New UK emerging markets report highlights SA’s attractions

By Branko Brkic 14 October 2009

Brits think SA rocks as an investment destination, but have concerns that need to be taken seriously.

In a bit of recession cheer, and welcome news ahead of the 2010 World Cup, new research from UK Trade & Investment says South Africa is ranked the fourth most popular emerging market for global investors. No less a personage than Britain’s Secretary of State, Lord Mandelson, told the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Emerging Markets forum that many such markets are doing better than developed economies, and are expected to grow strongly for many years to come. Along with China becoming the world’s engine for economic growth, and its massive investments into Africa, this is good PR for SA’s downturn-hit economy, which has shed jobs at an alarming rate. And India’s new-found interest in Africa’s oil and gas sector should further add to the continent’s allure. The way Hong Kong is seen as a major gateway to China trade and investment, South Africa has become an entry point into Africa. The goods and services are here, backed up by strong banks and a solid commercial and legal framework that converses in English.

The UK survey is based on responses from 540 executives across 19 business sectors. Some 60% of companies in the survey expect more than 20 percent of revenues to come from emerging markets within five years. But the South African government needs to pay attention to subsidiary findings, including substantial concerns over political risk, including nationalisation and expropriation of companies and land belonging to global mining corporations. South Africa’s proximity to Zimbabwe makes this a real issue, along with the widely publicised comments of ANC left-wing alliance members, whose statements have a knack for making investors nervous. Business hates that kind of uncertainty, but as Mandelson says, the global market crash was a wake-up call for companies to diversify their exports by seeking opportunities in emerging countries.

Read more: UK Trade and Investment (PDF), Financial Times


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