenses on the financial sector and results in an increased burden on already over-taxed citizens.
Under the current disclosure regime in South Africa, there is no explicit duty to provide disclosures on ESG matters. However, JSE-listed companies are subject to general continuing disclosure obligations under the JSE Listing Requirements, which apply to financially material ESG issues. Regulatory enforcement processes are legally reviewed and made publicly available for stakeholder comments.
The country’s fiscal transparency is overall very good. National Treasury publishes the executive budget online and the enacted budget is usually published within three months of enactment. End of year reports are published within twelve months of the end of the fiscal year. Information on debt obligations (including explicit and contingent liabilities) is made publicly available and updated at least annually. Public finances and debt obligations are fairly transparent. The year ending March 2021 report is not yet published.
South Africa is a member of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which commenced trading in January 2021. It is a signatory to the SADC-EAC-COMESA Tripartite FTA and a member of the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), which has a common external tariff and tariff-free trade between its five members (South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and Eswatini, formerly known as Swaziland). South Africa has free trade agreements with the Southern African Development Community (SADC); the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) between South Africa and the European Union (EU); the EFTA-SACU Free Trade Agreement between SACU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland; and the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the SADC EPA States (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini, Lesotho, and Mozambique) and the EU and its Member States. SACU and Mozambique (SACUM) and the United Kington (UK) signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in September 2019.
South Africa is a member of the WTO. While it notifies some draft technical regulations to the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), these notifications may occur after implementation. In November 2017, South Africa ratified the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement, implementing many of its commitments, including some Category B notifications. The GoSA is not party to the WTO’s Government Procurement Agreement (GPA).
South Africa has a strong legal system composed of civil law inherited from the Dutch, common law inherited from the British, and African customary law. Generally, South Africa follows English law in criminal and civil procedure, company law, constitutional law, and the law of evidence, but follows Roman-Dutch common law in contract law, law of delict (torts), law of persons, and family law. South African company law regulates corporations, including external companies, non-profit, and for-profit companies (including state-owned enterprises). Funded by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, South Africa has district and magistrate courts across 350 districts and high courts for each of the provinces. Cases from Limpopo and Mpumalanga are heard in Gauteng. The Supreme Court of Appeals hears appeals, and its decisions may only be overruled by the Constitutional Court. South Africa has multiple specialized courts, including the Competition Appeal Court, Electoral Court, Land Claims Court, the Labor and Labor Appeal Courts, and Tax Courts to handle disputes between taxpayers and SARS. Rulings are subject to the same appeals process as other courts.
The major laws affecting foreign investment in South Africa are:
The Companies Act, which governs the registration and operation of companies in South Africa.
The Protection of Investment Act, which provides for the protection of investors and their investments.
The Labor Relations Act, which provides protection for employees against unfair dismissal and unfair labor practices.
The Customs and Excise Act, which provides for general incentives to investors in various sectors.
The Competition Act, which is responsible for the investigation, control and evaluation of restrictive practices, abuse of dominant position, and mergers.
The Special Economic Zones Act which provides national economic growth and exports by using support measures to attract foreign and domestic investments and technology.
In July 2021, the SARS updated the SARS Customs and Excise Client Accreditation rules. Section 64E deals with SARS client accreditation rules and is of interest to importers and exporters who wish to apply for accredited client status in South Africa. An accredited client, or preferred trader, is similar to the authorized economic operator found in many other countries. The new rules set out two levels of accredited client status: Level 1 – Authorized Economic Operator (Compliance) and Level 2 – Authorized Economic Operator (Security). A person that is registered for customs and excise activities in South Africa may apply for Level 1 or 2 accredited client status. According to the new rules, all customs activities for which an applicant is registered or licensed under the provisions of the Act will be considered when assessing applications for either level of accredited client status. The new rules also set out the application process, the validity of the person applying, the renewal process for accredited client status, criteria for levels of accredited client status, and the benefits of the two levels of accredited client status.
The Ease of Doing Business Bill was introduced in Parliament in February 2021 and is currently under consideration by the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration. If passed, the bill will provide for a mechanism to allow the executive, Parliament. and others to assess the socio-economic impact of regulatory measures, including the detection and reduction of measures that increase the cost of doing business. DTIC has a one-stop-shop website for investment that provides relevant laws, rules, procedures, and reporting requirements for investors (refer to section one for details).
South Africa’s Competition Commission is empowered to investigate, control, and evaluate restrictive business practices, abuse of dominant positions, and review mergers to achieve equity and efficiency. Its public website is www.compcom.co.za. The Competition Commission is an investigative body. The Competition Tribunal, an adjudicative body that may review Competition Committee actions, functions very much like a court. It has jurisdiction throughout South Africa and adjudicates competition matters. Tribunal decisions may be appealed through the South African court system. International and domestic investors have raised concern the Commission has taken an increasingly social activist approach by prioritizing the public interest criteria found in the Competition Amendment Bill of 2018 over other more traditional anti-trust and monopoly criteria to push forward social and economic policies such as B-BBEE. Concerns include that the new Commission approach has led to more ambiguous, expensive, and lengthy review processes and often result in requests to alter previously agreed-upon terms of the merger and acquisition at a late stage.
In January 2021, GovChat, South Africa’s official citizen-government engagement platform, asked the Competition Tribunal to prevent its removal from a U.S.-owned platform, which charges a fee to business and GoSA clients for contacting customers or citizens. The tribunal granted GovChat’s application for interim relief, stating: “The respondents are interdicted and restrained from off-boarding the applicants from their WABA pending the conclusion of a hearing into the applicants’ complaint lodged with the [Competition] Commission, or six months of date hereof, whichever is the earlier.” On March 14, 2022, the Competition Commission referred the investigation to the Tribunal for review, alleging that the U.S. party’s actions against GovChat constituted an “abuse of dominance.” The Commission asked the Tribunal to assess the U.S. party with a maximum penalty constituting 10 percent of its annual turnover, and to enjoin the U.S. party from removing GovChat from the WhatsApp platform.
The Competition Commission prohibited the sale of the South African operations of a U.S. fast food chain and Grand Food Meat Plant, its main supplier, by Grand Parade Investments (GPI) to a U.S. private equity firm in June 2021 on the grounds that the sale would reduce the proportion of black ownership from 68 percent to zero percent. The regulator found this to be “a significant reduction in the shareholding of historically disadvantaged persons.” By August 2021, the parties and the Commission had agreed to a revised set of conditions which include the new owner’s commitment to improving its rating for the enterprise and supplier development element under its B-BBEE scorecard, which relates to empowering black-owned and smaller enterprises. In addition, the U.S. private equity firm agreed to establish an employee share ownership program that will entitle workers to a five percent stake in the company.
Racially discriminatory property laws and land allocations during the colonial and apartheid periods resulted in highly distorted patterns of land ownership and property distribution in South Africa. Given land reform’s slow and mixed success, the National Assembly (Parliament) passed a motion in February 2018 to investigate amending the constitution (specifically Section 25, the “property clause”) to allow for land expropriation without compensation (EWC). Some politicians, think-tanks, and academics argue that Section 25 already allows for EWC in certain cases, while others insist that amendments are required to implement EWC more broadly and explicitly. Parliament tasked an ad hoc Constitutional Review Committee composed of parliamentarians from various political parties to report back on whether to amend the constitution to allow EWC, and if so, how it should be done. In December 2018, the National Assembly adopted the committee’s report recommending a constitutional amendment. Following elections in May 2019 the new Parliament created an ad hoc Committee to Initiate and Introduce Legislation to Amend Section 25 of the Constitution. The Committee drafted constitutional amendment language explicitly allowing for EWC and accepted public comments on the draft language through March 2021. After granting a series of extensions to complete its work, Parliament finally voted on the Committee’s draft bill on December 7, 2021. Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds parliamentary majority (267 votes) to pass, as well as the support of six out of the nine provinces in the National Council of Provinces. Because no single political party holds such a majority, a two-third vote can only be achieved with the support of two or more political parties. Because the ruling ANC could not garner enough supporting votes from the left-leaning Economic Freedom Fighters, who sought more drastic “state custodianship” of all property, nor the right-leaning Democratic Alliance, which rejected EWC as an investment-killing measure, the bill failed. However, on December 8, Justice Minister Ronald Lamola told media that the ruling party would use its simple majority to pass EWC legislation, which requires a lower threshold than a constitutional amendment. The ANC’s EWC bill is still making its way through Parliament but will likely see constitutional challenges from opposing parties.
In October 2020, the GoSA published the draft expropriation bill in its Gazette, which would introduce the EWC concept into its legal system. The application of the draft’s provisions could conflict with South Africa’s commitments to international investors under its remaining investment protection treaties as well as its obligations under customary international law. Submissions closed in February 2021 and the Public Works committee is currently finalizing the language.
Existing expropriation law, including The Expropriation Act of 1975 (Act) and the Expropriation Act Amendment of 1992, entitles the GoSA to expropriate private property for reasons of public necessity or utility. The decision is an administrative one. Compensation should be the fair market value of the property as agreed between the buyer and seller or determined by the court per Section 25 of the Constitution.
In 2018, the GoSA operationalized the 2014 Property Valuation Act that creates the office of Valuer-General charged with the valuation of property that has been identified for land reform or acquisition or disposal. The Act gives the GoSA the option to expropriate property based on a formulation in the Constitution termed “just and equitable compensation.”
The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002 (MPRDA), enacted in 2004, gave the state ownership of South Africa’s mineral and petroleum resources. It replaced private ownership with a system of licenses controlled by the GoSA and issued by the Department of Mineral Resources. Under the MPRDA, investors who held pre-existing rights were granted the opportunity to apply for licenses, provided they met the licensing criteria, including the achievement of certain B-BBEE objectives. Parliament passed an amendment to the MPRDA in 2014 but President Ramaphosa never signed it. In August 2018, Minister for the Department of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe called for the recall of the amendments so that oil and gas could be separated out into a new bill. He also announced the B-BBEE provisions in the new Mining Charter would not apply during exploration but would start once commodities were found and mining commenced. In November 2019, the newly merged Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) published draft regulations to the MPRDA. In December 2019, the DMRE published the Draft Upstream Petroleum Resources Development Bill for public comment. Parliament continues to review this legislation. Oil and gas exploration and production is currently regulated under MPRDA, but the new Bill will repeal and replace the relevant sections pertaining to upstream petroleum activities in the MPRDA.
On September 27, 2018, the Minister of the DMRE released a new mining charter, stating that the new charter would be operationalized within the next five years to bolster certainty in the sector. The charter establishes requirements for new licenses and investment in the mining sector and includes rules and targets for black ownership and community development in the sector to redress historic economic inequalities from the apartheid era. The new rules recognize existing mining right holders who have a minimum 26 percent B-BBEE ownership as compliant but requires an increase to 30 percent B-BBEE ownership within a five-year transitional period. Recognition of B-BBEE ownership compliance is not transferable to a new owner. New mining right licenses must have 30 percent B-BBEE shareholding, applicable to the duration of the mining right.
In March 2019 the Minerals Council of South Africa applied for a judicial review of the 2018 Mining Charter. The court was asked to review several issues in the Mining Charter including: the legal standing of the Mining Charter in relation to the MPRDA; the levels of black ownership of mines under B-BBEE requirements; the levels of ownership required when B-BBEE partners sell their shares, and if B-BBEE ownership levels must be maintained in perpetuity, especially when levels of ownership preceded the current Mining Charter. In September 2021, the Pretoria high court ruling set aside key aspects of the Mining Charter, notably those related to black ownership targets. The DMRE resolved not to appeal the high court ruling.
The Insolvency Act 24 of 1936 sets out liquidation procedures for the distribution of any remaining asset value among creditors. Financial sector legislation such as the Banks Act or Insurance Act makes further provision for the protection of certain clients (such as depositors and policy holders). South Africa’s bankruptcy regime grants many rights to debtors, including rejection of overly burdensome contracts, avoiding preferential transactions, and the ability to obtain credit during insolvency proceedings.
4. Industrial Policies
South Africa also offers various investment incentives targeted at specific sectors or types of business activities, including tax allowances to support in the automotive sector and rebates for film and television production. The GoSA favors sectors that are labor intensive and with the potential for local supply chain development More information regarding incentive programs may be found at: http://www.thedtic.gov.za/financial-and-non-financial-support/incentives/.
The Public Investment Corporation SOC Limited (PIC) is an asset management firm wholly owned by the GoSA and is governed by the Public Investment Corporation Act, 2004. PIC’s clients are mostly public sector entities, including the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and UIF, among others. The PIC runs a diversified investment portfolio including listed equities, real estate, capital market, private equity, and impact investing. The PIC has been known to jointly finance foreign direct investment if the project will create social returns, primarily in the form of new employment opportunities for South Africans.
To encourage and support businesses looking to green their operations, there are incentives built in into the income tax. Section 12L of the Income Tax Act was passed in 2013 allowing for deductions for energy efficiency measures. Businesses can claim deductions of 95 cents per kilowatt hour, or kilowatt hour equivalent, of energy efficiency savings made within a year against a verified 12-month baseline. The baseline measurement and verification of savings must be done by a SANAS accredited Measurement and Verification (M&V) body. The incentive allows for tax deductions for all energy carriers, not just electricity, except for renewable energy sources which have separate provisions. An amendment in 2015 allowed businesses to claim savings from electricity co-generation, combining heat and power, if there is an energy conversion efficiency of more than 35 percent. All energy efficiency schemes that businesses want to claim the deductions against need to be registered with the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI). https://www.sanedi.org.za/12L.html
Section 12B of the Income Tax Act includes a provision for a capital allowance for movable assets used in the production of renewable energy. The incentive allows for 100 percent asset accelerated depreciation in first financial year that the asset is brought online. This could equate to a 28 percent deduction on the business’ income tax. Currently, company tax in South-Africa is 28 percent (it has since been reduced to 27 percent as from April 1, the beginning of the 2022/2023 fiscal year). With this incentive, a company could deduct the value of a new solar power system as a depreciation expense decreasing the company’s income tax liability by the same value as the value of the installed solar system. The reduction can also be carried over to the next financial year as a deferred tax asset.
Section 12N of the Income Tax Act provides for improvements to property not owned by taxpayers: if the improvements are associated with the Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme. Section 12U Income Tax Act provides for additional deduction in respect of supporting infrastructure in respect of renewable energy: such as roads and fences
South Africa designated its first Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) in 2001. IDZs offer duty-free import of production-related materials and zero VAT on materials sourced from South Africa, along with the right to sell in South Africa upon payment of normal import duties on finished goods. Expedited services and other logistical arrangements may be provided for small to medium-sized enterprises or for new foreign direct investment. Co-funding for infrastructure development is available from DTIC. There are no exemptions from other laws or regulations, such as environmental and labor laws. The Manufacturing Development Board licenses IDZ enterprises in collaboration with the SARS, which handles IDZ customs matters. IDZ operators may be public, private, or a combination of both. There are currently five IDZs in South Africa: Coega IDZ, Richards Bay IDZ, Dube Trade Port, East London IDZ, and Saldanha Bay IDZ. South Africa also has SEZs focused on industrial development. The SEZs encompass the IDZs but also provide scope for economic activity beyond export-driven industry to include innovation centers and regional development. There are six SEZs in South Africa: Atlantis SEZ, Nkomazi SEZ, Maliti-A-Phofung SEZ, Musina/Makhado SEZ, Tshwane SEZ, and O.R. Tambo SEZ. The broader SEZ incentives strategy allows for 15 percent Corporate Tax as opposed to the current 28 percent, Building Tax Allowance, Employment Tax Incentive, Customs Controlled Area (VAT exemption and duty free), and Accelerated 12i Tax Allowance. For more detailed information on SEZs, please see: http://www.theDTIC.gov.za/sectors-and-services-2/industrial-development/special-economic-zones/?hilite=%27SEZ%27
The GoSA does not impose forced localization. However, authorities incentivize the use of local content in goods and technology. In 2021, President Ramaphosa and DTIC Minister Ebrahim Patel announced that South Africa will expand existing localization measures to reboot the economy. DTIC released a policy statement on localization in May 2021. The localization plan’s cornerstone is the implementation of a scheme to substitute 20 percent of imports, or approximately R20 billion (USD 1.3 billion) across selected categories with local goods by 2025. For instance, the industrial master plan for textiles set a goal that 60 percent of all clothing sold in South Africa will be locally manufactured by 2030. Preferential procurement is applied uniformly to both domestic and foreign investors. The GoSA’s B-BBEE requirements, however, make it difficult for foreign investors to score well on the “ownership” element of the B-BBEE scorecard due to corporate rules that can prevent the transfer of discounted equity stakes to South African subsidiaries. Although the GoSA created the EEIP for international companies that cannot meet the ownership element of B-BBEE through the direct sale of equity to local investors, some companies claim that the reporting requirements and high level of required financial contributions make the EE program unviable.
A Draft National Data and Cloud Policy, released by the GoSA in April 2021, seeks to put the GoSA at the heart of data control, ownership, and distribution in South Africa. The draft policy proposed a series of government interventions, including the establishment of a new state-owned enterprise to manage government-owned and controlled networks. It aims to consolidate excess capacity of publicly funded data centers and deliver processing, data facilities and cloud computing capacity. The GoSA plans to develop ICT special economic zones, hubs and transformation centers. The draft policy seeks to impose data localization requirements and defines data localization as the “…requirements for the physical storage of data within a country’s national boundaries, although it is sometimes used more broadly to mean any restrictions on cross border data flows.” The draft policy provides inter alia that: data generated in South Africa shall be the property of South Africa, regardless of where the technology company is domiciled; ownership and control of personal information and data shall be in line with the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA); DTIC through the CIPC and the National Intellectual Property Management Office (NIPMO) shall develop a policy framework on data generated from intellectual activities including sharing and use of such data. The POPIA entered fully into force in July 2021 and regulates how personal information may be processed and under which conditions data may be transferred outside of South Africa. Currently, there is no requirement for foreign information technology providers to turn over source code or provide access to surveillance. However, compliance burdens may be significant. The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies is responsible for developing ICT policies and legislation. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa is the regulatory body which regulates the telecommunications sector.
5. Protection of Property Rights
The South African legal system protects and facilitates the acquisition and disposition of all property rights (e.g., land, buildings, and mortgages). Deeds must be registered at the Deeds Office. Banks usually register mortgages as security when providing finance for the purchase of property. Foreigners may purchase and own immovable property in South Africa without any restrictions since they are generally subject to the same laws as South African nationals. Foreign companies and trusts are also permitted to own property in South Africa if they are registered in South Africa as an external company. Since South Africa does not have formal land audits, the proportion of land that does not have clear title is unknown. If property legally purchased is unoccupied, property ownership does not revert back to other owners such as squatters. However, squatters are known to occupy properties illegally and may rent the properties to unsuspecting tenants when there are absentee landowners.
South Africa enforces intellectual property rights through civil and criminal procedures. It is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and in the process of acceding to the Madrid Protocol. It is also a signatory to the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS). Generally, South Africa is considered to have a strong domestic legal framework for protecting intellectual property (IP). Enforcement can be spotty due to lack of resources for additional law enforcement and market surveillance support. However, South African authorities work closely with rights holders and with international stakeholders to address IP violations. Bringing cases to criminal court is costly, with most of the burden placed on rights holders to develop the evidence needed for prosecutions; however, civil and criminal remedies are available. South Africa has not been named in the Special 301 or the notorious market report; however, there are yearly submissions requesting South Africa’s inclusion, primarily based on delays in burdens in patent and trademark registration, draft copyright legislation under review in Parliament described below and increasing counterfeit activity in certain business districts. South Africa does not track seizures of counterfeit goods writ-large, though CIPC and law enforcement agencies release periodic reports on significant raids and media coverage in major metro areas reports on major seizures.
Owners of patents and trademarks may license them locally, but when a patent license entails the payment of royalties to a non-resident licensor, DTIC must approve the royalty agreement. Patents are granted for twenty years, usually with no option to renew. Trademarks are valid for an initial period of ten years, renewable for additional ten-year periods. A patent or trademark holder pays an annual fee to preserve ownership rights. All agreements relating to payment for applicable rights are subject to South African Reserve Bank (SARB) approval. A royalty of up to four percent is the standard for consumer goods and up to six percent for intermediate and finished capital goods.
Literary, musical, and artistic works, as well as cinematographic films and sound recordings, are eligible for protection under the Copyright Act of 1978. New designs may be registered under the Designs Act of 1967, which grants copyrights for five years. The Counterfeit Goods Act of 1997 provides additional protection to owners of trademarks, copyrights, and certain marks under the Merchandise Marks Act of 1941. The Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Act of 1997 amended the Merchandise Marks Act of 1941, the Performers’ Protection Act of 1967, the Patents Act of 1978, the Copyright Act of 1978, the Trademarks Act of 1993, and the Designs Act of 1993 to bring South African intellectual property legislation into line with TRIPS. To modernize its intellectual property rights (IPR) regime further, DTIC introduced the Copyright Amendment Bill (CAB) and the Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill (PPAB). The bills remain under Parliamentary review after being returned by President Ramaphosa in June 2020 on constitutional grounds. Stakeholders have raised several concerns, including the CAB bill’s application of “fair use,” and clauses in both bills that allow DTIC Minister to set royalty rates for visual artistic work or equitable renumeration for direct or indirect uses of copyrighted works. Additional changes to South Africa’s IPR regime are under consideration through a draft DTIC policy document, Phase 1 of the Intellectual Property Policy of the Republic of South Africa; however, draft legislation has not yet been released.
South Africa recognizes the importance of foreign capital in financing persistent current account and budget deficits, and South Africa’s financial markets are regarded as some of the most sophisticated among emerging markets. A sound legal and regulatory framework governs financial institutions and transactions. The fully independent SARB regulates a wide range of commercial, retail and investment banking services according to international best practices, such as Basel III, and participates in international forums such as the Financial Stability Board and G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. The JSE serves as the front-line regulator for listed firms but is supervised by the Financial Services Board (FSB). The FSB also oversees other non-banking financial services, including other collective investment schemes, retirement funds and a diversified insurance industry. The GoSA has committed to tabling a Twin Peaks regulatory architecture to provide a clear demarcation of supervisory responsibilities and consumer accountability and to consolidate banking and non-banking regulation.
South Africa has access to deep pools of capital from local and foreign investors that provides sufficient scope for entry and exit of large positions. Financial sector assets are more than GDP by approximately 48 percent, and the JSE is the largest on the continent with market capitalization of approximately USD 1.282 billion as of October 2021 and 442 companies listed on the main, alternative, and other smaller boards as of January 2021. Non-bank financial institutions (NBFI) hold about two thirds of financial assets. The liquidity and depth provided by NBFIs make these markets attractive to foreign investors, who hold more than a third of equities and government bonds, including sizeable positions in local-currency bonds. A well-developed derivative market and a currency that is widely traded as a proxy for emerging market risk allows investors considerable scope to hedge positions with interest rate and foreign exchange derivatives.
SARB’s exchange control policies permit authorized currency dealers, to buy and borrow foreign currency freely on behalf of domestic and foreign clients. The size of transactions is not limited, but dealers must report all transactions to SARB. Non-residents may purchase securities without restriction and freely transfer capital in and out of South Africa. Local individual and institutional investors are limited to holding 25 percent of their capital outside of South Africa.
Banks, NBFIs, and other financial intermediaries are skilled at assessing risk and allocating credit based on market conditions. Foreign investors may borrow freely on the local market. In recent years, the South African auditing profession has suffered significant reputational damage with allegations that two large foreign firms aided, and abetted irregular client management practices linked to the previous administration or engaged in delinquent oversight of listed client companies. South Africa’s WEF competitiveness rating for auditing and reporting fell from number one in the world in 2016, to number 60 in 2019.
South African banks are well capitalized and comply with international banking standards. There are 19 registered banks in South Africa and 15 branches of foreign banks. Twenty-nine foreign banks have approved local representative offices. Five banks – Standard, ABSA, First Rand (FNB), Capitec, and Nedbank – dominate the sector, accounting for over 85 percent of the country’s banking assets, which total over USD 390 billion. SARB regulates the sector according to the Bank Act of 1990. There are three alternatives for foreign banks to establish local operations, all of which require SARB approval: separate company, branch, or representative office. The criteria for the registration of a foreign bank are the same as for domestic banks. Foreign banks must include additional information, such as holding company approval, a letter of comfort and understanding from the holding company and a letter of no objection from the foreign bank’s home regulatory authority. More information on the banking industry may be found at www.banking.org.za.
The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) is the dedicated market conduct authority in South Africa’s Twin Peaks regulatory model implemented through the Financial Sector Regulation Act. The FSCA’s mandate includes all financial institutions that provide a financial product and/or a financial service as defined in the Financial Sector Regulation Act. The JSE Securities Exchange South Africa, the sixteenth largest exchange in the world measured by market capitalization, enjoys the global reputation of being one of the best regulated. Market capitalization stood at USD 1.282 billion as of October 2021, with 442 firms listed. The Bond Exchange of South Africa (BESA) is licensed under the Financial Markets Control Act. Membership includes banks, insurers, investors, stockbrokers, and independent intermediaries. The exchange consists principally of bonds issued by the GoSA, state-owned enterprises, and private corporations. The JSE acquired BESA in 2009. More information on financial markets may be found at www.jse.co.za. Non-residents can finance 100 percent of their investment through local borrowing. A finance ratio of 1:1 also applies to emigrants, the acquisition of residential properties by non-residents, and financial transactions such as portfolio investments, securities lending and hedging by non-residents.
Although President Ramaphosa and the finance minister announced in February 2020 the aim to create a Sovereign Wealth Fund, no action has been taken.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) play a significant role in the South African economy in key sectors such as electricity, transport (air, rail, freight, and pipelines), and telecommunications. Limited competition is allowed in some sectors (e.g., telecommunications and air). The GoSA’s interest in these sectors often competes with and discourages foreign investment.
There are over 700 SOEs at the national, provincial, and local levels. Of these, seven key SOEs are overseen by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and employee approximately 105,000 people. These SOEs include Alexkor (diamonds); Denel (military equipment); Eskom (electricity generation, transmission, and distribution); Mango (budget airlines); South African Airways (national carrier); South African Forestry Company (SAFCOL); and Transnet (transportation). For other national-level SOEs, the appropriate cabinet minister acts as shareholder on behalf of the state. The Department of Transport, for example, oversees South African’s National Roads Agency (SANRAL), Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), and Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), which operates nine of South Africa’s airports. The Department of Communications oversees the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). A list of the seven SOEs that are under the DPE portfolio are found on the DPE website at: https://dpe.gov.za/state-owned-companies/. The national government directory contains a list of 128 SOEs at: https://www.gov.za/about-government/contact-directory/soe-s.
SOEs under DPE’s authority posted a combined loss of R13.9 billion (USD 0.9 billion) in 2019 (latest data available). Many are plagued by mismanagement and corruption, and repeated government bailouts have exposed the public sector’s balance sheet to sizable contingent liabilities. The debt of Eskom alone represents about 10 percent of GDP of which two-thirds is guaranteed by government, and the company’s direct cost to the budget has exceeded nine percent of GDP since 2008/9.
Eskom, provides generation, transmission, and distribution for over 90 percent of South Africa’s electricity of which 80 percent comes from 15 coal-fired power plants. Eskom’s coal plants are an average of 41 years old, and a lack of maintenance has caused unplanned breakdowns and rolling blackouts, known locally as “load shedding,” as old coal plants struggle to keep up with demand. Load shedding reached a record 1136 hours as of November 30, 2021, costing the economy an estimated USD eight billion and is expected to continue for the next several years until the GoSA can increase generating capacity and increase its Energy Availability Factor (EAF). In October 2019 the DMRE finalized its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity, which outlines South Africa’s policy roadmap for new power generation until 2030, which includes replacing 10,000 MW of coal-fired generation by 2030 with a mix of technologies, including renewables, gas and coal. The IRP also leaves the possibility open for procurement of nuclear technology at a “scale and pace that flexibly responds to the economy and associated electricity demand” and DMRE issued a Request for Information on new nuclear build in 2020. In accordance with the IRP, the GoSA approved the procurement of almost 14,000 MW of power to address chronic electricity shortages. The GoSA held the long-awaited Bid Window 5 (BW5) of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP) in 2021, the primary method by which renewable energy has been introduced into South Africa. The REIPPPP relies primarily on private capital and since the program launched in 2011 it has already attracted approximately ZAR 210 billion (USD 14 billion) of investment into the country. All three major credit ratings agencies have downgraded Eskom’s debt following Moody’s downgrade of South Africa’s sovereign debt rating in March 2020, which could impact investors’ ability to finance energy projects.
Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), the monopoly responsible for South Africa’s ports, charges some of the highest shipping fees in the world. High tariffs on containers subsidize bulk shipments of coal and iron. According to the South African Ports Regulator, raw materials exporters paid as much as one quarter less than exporters of finished products. TNPA is a division of Transnet, a state-owned company that manages the country’s port, rail, and pipeline networks. In May 2020 S&P downgraded Transnet’s local currency rating from BB to BB- based on a generally negative outlook for South Africa’s economy rather than Transnet’s outlook specifically.
South Africa’s state-owned carrier, South African Airways (SAA), entered business rescue in December 2019 and suspended operations indefinitely in September 2020. The pandemic exacerbated SAA’s already dire financial straits and complicated its attempts to find a strategic equity partner to help it resume operations. Industry experts doubt the airline will be able to resume operations. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines provide regular service between Atlanta (Delta) and Newark (United) to Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The telecommunications sector, while advanced for the continent, is hampered by poor implementation of the digital migration. In 2006, South Africa agreed to meet an International Telecommunication Union deadline to achieve analogue-to-digital migration by June 1, 2015. The long-delayed migration is scheduled to be completed by the end of March 2022, and while potential for legal challenges remain, most analysts believe the migration will be completed in 2022. The independent communications regulator initiated a spectrum auction in September 2020, which was enjoined by court action in February 2021 following suits by two of the three biggest South African telecommunications companies. After months of litigation, the regulator agreed to changes some terms of the auction, and the auction took place successfully in March 2022. One legal challenge remains, however, as third-largest mobile carrier Telkom has alleged the auction’s terms disproportionately favored the two largest carriers, Vodacom and MTN. Telkom’s case is due to be heard in April 2022, and its outcome will determine whether the spectrum allocation will proceed.
The GoSA appears not to have fulfilled its oversight role of ensuring the sound governance of SOEs according to OECD best practices. The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture in the public sector has outlined corruption at the highest echelons of SOEs such as Transnet, Eskom, SAA and Denel and provides some explanation for the extent of the financial mismanagement at these enterprises. The poor performance of SOEs continues to reflect crumbling infrastructure, poor and ever-changing leadership, corruption, wasteful expenditure and mismanagement of funds.
The GoSA has taken few concrete actions to privatize SOEs; on the contrary, even minor reorganizations are roundly criticized as attempts to privatize state assets. Meanwhile, failing SOEs like PRASA are propped up by the fiscus. In 2021, the GoSA sought to sell a controlling 51 percent interest in South African Airways to a bespoke consortium funded in large part by the Public Investment Corporation, which controls investments of state pensions. A year later, however, the airline remains under government control because critical terms of the deal, including the sale price, have not been agreed upon. Transnet, Eskom, and defense contractor Denel have been subjects of various reorganization plans, but ultimately remain accountable to Cabinet shareholders.
President Ramaphosa, during his February 10, 2022, State of the Nation Address (SONA), announced that the cabinet had approved amendments to the Electricity Regulations Act (ERA) that would liberalize South African electricity markets. The amendment provides changes to definitions that will enable the legal framework for a liberalized energy market and allow for a more competitive and open electricity market in the country including the establishment of a Transmission System Operator, a necessary part of state-owned utility Eskom’s unbundling process. The Eskom generation and distribution divisions are set to be restructured by December 2022. The market structure in the bill provides for a shift to a competitive multimarket electricity supply industry, which represents a significant departure from South Africa’s long-standing vertically integrated model monopolized by Eskom. According to a press release from the DMRE, the changes will provide for “an open market that will allow for non-discriminatory, competitive electricity-trading platform.”
8. Responsible Business Conduct
There is a general awareness of responsible business conduct in South Africa. The King Committee, established by the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoDSA) in 1993, is responsible for driving ethical business practices. They drafted the King Code and King Reports to form an inclusive approach to corporate governance. King IV is the latest revision of the King Report, having taken effect in April 2017. King IV serves to foster greater transparency in business. It holds an organization’s governing body and stakeholders accountable for their decisions. As of November 2017, it is mandatory for all businesses listed on the JSE to be King IV compliant.
South Africa’s regional human rights commitments and obligations apply in the context of business and human rights. This includes South Africa’s commitments and obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. In 2015, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) published a Human Rights and Business Country Guide for South Africa which is underpinned by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and outlines the roles and responsibilities of the State, corporations and business enterprises in upholding and promoting human rights in the South African context.
The GoSA promotes Responsible Business Conduct (RBC). The B-BBEE policy, the Companies Act, the King IV Report on Corporate Governance 2016, the Employment Equity Act of 1998 (EEA) and the Preferential Procurement Act are generally regarded as the government’s flagship initiatives for RBC in South Africa.
The GoSA factors RBC policies into its procurement decisions. Firms have largely aligned their RBC activities to B-BBEE requirements through the socio-economic development element of the B-BBEE policy. The B-BBEE target is one percent of net profit after tax spent on RBC, and at least 75 percent of the RBC activity must benefit historically disadvantaged South Africans and is directed primarily towards non-profit organizations involved in education, social and community development, and health.
The GoSA effectively and fairly enforces domestic laws pertaining to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, and environmental protections to protect individuals from adverse business impacts. The Employment Equity Act prohibits employment discrimination and obliges employers to promote equality and eliminate discrimination on grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, HIV status, conscience, belief, political opinion, culture, language and birth in their employment policies and practices. These constitutional provisions align with generally accepted international standards. Discrimination cases and sexual harassment claims can be brought to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), an independent dispute reconciliation body set up under the terms of the Labour Relations Act. The Consumer Protection Act aims to promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services. The National Environmental Management Act aims to to provide for co-operative, environmental governance by establishing principles for decision-making on matters affecting the environment, institutions that will promote co-operative governance and procedures for co-ordinating environmental functions exercised by organs of state.
The SAHRC is a National Human Rights Institution established in terms of the South African Constitution. It is mandated to promote respect for human rights, and the culture thereof; promote the protection, development, and attainment of human rights; and monitor and assess the observance of human rights in South Africa. The SAHRC is accredited with an “A” status under the United Nations’ Paris Principles. There are other independent NGOs, investment funds, unions, and business associations that freely promote and monitor RBC.
The South African mining sector follows the rule of law and encourages adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. South Africa is a founding member of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) aimed at preventing conflict diamonds from entering the market. It does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). South African mining, labor and security legislation seek to embody the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. Mining laws and regulations allow for the accounting of all revenues from the extractive sector in the form of mining taxes, royalties, fees, dividends, and duties.
South Africa has a private security industry and there is a high usage of private security companies by the government and industry. The country is a signatory of The Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.
South Africa’s 2019 National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) and National Climate Change Bill (currently under consideration in Parliament) aim to serve as an overarching legislative framework for adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change, supported by the implementation of the low‐emissions development and growth strategy for South Africa.
South Africa’s NCCAS supports the country’s ability to meet its obligations in terms of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The 2011 National Climate Change Response Policy is a comprehensive plan to address both mitigation and adaptation in the short, medium and long term (up to 2050). GHG emissions are set to stop increasing at the latest by 2020-2025, to stabilize for up to 10 years and then to decline in absolute terms.
The NCCAS specifies strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation, making use of the short-, medium- and long-term planning horizons. Concerning mitigation, it includes proposals to set emission reduction outcomes for each significant sector and sub-sector of the economy based on an in-depth assessment of the mitigation potential, best available mitigation options and a full assessment of the costs and benefits using a ‘carbon budgets’ approach. It also proposed the deployment of a range of economic instruments, including the appropriate pricing of carbon and economic incentives, as well as the possible use of emissions offset or emission reduction trading mechanisms for those relevant sectors, sub-sectors, companies or entities where a carbon budget approach has been selected.
South Africa’s Energy Efficiency and Energy and Demand Management flagship programs cover development and facilitation of an aggressive energy efficiency program in industry, building on previous Demand Side Management programs, and covering non-electricity energy efficiency as well. A structured program will be established with appropriate initiatives, incentives and regulation, along with a well-resourced information collection and dissemination process. Local governments are encouraged to take an active part in demand-side management.
The GoSA has called its 2020 Low Emission Development Strategy (LEDS) “the beginning of our journey towards ultimately reaching a net zero economy by 2050”. The strategy is a response to the Paris Agreement’s call for countries to set out long-term climate strategies. It draws together existing policies, planning and research across economic sectors. Among these are the IRP, which is how South Africa plans its electricity supply.
The IRP guides the evolution of the South African electricity supply sector, in that it identifies the preferred electricity generation technologies to be built to meet projected electricity demand. It thus provides a mechanism for the GoSA to drive the diversification of the country’s electricity generation mix and promote the use of renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies.
South African measures are currently being implemented by government to address GHG emissions mitigation across the four key sectors of the economy, namely energy (supply and demand), industry, AFOLU and waste.
Decarbonization of energy supply will largely be driven through the Integrated Energy Plan, the Integrated Resource Plan and the Industrial Biofuels Strategy, issued by the Department of Energy, the predecessor of this Department.
South Africa’s Energy planning is guided by the Integrated Energy Plan (IEP). The Energy Act also mandates the Minister of Energy to develop, review and publish the IEP. The IEP approach analyses current energy supply and demand trends within the different sectors of the economy, across all energy carriers. It then uses this information along with assumptions about future demand and technology evolution to project the country’s future energy requirements under a variety of different scenarios, including those with emissions limits and different carbon prices. The IEP provides the overall future direction for the energy mix in South Africa, and thus represents a key instrument for driving the move to a low carbon future. The IEP update with a clear trajectory for the energy sector is critical to guiding overall energy planning for the country.
The Biofuels Industrial Strategy of the Republic of South Africa outlines the GoSA’s approach to the development of a biofuel sector in the country. The primary aim of the Strategy is to address poverty and unemployment, although the role in climate change mitigation in the liquid fuels sector is recognized. In support of the strategy, the Regulations Regarding the Mandatory Blending of Biofuels with Petrol and Diesel were published in the Government Gazette in August 2012. The Regulations describe the eligibility and process for purchasing biofuels for blending and specify the type of records that need to be kept.
In 2022, South Africa’s Department of Science and Innovation launched its Hydrogen Society Roadmap (HSRM) to, among other things, take advantage of and develop opportunities for direct replacement of hydrogen from natural gas by green hydrogen. The HSRM will focus on the creation of and export market for hydrogen and ammonia, providing power to the electricity grid, decarbonizing heavy-duty transport, decarbonization or energy intensive industry, and local manufacture of hydrogen products and fuel cell components.
A diverse range of actions that contribute to GHG emissions mitigation is being seen across the private sector in South Africa, with significant gains having been made in certain sectors on both energy efficiency and emissions mitigation.
The private sector action is being driven by a growth in understanding of the business opportunities, local and global market pressure and existing and forthcoming legislation. Actions range from adopting new products and processes to new service offerings to retrofitting of existing operations to make them more energy efficient and less emissions intensive. With suitable support this growth in action will continue.
President Ramaphosa signed into law on May 26, 2019, a carbon for company-level carbon taxes, signaling his commitment to mitigate climate change in South Africa. The carbon tax applies to entities that operate emission generation facilities at a combined installed capacity equal or above their carbon tax threshold. Each emissions generating facility must obtain a license to operate and report their emissions through the National Greenhouse Gas Emission Reporting Regulations of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries. The GoSA set the carbon tax at 120 ZAR (7.91 USD) per ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) but implemented a soft start including a phased rollout. The Minister of Finance in his February 2022 national budget speech announced an increase to the carbon tax rate from USD 8 to USD 9 (R144), effective from 1 January 2022. He also provided more clarity on the tax announcing an increase in the carbon tax rate, a delay in the roll out of the second phase of the carbon tax, and a reference to the Climate Change Bill, under consideration in the parliament, that makes it compulsory for taxpayers to participate in the carbon budget system. To uphold South Africa’s COP26 commitments, the carbon tax rate will increase each year by at least one USD until it reaches USD 20 per ton of CO2. Starting in 2026, the carbon price increases more rapidly every year to reach at least USD 30 by 2030, and USD 120 beyond 2050. The carbon tax is being implemented in three phases, with the second phase originally scheduled to start in January 2023 having been postponed to the beginning of 2026. Taxpayers will continue to enjoy tax-free allowances which reduce their carbon tax liability. These allowances are given as rebates or refunds when the allowances being applied for are verified. The following allowances were permitted: 60 percent allowance for fossil fuel combustion; 10 percent trade exposure allowance; five percent performance allowance: five percent, carbon budget allowance; and a five percent offset allowance. The Act stipulates those multiple allowances can be granted to the same taxpayer. However, the total may not exceed 95 percent. Regulations regarding the trade exposure and performance allowances are determined by National Treasury.
The South African Air Quality Act of 2004 established minimum emissions standards (MES) for a wide range of industries and technologies from combustion installation to the metallurgical industry. The MES have been poorly enforced but there is growing pressure on the GoSA to hold companies accountable due to the negative impact air pollution is having on human health. In March 2022 the Pretoria High Court, in a suit brought by the Center for Environmental Rights, ruled that the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) has unreasonably delayed regulations to implement and enforce air pollution standards.
South Africa remains one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. The country is home to 10 percent of the world’s plant species and seven percent of its reptile, bird, and mammal species. Furthermore, endemism rates reach 56 percent for amphibians, 65 percent for plants and up to 70 percent for invertebrates. The GoSA has identified the biodiversity economy as a catalyst to address the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty, and inequality. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has partnered with the GoSA through the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) to pilot financial solutions which will advance the biodiversity economy agenda of the country.
According to the South African National Biodiversity Assessment, published by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in 2018, there are more than 418,000 biodiversity-related jobs in the country. This speaks volumes to the contribution of biodiversity towards addressing issues of unemployment in a post-COVID-19 agenda.
South Africa has been recognized globally for its efforts in providing fiscal incentives to promote the conservation of biodiversity. The GoSA, through the National Treasury, has provided fiscal incentives in the form of biodiversity tax incentives aiming to fulfil national environmental policy to preserve the environment. This is facilitated through the government-led regime of entering into agreements with private and communal landowners to formally conserve and maintain a particular area of land.
These agreements result in declared protected areas and are established through the national biodiversity stewardship initiative. These agreements result in environmental management expenses incurred by taxpayers as well as loss of economic rights and use. The biodiversity tax incentives present a mechanism to address the mitigation of management costs, address potential loss of production income due to land management restrictions, ensure the continued investment of landowners and communities in long term and effective land management. This mechanism ultimately assists in the sustainability of compatible commercial operations essential to the persistence of the area and the economy and livelihood growth required in South Africa.
The BIOFIN program in South Africa is currently working with the DFFE to promote the implementation of biodiversity tax incentives. The feasibility of the biodiversity tax incentives has been thoroughly tested through various projects including the partnership between SANBI and UNDP on the Biodiversity Land Use (BLU) project. The BLU project has successfully made progress in improving tax incentives for biodiversity stewardship. This project was instrumental in advocating for the 2014 amendment to the Income Tax Act that was published, which included a new Section 37D. Section 37D has provided much-needed expense relief as well as long-term financial sustainability to privately and communally owned and managed protected areas. Biodiversity tax incentives have proven to be a lifeline for many during the COVID-19 pandemic by enabling continued conservation and livelihood sustenance
BIOFIN considers biodiversity tax incentives as one of the financial mechanisms that can be used to promote biodiversity conservation and bolster the biodiversity economy. The granting of a tax relief encourages landowners (communal and private) to use their land in a sustainable manner whilst reducing the costs associated with managing a protected area. Biodiversity tax incentives effectively enhance the financial effectiveness of South Africa’s protected areas and their compatible commercial activities. They aid in sustainable biodiversity and ecosystem management. This is essential to the longevity of these areas and the creation of broader biodiversity economy livelihoods, the effective growth of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), and commercial operations linked to the wildlife economy. They also increase the protected area estate and area under responsible land management. Non-state investment in establishing and managing protected areas requires a suite of sustainable finance tools to mitigate management costs, offset loss of production income, increase land under protection, and ensure effective growth of enterprises engaged in the biodiversity economy.
South Africa recognizes the risk of general environmental decay and global warming and is committed to responding to the climate change challenge.
South Africa has taken strides in the environmental domain that support, either directly or indirectly, which include public procurement targets for renewable energy; provisions in the Energy Act; the new Green Economy Accord; and international commitments to climate change mitigation.
The GoSA’s REIPPPP is a government-led procurement program that aims to increase the share of renewable energy in the national grid by procuring energy from independent power producers (IPPs). It was issued by the Department of Energy in 2011 to replace a feed-in tariff program. A key objective of the program is economic development: using a competitive bidding process, renewable energy projects submitted are assessed on two factors, namely the tariff they offer (weighted 70 per cent) as well as their contribution to defined economic development criteria. The REIPPPP is an important component of South Africa’s overarching Integrated Resource Plan for electricity and makes clear targets for the procurement of renewable energy.
South Africa ranked 10th in the 2021 BNEF’s Climatescope rankings of most attractive markets for energy transition investments. In 2021, the MIT Technology Review’s Green Future Index, which ranks countries and territories on their progress and commitment toward building a low carbon future, ranked South Africa 47th of 76 countries. South Africa is listed at number 11 of 21 African nations ranked by the Global Green Growth Institute’s Global Green Growth Index.
South Africa has a robust anti-corruption framework, but laws are inadequately enforced, and public sector accountability is low. High-level political interference has undermined the country’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). “State capture,” a term used to describe systemic corruption of the state’s decision-making processes by private interests, is synonymous with the administration of former president Jacob Zuma. In response to widespread calls for accountability, President Ramaphosa launched four separate judicial commissions of inquiry to investigate corruption, fraud, and maladministration, including in the Public Investment Corporation, South African Revenue Service, and the NPA which have revealed pervasive networks of corruption across all levels of government. The Zondo Commission of Inquiry, launched in 2018, has published and submitted three parts of its report to President Ramaphosa and Parliament as of March 2022. Once the entire report is reased and submitted to Parliament, Ramaphosa stated his government will announce its action plan. The Zondo Commission findings reveal the pervasive depth and breadth of corruption under the reign of former President Jacob Zuma.
The Department of Public Service and Administration coordinates the GoSA’s initiatives against corruption, and South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations focuses on organized crime, economic crimes, and corruption. The Office of the Public Protector, a constitutionally mandated body, investigates government abuse and mismanagement. The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (PCCA) officially criminalizes corruption in public and private sectors and codifies specific offenses (such as extortion and money laundering), making it easier for courts to enforce the legislation. Applying to both domestic and foreign organizations doing business in the country, the PCCA covers receiving or offering bribes, influencing witnesses, and tampering with evidence in ongoing investigations, obstruction of justice, contracts, procuring and withdrawal of tenders, and conflict of interests, among other areas. Inconsistently implemented, the PCCA lacks whistleblower protections. The Promotion of Access to Information Act and the Public Finance Management Act call for increased access to public information and review of government expenditures. President Ramaphosa in his reply to the debate on his State of the Nation Address on 20 February 2018 announced Cabinet members would be subject to lifestyle audits despite several subsequent repetitions of this pledge, no lifestyle audits have been shared with the public or Parliament.
The South Africa government’s latest initiative is the opening of an Office on Counter Corruption and Security Services (CCSS) that seeks to address corruption specifically in ports of entry via fraudulent documents and other means.
South Africa is a signatory to the Anticorruption Convention and the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery. South Africa is also a party to the SADC Protocol Against Corruption, which seeks to facilitate and regulate cooperation in matters of corruption amongst Member States and foster development and harmonization of policies and domestic legislation related to corruption. The Protocol defines ‘acts of corruption,’ preventative measures, jurisdiction of Member States, as well as extradition. http://www.sadc.int/files/7913/5292/8361/Protocol_Against_Corruption2001.pdf
To report corruption to the GoSA:
Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Office of the Public Protector, South Africa
175 Lunnon Street, Hillcrest Office Park, Pretoria 0083
Anti-Corruption Hotline: +27 80 011 2040 or +27 12 366 7000 http://www.pprotect.org or email@example.com
South Africa has strong institutions and is relatively stable, but it also has a history of politically motivated violence and civil disturbance. Violent protests against the lack of effective government service delivery are common. Killings of, and by, mostly low-level political and organized crime rivals occur regularly. In May 2018, President Ramaphosa set up an inter-ministerial committee in the security cluster to serve as a national task force on political killings. The task force includes the Police Minister‚ State Security Minister‚ Justice Minister‚ National Prosecuting Authority, and the National Police Commissioner. The task force ordered multiple arrests, including of high-profile officials, in what appears to be a crackdown on political killings. Criminal threats and labor-related unrest have impacted U.S. companies in the past. In July 2021 the country experienced wide-spread rioting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court during the deliberations of the “Zondo Commission” established to review claims of state-sponsored corruption during Zuma’s presidency. Looting and violence led to over USD 1.5 billion in damage to these province’s economies and thousands of lost jobs. U.S. companies were amongst those impacted. Foreign investors continue to raise concern about the government’s reaction to the economic impacts, citing these riots and deteriorating security in some sectors such as mining to be deterrents to new investments and the expansion of existing ones.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
The unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2021 was 34.9 percent. The results of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the third quarter of 2021 show that the number of employed persons decreased by 660,000 in the third quarter of 2021 to 14.3 million. The number of unemployed persons decreased by 183,000 to 7.6 million compared to the second quarter of 2021. The youth unemployment (ages 15-24) rate was 66.5 percent in the third quarter of 2021.
The GoSA has replaced apartheid-era labor legislation with policies that emphasize employment security, fair wages, and decent working conditions. Under the aegis of the National Economic Development and Labor Council (NEDLAC), government, business, and organized labor negotiate all labor laws, apart from laws pertaining to occupational health and safety. Workers may form or join trade unions without previous authorization or excessive requirements. Labor unions that meet a locally negotiated minimum threshold of representation (often, 50 percent plus one union member) are entitled to represent the entire workplace in negotiations with management. As the majority union or representative union, they may also extract agency fees from non-union members present in the workplace. In some workplaces and job sectors, this financial incentive has encouraged inter-union rivalries, including intimidation and violence.
There are 205 trade unions registered with the Department of Labor as of February 2019 (latest published figures), up from 190 the prior year, but down from the 2002 high of 504. According to the 2019 Fourth QLFS report from StatsSA, 4.071 million workers belonged to a union, an increase of 30,000 from the fourth quarter of 2018. Department of Labor statistics indicate union density declined from 45.2 percent in 1997 to 24.7 percent in 2014, the most recent data available. Using StatsSA data, however, union density can be calculated: The February 2020 QLFS reported 4.071 million union members and 13.868 million employees, for a union density of 29.4 percent.
The right to strike is protected on issues such as wages, benefits, organizational rights disputes, and socioeconomic interests of workers. Workers may not strike because of disputes where other legal recourse exists, such as through arbitration. South Africa has robust labor dispute resolution institutions, including the CCMA, the bargaining councils, and specialized labor courts of both first instance and appellate jurisdiction. The GoSA does not waive labor laws for foreign direct investment. The number of working days lost to strike action fell to 55,000 in 2020, compared with 1.2 million in 2019. The sharp decrease is attributable to the GoSA’s imposition of the National State of Disaster at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the accompanying lockdown that commenced on March 26, which forced many businesses either to close or lay off workers and implement wage cuts or shorten time of work. The fact that many wage negotiations were put on hold also led to a reduction in strike figures.
Collective bargaining is a cornerstone of the current labor relations framework. As of February 2019, the South Africa Department of Labor listed 39 private sector bargaining councils through which parties negotiate wages and conditions of employment. Per the Labor Relations Act, the Minister of Labor must extend agreements reached in bargaining councils to non-parties of the agreement operating in the same sector. Employer federations, particularly those representing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) argue the extension of these agreements – often reached between unions and big business – negatively impacts SMEs. In 2019, the average wage settlement resulted in a 7.1 percent wage increase, on average 2.9 percent above the increase in South Africa’s consumer price index (latest information available).
In his 2022 state of the nation address President Ramaphosa spoke of tax incentives for companies that employ youth in efforts to curb youth unemployment. In addition, President Ramaphosa announced measures to move funds in the national budget to address youth unemployment.
South Africa’s current national minimum wage is USD 1.45/hour (R21.69/hour), with lower rates for domestic workers being USD 1.27/hour (R19.09/hour). The rate is subject to annual increases by the National Minimum Wage Commission as approved by parliament and signed by President Ramaphosa. Employers and employees are each required to pay one percent of wages to the national unemployment fund, which will pay benefits based on reverse sliding scale of the prior salary, up to 58 percent of the prior wage, for up to 34 weeks. The Labor Relations Act (LRA) outlines dismissal guidelines, dispute resolution mechanisms, and retrenchment guideline. The Act enshrines the right of workers to strike and of management to lock out striking workers. It created the CCMA, which mediates and arbitrates labor disputes as well as certifies bargaining council impasses for strikes to be called legally.
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) establishes a 45-hour workweek, standardizes time-and-a-half pay for overtime, and authorizes four months of maternity leave for women. Overtime work must be conducted through an agreement between employees and employers and may not be more than 10 hours a week. The law stipulates rest periods of 12 consecutive hours daily and 36 hours weekly and must include Sunday. The law allows adjustments to rest periods by mutual agreement. A ministerial determination exempted businesses employing fewer than 10 persons from certain provisions of the law concerning overtime and leave. Farmers and other employers may apply for variances. The law applies to all workers, including foreign nationals and migrant workers, but the GoSA did not prioritize labor protections for workers in the informal economy. The law prohibits employment of children under age 15, except for work in the performing arts with appropriate permission from the Department of Labor.
The EEA, amended in 2014, protects workers against unfair discrimination on the grounds of race, age, gender, religion, marital status, pregnancy, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, disability, conscience, belief, political, opinion, culture, language, HIV status, birth, or any other arbitrary ground. The EEA further requires large- and medium-sized companies to prepare employment equity plans to ensure that historically disadvantaged South Africans, as well as women and disabled persons, are adequately represented in the workforce. More information regarding South African labor legislation may be found at: www.labour.gov.za/legislation
14. Contact for More Information
Trade and Investment Officer
877 Pretorius Street
Arcadia, Pretoria 0083
+27 (0)12-431-4343 LeggSC@state.gov