1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The government of South Africa is generally open to foreign investment as a means to drive economic growth, improve international competitiveness, and access foreign markets. Merger and acquisition activity is more sensitive and requires advance work to answer potential stakeholder concerns. The 2018 Competition Amendment Bill, which was signed into law on February 13, 2019, introduced a mechanism for South Africa to review foreign direct investments and mergers and acquisitions by a foreign acquiring firm on the basis of protecting national security interests (see section on Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment below). Virtually all business sectors are open to foreign investment. Certain sectors require government approval for foreign participation, including energy, mining, banking, insurance, and defense.
The Department of Trade and Industry’s (the dti) Trade and Investment South Africa (TISA) division provides assistance to foreign investors. In the past year, they opened provincial One-Stop Shops that provide investment support for foreign direct investment (FDI), with offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban, and a national One Stop Shop located at the dti in Pretoria and online at . An additional one-stop shop has opened at Dube Trade Port, which is a special economic zone aerotropolis linked to the King Shaka International Airport in Durban. The dti actively courts manufacturing industries in which research indicates the foreign country has a comparative advantage. It also favors manufacturing that it hopes will be labor intensive and where suppliers can be developed from local industries. The dti has traditionally focused on manufacturing industries over services industries, despite a strong service-oriented economy in South Africa. TISA offers information on sectors and industries, consultation on the regulatory environment, facilitation for investment missions, links to joint venture partners, information on incentive packages, assistance with work permits, and logistical support for relocation. The dti publishes the “Investor’s Handbook” on its website:
While the government of South Africa supports investment in principle and takes active steps to attract FDI, investors and market analysts are concerned that its commitment to assist foreign investors is insufficient in practice. Some felt that the national-level government lacked a sense of urgency to support investment deals. Several investors reported trouble accessing senior decision makers. South Africa scrutinizes merger- and acquisition-related foreign direct investment for its impact on jobs, local industry, and retaining South African ownership of key sectors. Private sector representatives and other interested parties were concerned about the politicization of South Africa’s posture towards this type of investment. Despite South Africa’s general openness to investment, actions by some South African Government ministries, populist statements by some politicians, and rhetoric in certain political circles show a lack of appreciation for the importance of FDI to South Africa’s growth and prosperity and a lack of concern about the negative impact domestic policies may have on the investment climate. Ministries often do not consult adequately with stakeholders before implementing laws and regulations or fail to incorporate stakeholder concerns if consultations occur. On the positive side, the President, assisted by his appointment of four investment envoys, and his new cabinet are working to restore a positive investment climate and appear to be making progress as they engage in senior level overseas roadshows to attract investment.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Currently there is no limitation on foreign private ownership. South Africa’s transformation efforts – the re-integration of historically disadvantaged South Africans into the economy – has led to policies that could disadvantage foreign and some locally owned companies. In 2017, the Broad-Based Black Socio-Economic Empowerment Charter proposed for the South African mining and minerals industry required an increase to 30 percent ownership by black South Africans, but was mired in the courts as industry challenged it. The Charter was retracted for revision and a new version was proposed in 2018. The Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act of 2013 (B-BBEE), and associated codes of good practice, requires levels of company ownership and participation by Black South Africans to get bidding preferences on government tenders and contracts. The dti created an alternative equity equivalence (EE) program for multinational or foreign owned companies to allow them to score on the ownership requirements under the law, but many view the terms as onerous and restrictive. Currently eight multinationals, most in the technology sector, participate in this program, most in the technology sector.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The World Trade Organization carried out in 2015 a Trade Policy Review for the Southern African Customs Union, in which South Africa accounts for over 90 percent of overall GDP. Neither the OECD nor the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has conducted investment policy reviews for South Africa.
According to the World Bank’s Doing Business report, South Africa’s rank in ease of doing business in 2019 was unchanged from 2018 at 82nd of 190. It ranks 134th for starting a business, taking an average of forty days to complete the process. South Africa ranks 143rd of 190 countries on trading across borders.
In 2017, the dti launched a national InvestSA One Stop Shop (OSS) to simplify administrative procedures and guidelines for foreign companies wishing to invest in South Africa. The dti, in conjunction with provincial governments, opened physical OSS locations in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg. These physical locations bring together key government entities dealing with issues including policy and regulation, permits and licensing, infrastructure, finance, and incentives, with a view to reducing lengthy bureaucratic procedures, reducing bottlenecks, and providing post-investment services. The virtual OSS web site is: .
The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), a body of the dti, is responsible for business registrations and publishes a step-by-step process for registering a company. This process can be done on its website ( ), through a self-service terminal, or through a collaborating private bank. New business registrants also need to register through the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to get 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 also need to register with the Department of Labour (DoL) – – to contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and a compensation fund for occupational injuries. The DoL registration takes the longest (up to 30 days), but can 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 2017 totaled USD 4.1 billion (latest figures available), an almost 40 percent increase from 2016. The largest outward direct investment of a South African company is 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.
South Africa has a robust anti-corruption framework, but laws are inadequately enforced and accountability in public sectors tends to be low. The law provides for criminal penalties for conviction of official corruption, and the government continued efforts to curb corruption, but officials sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.
High-level political interference has undermined the ability of the country’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) – constitutionally responsible for all prosecutions – to pursue criminal proceedings and enforce accountability. After an unprecedented consultative process, President Ramaphosa appointed Shamila Batohi as the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) in December 2018, and he created an Investigative Directorate within her office in March 2019 to focus on the significant number of cases emanating from ongoing corruption investigations. The Constitutional Court ruled in August 2018 that Zuma’s appointment of Shaun Abrahams as the former NDPP was invalid and ordered President Ramaphosa to replace Abrahams within 90 days. Widely praised by civil society, the court also ordered former NDPP Mxolisi Nxasana to repay a “golden handshake” (an illegal departure bonus) of 10.2 million rand (USD 788,000) he received when Zuma replaced him with Abrahams in 2015.
The Department of Public Service and Administration formally coordinates government initiatives against corruption, and the “Hawks” – South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations – focuses on organized crime, economic crimes, and corruption. In 2018, the Office of the Public Protector, a constitutionally mandated body designed to investigate government abuse and mismanagement, investigated thousands of cases, some of which involved high-level officials. The public and NGOs considered the Office of the Public Protector independent and effective, despite limited funding. According to the NPA’s 2017-2018 Annual Report, it recovered 410,000 rand (USD 31,700) from government officials involved in corruption, a 92-percent decrease from the previous year. Courts convicted 213 government officials of corruption.
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 does not include any protectionary measures for whistleblowers. Complementary acts – such as the Promotion of Access to Information Act and the Public Finance Management Act – calls for increased access to public information and review of government expenditures.
“State capture” – the popular term used to describe systemic corruption of the state’s decision-making processes by private interests – has become synonymous with the administration of former president Jacob Zuma. In response to widespread calls for accountability, President Cyril Ramaphosa has denounced corruption since assuming office in February 2018. He has vowed to tackle the scourge at all levels of government, including through proposed lifestyle audits of officials to expose bribery, corruption, and public tender irregularities. He has also launched four separate judicial commissions of inquiry to investigate corruption, fraud, and maladministration, including in the Public Investment Corporation, South African Revenue Service, National Prosecuting Authority, and writ large across the government. These commissions have revealed pervasive networks of criminality across all levels of the municipal, provincial, and national government. Numerous former senior officials had already testified before the commission; a number of them directly implicated former president Jacob Zuma in corruption cases.
Corruption charges were reinstated against Zuma in 2018 related to a USD 2.5-billion arms deal in the late 1990s. The Zuma-linked Gupta family, which owns interests in multiple industries from computer services to mining, has also been placed under investigation and its assets frozen while the state investigates allegations of state capture, bribery, and the siphoning off of public funds meant for small-holder farmers. These and other ongoing efforts are meant to rebuild the public’s trust in government and to foment transparency and predictability in the business environment in order to woo investors.
UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery
South Africa signed the Anticorruption Convention on 9 Dec 2003 and ratified it on 22 Nov 2004. South Africa also signed the OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery in 2007, with implementing legislation dating from 2004.
South Africa is also a party to the SADC Protocol Against Corruption, which promotes the development of mechanisms needed to prevent, detect, punish and eradicate corruption in the public and private sector. The protocol also 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.
Resources to Report Corruption
To report corruption to the government:
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
Or for a non-government agency:
87 De Korte Street, Braamfontein/Johannesburg 2001
+27 80 002 3456 or +27 11 242 3900
10. Political and Security Environment
South Africa has a history of politically-motivated violence and civil disturbance. Violent protests, often by residents in poor communities against the lack of effective government service delivery, are common. Killings of, and by, mostly low-level political and organized crime rivals take place on a regular basis. Still, South Africa enjoys strong, democratic political institutions and the overall political environment is stable and secure.
In May 2018, President Cyril 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.
There is suspicion that criminal threats have been used to resolve business disputes. There was one known incident in 2018 when two expat employees of a U.S. company managing an ongoing construction project received threats to leave the country. The threats escalated to mention the expats’ families as targets, and the company evacuated them from South Africa. Subcontractors accused of using substandard construction materials were suspected. There were no reports of physical damage at the project.
Labor unrest in one part of South Africa has caused damage to property and halted operations to a U.S. company operating in an industrial zone. In this case, the U.S. company was targeted as a single employer by strikes and labor unrest on what was a national bargaining council issue.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
* Statistics South Africa (STATS SA) www.statssa.gov.za
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||$156,103||100%||Total Outward||$276,450||100%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
|Portfolio Investment Assets|
|Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)|
|Total||Equity Securities||Total Debt Securities|
|All Countries||$167,005||100%||All Countries||$157,749||100%||All Countries||$9,255||100%|
|United Kingdom||$61,226||36.7%||United Kingdom||$59,434||37.7%||United States||$2,169||23.4%|
|United States||$20,676||12.4%||United States||$18,507||11.7%||Ireland||$1,559||16.8%|