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Petroleum product supplier Shell Oil Company and the National Empowerment Fund (NEF), under the auspices of the Department of Trade and Industry, on Thursday entered into a cooperative agreement to assist black South Africans wanting to own and operate service stations. Through this initiative, Shell was aiming to ensure that 40% of its service stations were black-owned by 2017. “The energy sector was the first to adopt a transformation charter and it is in line with that trend that Shell’s ground-breaking target of 40% black-owned service stations is coming to life,” said NEF CEO Philisiwe Mthethwa. Shell South Africa chairperson Bonang Mohale noted that Shell’s aim was to to select high-quality brand ambassadors who would receive the necessary training by qualified Shell Retail trainers.
Once the selection and training process was complete, Shell would facilitate a retail site handover, which involved essential mentoring and support in the initial phases of the business operation. “We want to ensure that we do not only comply to the rules and regulations governing the industry, but we also attain leadership status in the transformation area,” he noted. Mthethwa added that, within the NEF’s franchise portfolio of R709-million, service stations ranked as the most successful. The review of the Liquid Fuels Charter – a regulation that provided a framework for empowering black South Africans in the petroleum industry, revealed that one of the major barriers to entry for black entrants in operating and owning service stations was a lack of access to capital. To address this challenge, the Shell and NEF partnership would result in the provision of funding to black retailers with a majority share of no less than 51%. To date, the NEF has invested R300-million in the acquisition of 63 petroleum service stations that were owned and managed by black entrepreneurs countrywide, with these stations supporting 1 920 jobs. The NEF’s total funded portfolio exceeded R7.1-billion, while strategic industrial projects were valued at over R27-billion.
The World Bank says firmer commodity prices in 2016 could boost the economic growth prospects of most countries in the Sub Saharan Africa region..
According to the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects, the region is expected to grow 4,2 percent this year, from 3,4 percent in 2014.
With the current electricity constraints being experienced in most countries expected to persist as well as the drought in Southern Africa, the region is likely to record a somewhat weaker recovery in 2016 than previously anticipated.
However, an easing of the power constraints, better fiscal policy measures and continued stability in commodity prices are likely to impact positively on growth.
“Commodity prices are expected to stabilise but remain low through 2017. Although governments are taking steps to resolve power issues, electricity supply bottlenecks are expected to persist. There are, however, considerable variations within the region. The fiscal policy stance in commodity exporters is expected to ease gradually as commodity prices stabilise,” the report said.
According to Global Forecasting Services, the commodity market is poised for some recovery.
“Although we expect commodity prices to remain well below their 2011 peak in years to come, 2016 will be a year of stabilisation, with our aggregate commodity price index registering a modest 2.6 percent rebound. This will be driven by a mild increase in oil prices, which will feed into the price of other commodities.”
Besides the fall in commodity prices, African countries have had to contend with depreciation of local currencies against the US dollar which led to most countries allowing their exchange rate to adjust, especially among oil exporters.
The region’s pattern of exports makes it particularly vulnerable to commodity price shocks. Fuels, ores, and metals accounted for more than 60 percent of the region’s total exports between 2010 and 2014 compared with 16 percent for manufactured goods. Lower commodity prices obliged a fiscal tightening in several commodity exporters, which caused a sharp slowdown.
Since October last year, Angola, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia’s currencies have experienced depreciations of significant magnitude, reflecting existing or rising domestic vulnerabilities.
The report noted that activity is expected to remain subdued in the region’s three largest economies although for Nigeria, power and fuel shortages and fiscal consolidation which weighed on activity in 2015, are expected to diminish gradually.
“Growth is expected to remain weak in South Africa, as inadequate power supply, weak business confidence, difficult labour relations, and policy tightening slow activity. In Angola, government spending remains constrained, and elevated inflation has weakened consumer spending,” said the World Bank.
South Africa is expected to grow 1,4 percent this year from 1,3 percent in the previous year. Angola on the other hand will grow by 3,3 percent from 3 percent.
Global forecasting services says although copper prices in September last year bounced back from a six-year low on the announcement of large mine closures, sluggish Chinese demand will delay a recovery in prices until 2017.
This is expected to have an impact on Zambia which will record about 3,8 percent growth in 2016.
In 2015, Botswana was also affected by lower diamond prices as well as insufficient power supply due to drought. The World Bank said the Southern African country’s attention to drought and its effects on hydropower is expected to help the economy grow by 4 percent this year from 3 percent in the previous year.
Zimbabwe, which has also been significantly affected by low commodity prices, power shortages and drought, is expected to grow by 2,8 percent from the 1 percent estimated for 2015.
In Southern Africa, DRC, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia and Malawi are expected to record the highest growth rates of 8,6 percent, 7,2 percent, 6,5 percent, 5,5 percent and 5 percent respectively.
Lesotho and Mauritius are expected to grow GDP by 2,8 percent and 3,7 percent respectively.
Swaziland is the only country in the SADC region expected to record a slump in GDP growth to 0,8 percent from 1,3 percent last year.
The World Bank called for policy makers to find ways to broaden their tax bases as a short term solution.
In the medium term, countries were urged to design strategies to bring small enterprises into the tax net and boost administrative capacity while working on instruments such as urban property taxes to help generate revenues from a more balanced tax mix over the long run.
It also said structural reforms are needed to alleviate domestic impediments to growth and to accelerate economic diversification.
“An increasing share of the world’s poor resides in Sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank 2015j). Reviving growth and reducing vulnerabilities will be important for progress toward eradicating extreme poverty, and achieving the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals. Policies to enhance domestic revenue mobilisation, increase the efficiency of public spending, and boost growth and economic diversification will play a critical role in these efforts,” the report said.