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South Africa

Executive Summary

South Africa boasts the most advanced, broad-based economy on the African continent.  The investment climate is fortified by stable institutions, an independent judiciary and vibrant legal sector committed to upholding the rule of law, a free press and investigative reporting, a mature financial and services sector, good infrastructure, and a broad selection of experienced local partners.  South Africa encourages investment that develops manufacturing of goods for export.

South Africa is still fighting its way back from a “lost decade” in which economic growth stagnated, largely as a consequence of corruption and economic mismanagement during the term of its former president.  Since assuming office in February 2018, South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has committed to improving the investment climate. The early steps he has taken are encouraging, but the challenges are enormous.  At a minimum, South Africa will need to strengthen economic growth and stabilize public finances in order to reverse the credit downgrades by two of the three global ratings agencies. Other challenges include: creating policy certainty; reinforcing regulatory oversight; making state-owned enterprises (SOEs) profitable rather than recipients of government bail-outs; weeding out widespread corruption; reducing violent crime; tackling labor unrest; improving basic infrastructure and government service delivery; creating more jobs while reducing the size of the state (unemployment is over 27 percent); and increasing the supply of appropriately-skilled labor.

In dealing with the legacy of apartheid, South African laws, policies, and reforms seek to produce economic transformation to increase the participation of and opportunities for historically disadvantaged South Africans.  The government views its role as the primary driver of development and aims to promote greater industrialization. Government initiatives to accelerate transformation have included tightening labor laws to achieve proportional racial, gender, and disability representation in workplaces, and ascriptive requirements for government procurement such as equity stakes for historically disadvantaged South Africans and localization requirements.  Following the adoption of a resolution calling for land expropriation without compensation at the December 2017 conference of the African National Congress, investors are watching closely how the government will implement land reform initiatives and what Parliament will decide as a result of its review of the constitution on this issue.

Despite these uncertainties and some important structural economic challenges, South Africa is a destination conducive to U.S. investment; the dynamic business community is highly market-oriented and the driver of economic growth.  President Ramaphosa aims to attract USD 100 billion in investment over the next five years. South Africa offers ample opportunities and continues to attract investors seeking a comparatively low-risk location in Africa from which to access the continent with the fastest growing consumer market in the world.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2018 73 of 180 http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview 
World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2019 82 of 190 http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings
Global Innovation Index 2018 58 of 126 https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator 
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2017 $7,334 http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/ 
World Bank GNI per capita 2017 $5,430 http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD 

4. Industrial Policies

Investment Incentives

South Africa offers various investment incentives targeted at specific sectors or types of business activities. The dti has a number of incentive programs ranging from tax allowances to support in the automotive sector and helping innovation and technology companies to film and television production.

12I Tax Allowance: is designed to support new industrial projects that utilize only new and unused manufacturing assets and expansions or upgrades of existing industrial projects. The incentive offers support for both capital investment and training. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=45&subthemeid=26  

Agro-Processing Support Scheme (APSS): aims to stimulate investment by South African agro-processing/beneficiation (agri-business) enterprises. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=69&subthemeid=25  

Aquaculture Development and Enhancement Programme (ADEP): is available to South African registered entities engaged in primary, secondary, and ancillary aquaculture activities in both marine and freshwater classified under SIC 132 (fish hatcheries and fish farms) and SIC 301 and 3012 (production, processing and preserving of aquaculture fish). https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=56&subthemeid=26  

Automotive Investment Scheme (AIS): designed to grow and develop the automotive sector through investment in new and/ or replacement models and components that will increase plant production volumes, sustain employment and/ or strengthen the automotive value chain. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=37&subthemeid=26  

Medium and Heavy Commercial Vehicles Automotive Investment Scheme (MHCV-AIS): is designed to grow and develop the automotive sector through investment in new and/or replacement models and components that will increase plant production volumes, sustain employment and/or strengthen the automotive value chain. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=60&subthemeid=26  

People-carrier Automotive Investment Scheme (P-AIS): provides a non-taxable cash grant of between 20 percent and 35 percent of the value of qualifying investment in productive assets approved by the dti. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=55&subthemeid=26  

Business Process Services (BPS): aims to attract investment and create employment opportunities in South Africa through offshoring activities. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=6&subthemeid=25  

Capital Projects Feasibility Programme (CPFP): is a cost-sharing grant that contributes to the cost of feasibility studies likely to lead to projects that will increase local exports and stimulate the market for South African capital goods and services. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=4&subthemeid=26  

Cluster Development Programme (CDP): aims to promote industrialization, sustainable economic growth and job creation needs of South Africa through cluster development and industrial parks. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=66&subthemeid=28  

Critical Infrastructure Programme (CIP): aims to leverage investment by supporting infrastructure that is deemed to be critical, thus lowering the cost of doing business.  https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=3&subthemeid=26  

Clothing and Textile Competitiveness Improvement Programme (CTCIP): aims to build capacity among manufacturers and in other areas of the apparel value chain in South Africa, to enable them to effectively supply their customers and compete on a global scale. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=35&subthemeid=25  

Export Marketing and Investment Assistance (EMIA): develops export markets for South African products and services and recruits new foreign direct investment into the country. The purpose of the scheme is to partially compensate exporters for costs incurred with respect to activities aimed at developing an export market for South African product and services and to recruit new foreign direct investment into South Africa. https://www.thedti.gov.za/trade_investment/emia.jsp  

Foreign Film and Television Production and Post-Production Incentive: to attract foreign-based film productions to shoot on location in South Africa and conduct post-production activities. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=63&subthemeid=26  

Innovation and Technology Funding instruments: click on the link to see a graphic of the various funding instruments the government has made available. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/Innovation_value_Chain.jsp  

Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme (MCEP): aims to encourage manufacturers to upgrade their production facilities in a manner that sustains employment and maximizes value-addition in the short to medium term.  Participants can also apply for incentives for energy efficiency and green economy incentives. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=53&subthemeid=25  

Production Incentive (PI): forms part of the Clothing and Textile Competitiveness Program, and forms part of the customized sector program for the clothing, textiles, footwear, leather and leather goods industries. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=36&subthemeid=25  

Sector-Specific Assistance Scheme (SSAS): is a reimbursable cost-sharing incentive scheme which grants financial support to organizations that support the development of industry sectors and those that contribute to the growth of South African exports. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=8&subthemeid=26  

Shared Economic Infrastructure Facility (SEIF)contact the Department of Small Business Development on +27 861 843 384 (select option 2) or E-Mail: sbdinfo@dsbd.gov.za for more information. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=61&subthemeid=1  

Support Programme for Industrial Innovation (SPII): is designed to promote technology development in South Africa’s industry, through the provision of financial assistance for the development of innovative products and/or processes. SPII is focused on the development phase, which begins when basic research concludes and ends at the point when a pre-production prototype has been produced. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=48&subthemeid=8  

Strategic Partnership Programme (SPP)The SPP aims to develop and enhance the capacity of small and medium-sized enterprises to provide manufacturing and service support to large private sector enterprises. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=67&subthemeid=1  

Workplace Challenge Programme (WPC): managed by Productivity South Africa, WPC aims to encourage and support negotiated workplace change towards enhancing productivity and world-class competitiveness, best operating practices, continuous improvement, lean manufacturing, while resulting in job creation. https://www.thedti.gov.za/financial_assistance/financial_incentive.jsp?id=68&subthemeid=25  

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

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 the dti. 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 South African Revenue Service (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.  For more detailed information on IDZs in South Africa please see: http://www.thedti.gov.za/industrial_development/sez.jsp  

In February 2014, the dti introduced a new Special Economic Zones (SEZs) Bill 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 five SEZ in South Africa: Atlantis SEZ, Nkomazi SEZ, Maliti-A-Phofung SEZ, Musina/Makhado SEZ, and OR 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.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Employment and Investor Requirements

Foreign investors who establish a business or who invest in existing businesses in South Africa must show within twelve months of establishing the business that at least 60 percent of the total permanent staff are South African citizens or permanent residents.

The Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) program measures employment equity, management control, and ownership by historically disadvantaged South Africans for companies which do business with the government or bid on government tenders.  Companies may consider the B-BBEE scores of their sub-contractors and suppliers, as their scores can sometimes contribute to or detract from the contracting company’s B-BBEE score.

A business visa is required for foreign investors who will establish a business or who will invest in an existing business in South Africa.  They are required to invest a prescribed financial capital contribution equivalent to R2.5million (USD 178 thousand) and have at least R5 million (USD 356 thousand) in cash and capital available.  These capital requirements may be reduced or waived if the investment qualifies under one of the following types of industries/businesses: information and communication technology; clothing and textile manufacturing; chemicals and bio-technology; agro-processing; metals and minerals refinement; automotive manufacturing; tourism; and crafts.

The documentation required for obtaining a business visa is onerous and includes, among other requirements, a letter of recommendation from the Department of Trade and Industry regarding the feasibility of the business and its contribution to the national interest, and various certificates issued by a chartered or professional South African accountant.

U.S. citizens have complained that the processes to apply for and renew visas and work permits are lengthy, confusing, and difficult.  Requirements frequently change mid-process, and there is little to no feedback about why an application might be considered incomplete or denied.  Many U.S. citizens use facilitation services to help navigate these processes.

Goods, Technology, and Data Treatment

The government does not require the use of domestic content in goods or technology.  The transfer of personal information about a subject to a third party who is in a foreign country is prohibited unless certain conditions are met.  These conditions are outlined in the Protection of Personal Information (PoPI) Act, which the government enacted in 2013 to regulate how personal information may be processed.  The conditions relate to: accountability, processing limitations, purpose specification, information quality, openness, security safeguards, and data subject participation. PoPI also created an Information Regulator (IR) to draft regulations and enforce them; the five member body that comprises the IR was established in 2018.  The IR released regulations on personal information processing in December 2018, but government was not clear if the one year grace period to begin implementation started from the date the regulations were published or from the date the IR is fully operational.

Investment Performance Requirements

There are no performance requirements on investments.

5. Protection of Property Rights

Real Property

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.

South Africa ranks 106th of 190 countries in registering property according to the 2019 World Bank Doing Business report.

Intellectual Property Rights

South Africa has a strong legal structure and enforcement of intellectual property rights through civil and criminal procedures.  Criminal procedures are generally lengthy, so the customary route is through civil enforcement.  There are concerns about counterfeit consumer goods, illegal commercial photocopying, and software piracy.

Owners of patents and trademarks may license them locally, but when a patent license entails the payment of royalties to a non-resident licensor, the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) 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 ten-year periods. The holder of a patent or trademark must pay an annual fee to preserve ownership rights.  All agreements relating to payment for the right to use know-how, patents, trademarks, copyrights, or other similar property are subject to approval by exchange control authorities in the SARB. A royalty of up to four percent is the standard approval 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 copyright 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 fully into line with the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS).  Further Amendments to the Patents Act of 1978 also brought South Africa into line with TRIPS, to which South Africa became a party in 1999, and implemented the Patent Cooperation Treaty. The private sector and law enforcement cooperate extensively to stop the flow of counterfeit goods into the marketplace, and the private sector believes that South Africa has made significant progress in this regard since 2001.   Statistics on seizures are not available.

In an effort to modernize outdated copyright law to incorporate “digital age” advances, the dti introduced the latest draft of the Copyright Amendment Bill in May 2017.  The South African Parliament and the National Council of Provinces approved the Copyright Amendment Bill in March 2019 and sent the bill to the president for signature. As of mid-May 2019, the bill had not been signed.  Among the issues of concern to some private sector stakeholders is the introduction of the U.S. model of “fair use” for copyright exemptions without prescribing industry-specific circumstances where fair use will apply, creating uncertainty about copyrights enforcement.  Other concerns that stakeholders have include a clause which allows the Minister of Trade and Industry to set royalty rates for visual artistic works and impose compulsory contractual terms. The bill also limits the assignment of copyright to 25 years before it reverts back to the author.

The Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill seeks to address issues relating to the payment of royalties to performers; safeguarding the rights of contracting parties; and promotes performers’ moral and economic rights for performances in fixations (recordings).  Similar to the Copyright Amendment Bill, this bill gives the Minister of Trade and Industry authority to determine equitable remuneration for a performer and copyright owner for the direct or indirect use of a work. It also suggests that any agreement between the copyright owner and performer will only last for a period of 25 years and does not determine what happens after 25 years.  The bill also does not stipulate how it will address works with multiple performers, particularly how to resolve potential problems of hold-outs when contracts are renegotiated that could hinder the further exploitation of a work.

The dti released the final Intellectual Property Policy of the Republic of South Africa Phase 1  in June, 2018, that informs the government’s approach to intellectual property and existing laws.  Phase I focuses on the health space, particularly pharmaceuticals. The South African Government, led by the dti, held multiple rounds of public consultations since its introduction and the 2016 release of the IP Consultative Framework.

Among other things, the IP policy framework calls for South Africa to carry out substantive search and examination (SSE) on patent applications and to introduce a pre- and post-grant opposition system.  The dti repeatedly stressed its goal of creating the domestic capacity to understand and review patents, without having to rely on other countries’ examinations. U.S. companies working in South Africa have been generally supportive of the government’s goal; they are concerned, however, that the relatively low number of examiners currently on staff (20) to handle the proposed SSE process and the introduction of a pre-grant opposition system in South Africa could lead to significant delays of products to market.  The South African Government is working with international partners (including USPTO and the European Union) to provide accelerated training of their patent reviewers while also recruiting new staff.

The new IP policy framework also raises concerns around the threat of separate patentability criteria for medicines and a more liberalized compulsory licensing regime.  Stakeholders are calling for more concrete assurances that the use of compulsory licensing provisions will be as a last resort and applied in a manner consistent with WTO rules.  Industry sources report they are not aware of a single case of South Africa issuing a compulsory license.

South Africa is currently in the process of implementing the Madrid Protocol.  CIPC has completed drafting legislative amendments after consultations with stakeholders and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on the implementation process in South Africa.  WIPO has conducted a number of missions to South Africa on this matter, the latest of which was in February 2018. South Africa has also engaged with national IP offices with similar trade mark legislation, such as New Zealand.

Resources for Rights Holders

Economic Officer covering IP issues:

Juan Manuel Cammarano
Trade and Investment Officer
+27(0)12 431-4343
CammaranoJM@State.gov

For additional information about South Africa’s treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/  .  A list of attorneys for various South African districts can be found on the U.S. Mission Citizen Services page: https://za.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/local-resources/attorneys/

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