Ten norms of a submerging market

David Bullard | Aug 11, 2019
The government’s ‘10 reasons why you should invest in South Africa’ ad may need to be reshot to reflect current conditions.

When I eventually decided that paying almost R1 000 a month for Multichoice was a complete waste of money, I knew that one of the channels I would miss when I cancelled the service would be SkyNews

During the whole time I had the full premium Multichoice bouquet, I was mainly tuned in to Sky but would flip over to the BBC or CNN on occasions. I never watched the dire SABC on principle and I only watched eNCA to see how much weight Jeremy Maggs had put on since the previous week. Whenever my wife mentioned my adipose fat I would force her to watch eNCA and concede that, compared to JM, I was virtually anorexic.

So it was with great joy that I discovered that SkyNews Live can now be found free of charge on YouTube. The only downside is that it does use rather irritating voice activated subtitles that are still obviously in the testing stage. For example, covering the troubles in Hong Kong last week, it misheard the word ferries and claimed that ‘fairies were still moving freely between Kowloon and Hong Kong’. Beijing would not approve.

As I tuned in yesterday, an advert popped up with the title ‘10 reasons why you should invest in South Africa’ and since this is paid for by the SA government (i.e. you and me) I decided not to ‘Skip Ad’ as I usually do but to pay attention, since I still have some skin in this particular game. The video seems to have been made in better times and may need to be reshot to reflect current conditions (and to avoid the ire of the Advertising Standards Authority).

Reason 1 is that we are a ‘Hot emerging market’. I’m not sure we were ever a hot emerging market, unless that is a reference to our summer temperatures. We were certainly regarded as an emerging market back in the pre-Zuma days when foreign banks opened up offices in SA in the hopes of getting a slice of the lucrative privatization pie that was never baked. These days we are more of a submerging market.

Reason 2 is that we are the ‘No 1 diversified economy in Africa’. And why is that, I wonder? Because all those land thieves and white monopoly capitalists made it so. Quite why our government should be bragging about this obvious yoke of colonialism is puzzling, but let’s be honest, being the No 1 diversified economy in Africa isn’t that difficult, is it?

Reason 3 is the ‘Largest presence of multi-nationals in Africa’, which sort of supports Reason 2. The thing with multi-nationals, though, is that they don’t actually have to be here unless it suits them. The clue is in the name and, capitalism being the bitch she is, if business conditions aren’t conducive to a strong bottom line in SA then they will pack up and go.

Reason 4 is our ‘Strong constitution and independent judiciary’. Both moot points, depending on your political bias. Since both the African National Congress and the Economic Freedom Fighters are keen to change the constitution to make theft of other people’s property legal, I suppose you could argue that we have a strong constitution while we still do. An independent judiciary, though? Well, hopefully, but since it’s only politicians who have any immediate access to our courts these days, those of us who have been waiting for 12 years for a court judgment may not share that rosy view of the judiciary.

Reason 5 is ‘Favourable market access to global markets’ and you can’t deny that being on virtually the same time zone as most of Europe gives us a huge advantage. Or would, if we were a more productive industrial nation. The truth, though, is that China, tucked way over to the east of us, doesn’t seem to have much problem accessing global markets, so what makes our position at the southern tip of Africa so advantageous, I wonder?

Reason 6 is ‘Abundant Natural resources’ and you can’t deny that. The only problem is getting your hands on them. If you want to start digging stuff out of the ground here and flogging it on these famous global markets we have such favourable access to, you first need to grease a few palms and put a few well connected cadres (who haven’t a clue about your business) on the board. But even after you’ve jumped through all those hoops, you may find that the next government thinks it knows how to run your business better than you do and nationalizes you. It happened with the oil industry in Venezuela and, since Venezuela is the economic lodestar for so many of our brightest young politicians, it will probably happen here. Moral of the story…dig around elsewhere.

Reason 7 is ‘Advanced financial services and banking sector’ – but only for now. Since it was the same land thieves and white monopoly capitalists as Reason 2 above who set the whole game up, we can reasonably expect it to come tumbling down before too long. Why do people rob banks? Because that’s where the money is. Why do communist governments want to control the banking sector? For the very same reason. Getting hold of the keys to the Reserve Bank would be an obvious starter, but introducing legislation to punish ‘money hoarders’ and force them to invest in government-owned enterprises isn’t too far-fetched a concept given where we are heading at the moment.

Reason 8 (stifle your laughter, please) is ‘World class infrastructure and logistics’, which is perfectly true if you don’t need electricity, can put up with pot-holed roads and you don’t mind a few of your delivery lorries being torched at Mooi River while the terrified police stand by and watch. With 75% of municipalities technically bankrupt and many key state-owned enterprises barely surviving, it might be more honest to claim ‘Third-World class infrastructure and logistics’.  And don’t bother to send your clients a Christmas card because we no longer have a functioning postal system.

Reason 9 is probably the most hilarious – ‘Young trainable labour force’. Well, with over 50% unemployment among the young, that claim is partially true but what do you train someone who has a 30% matric pass and can barely read to do? And once they’ve been ‘trained’, where are they supposed to find work? The mighty unions have made it clear that only decently paying jobs are acceptable these days. That tends to put off potential employers who have to factor in such boring things as costs of production, costs of labour, market conditions and exchange-rate risk before they embark on a hiring spree.

And, finally, Reason 10: ‘Excellent quality of life’. Hopefully that will be the deal clincher that trumps the previous 9 reasons, then.  


David Bullard is a columnist, author and celebrity public speaker known for his controversial satire.


The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the IRR.


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