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South Africa Elections: Cyril Ramaphosa and what the future of business holds

A major bone of contention for Ramaphosa once he returns as president is reform in education.

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South Africa Elections: Cyril Ramaphosa and what the future of business holds
President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa speaking at a public meeting. RODGER BOSCH / AFP

Another landmark election for the continent, is underway in Africa’s second biggest economy, South Africa. South Africans have voted in a general and parliamentary election. As one of Africa’s leading economies, the elections will have ramifications for the rest of the continent.

South Africans trooped to the polls on Wednesday and the tallying continues. A new president will be announced on Saturday, but with early results, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) remains the dominant political party in the country and its candidate, Cyril Ramaphosa has a lot of issues to contend with if he’s returned elected.

From corruption scandals, growing urban crime, call for free education, economic instability, to perceptions that the party has lost touch with ordinary citizens, he’s got a lot on his plate but many expect him to bring his business prowess to play.

As the fifth and incumbent President, Ramaphosa, previously an anti-apartheid activist, trade union leader and partly communist, is a businessman. He previously held notable ownership in companies such as McDonald’s South Africa, chair of the board for telecoms giant, MTN and member of the board for Lonmin, one of the biggest mining companies in the Southern African nation.

Despite his credentials as an important proponent of his country’s peaceful transition to democracy, he has been widely criticised for the conduct of his business interests, but never indicted for illegal activity in any of these controversies, one of which, is his employment on the board of Lonmin’s Marikana mine and his active stance in the 2012 Marikana massacre at Lonmin premises, which led to about 30 workers’ death.

His business dealings with Glencore and allegations of benefitting illegally from coal deals with Eskom have also been called to question.

While dealing with these allegations, he has been notable for spearheading trade relations on behalf of his country, the likes of Singapore and Vietnam where they agreed on expanding trade and furthering education.

The Bilateral trade with Singapore has grown significantly, to R23.5 billion in 2015.

However, a major bone of contention for Ramaphosa once he returns as president is reform in education.

Education reform has been a priority in South Africa since the establishment of the Government of National Unity in 1994 and has played a key role in redressing the injustices of Apartheid.

Impressive progress has been made in education legislation, policy development, curriculum reform and the implementation of new ways of delivering education, but many challenges remain in many areas, such as student outcomes, labour market relevance, and funding.

Another issue, made more widely known by the student protest #FeesMustFall movement, is access to tertiary education for previously disadvantaged students.

Ramaphosa inherited a decision made by former President Jacob Zuma to grant more students access to free education, but it remains to be seen what his own stance will be on the matter and how he, along with national treasury, will provide support to the education department to make this feasible.

Last December, the government, in its 2018/2019 budget review, planned to implement fee-free higher education in a phased approach.

It planned to:

• Raise an additional R36 billion in tax revenue through an increase in the VAT rate, limited personal income tax bracket adjustments and other measures
• Reduce the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement baseline expenditure by R26 billion
• Allocate R12.4 billion for fee-free higher education and training.
• Set aside an additional R5 billion for the contingency reserve
• Provisionally allocate R6 billion for drought management and public infrastructure.

The national treasury reported that baseline spending reductions and tax measures feed through to the outer years of the framework, while allocations to higher education increase sharply.

Funding is a big issue if he intends to continue on this path but analysts are hopeful that Ramaphosa will bring his business to the table for inflow of investments for economic development.

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Forbes lists South Africa’s Trevor Noah as world’s 4th-richest comedian

Noah, whose ranking makes him the richest comedian in Africa, earned a whopping $28m in the period between June 2018 and June 2019

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Forbes lists South Africa's Trevor Noah as world's 4th-richest comedian
U.S-based South African comedian, Trevor Noah. (Comedy Central/AFP)

South African comedian, Trevor Noah is the fourth-highest paid comedian in the world, according to the Forbes Rich List 2019.

This is the first time the 35-year-old star has made it into the magazine’s top 10 since he began his work.

Noah, whose ranking makes him the richest comedian in Africa, earned a whopping $28m in the period between June 2018 and June 2019 from various projects, including his day job as the TV host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show”.

Most of his income, however, came from his 70-stop world tour as a stand-up comedian, making him eligible for the list of richest stand-ups.

In the 2019 list, the South African came behind Kevin Hart ($59m), Jerry Seinfeld ($41), Jim Gaffigan ($30m).

Other than his tour, sources of Noah’s 2018 income were his two shows on Netflix, and book sales from his bestselling autobiography “Born A Crime”, which is still ranked No. 1 on the New York Times’ bestseller list for paperback nonfiction.

Forbes lists South Africa's Trevor Noah as world's 4th-richest comedian
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images/AFP

As a group, the top 10 best-paid comedians raked in $272m, that’s $20m less than the previous period.

The reduction in earnings among the top comedians has been attributed to reduced action among some, including Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, who came in at $30m and $35m last year, respectively.

Trevor Noah’s ‘The Daily Show’ has become quite popular, with the South African inspiring laughter from topics ranging from politics to daily life events.

Noah joined the show in 2014 as a contributor, some two years after making his U.S. television debut on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.”

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Zimbabwe to issue new currency notes to counter cash shortage

Zimbabwe abandoned the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009, after a bout of hyperinflation in favour of currencies like the dollar and rand

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Zimbabwe to issue new currency notes to counter cash shortage

Zimbabwe will issue new notes and coins soon to replace the country’s quasi-currency that was introduced three years ago in a failed attempt to counter a crippling shortage of cash.

The return to a fully-fledged local currency exchangeable outside the country’s borders will be backed by an undisclosed amount of foreign-exchange reserves, gold and loans, according to the country’s finance minister, Mthuli Ncube.

Zimbabwe abandoned the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009, after a bout of hyperinflation in favour of a basket of currencies including the US dollar and the South African rand.

In a bid to deal with the subsequent cash shortages, it introduced so-called bond notes and RTGS dollars in their electronic form, which are not accepted outside the country.

Ncube re-introduced the Zimbabwe dollar in June, accompanied by a ban on the use of foreign currencies-leading to a rapid erosion of spending power with the local dollar trading at almost 10 to the greenback.

Bond notes were officially said to be at parity as recently as February.

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South Africa plans “affordable” nuclear energy approach

Economists say a large-scale nuclear new build is something South Africa cannot afford

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South Africa plans "affordable" nuclear energy approach
South Africa's Energy and Mineral Resources Minister, Gwede Mantashe. (File photo)

South Africa has made a decision to add energy capacity in an affordable way, according to its Energy and Mineral Resources Minister, Gwede Mantashe.

Former South African President, Jacob Zuma championed a massive nuclear expansion project with Russia, but his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa put those plans on hold in one of his first moves after becoming leader of the governing African National Congress (ANC) in late 2017.

Economists say a large-scale nuclear new build is something South Africa, whose last investment-grade credit rating is hanging by a thread, cannot afford.

A clear timeline for new nuclear capacity has not been disclosed as the government’s energy plan will require approval first.

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