2006 Year in Review

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In 2006, the World Bank ranking of best places to do business placed South Africa 29 out of 175 countries. The ranking was based on issues concerning government regulations designed to facilitate business.

Meanwhile, South Africa has come out tops in a global survey of perceptions of power. While 65% of the world's citizens say their country is not run by the will of the people, a new BBC/Gallup poll reveals that 59% of South Africans believe they are ruled according to their wishes - the highest score of the 68 countries surveyed.

The South African economy continued to grow in 2006, reporting an annual rate of 4.7% in the third quarter. With an expanding black middle class, increased government spending, the 2010 World Cup and surging prices of gold and platinum, the economy is strong with no sign of this period of expansion coming to an end.

The department of trade and industry (DTI), the main government body tasked with assisting exporters and marketing South African exports internationally, is currently finalising the implementation of extensive legislative changes that will drastically improve the country's competitiveness in the race to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).

The tariff reform programme is specifically aimed at lowering input costs for producers and import controls have been relaxed. As well, exporters have been granted incentives such as export marketing assistance, zero rating for the value added tax (VAT) on exports of goods and services and exemption from various Customs and excise duties. The new legislation is expected to add an estimated 100,000 jobs by 2009.

South African stocks drew record amounts of foreign investment for a second year in a row as investors sought to profit from the country's economic growth since September 1999.

Overseas investment in shares traded on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) rose 47% to a net $10.63bn last year. The JSE is the 16th largest exchange in the world, and by far the largest in Africa. As of September 30, the JSE had an estimated 382-listed companies and a market capitalisation of $579.1bn.

South Africa's 2010 football World Cup is set to be the most commercially successful event since the first tournament was held 76 years ago. The event has attracted more marketing and television attention than the 2006 World Cup as it has already signed 25% more contracts than Germany. Agreements with five strategic partners for 2010 have been estimated at more than $821m compared to Germany's total of $700m in deals for the 2006 event. Companies have to fork out around $125m to be one of the six worldwide partners involved with the 2010 World Cup.

President Thabo Mbeki has identified large-scale state investment in numerous sectors as well as economic interventions targeting specific areas of the economy, such as business process outsourcing, infrastructure development and small business enhancement, as key elements of the government's strategy to boost South Africa's economic growth rate and create employment. South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka also indicated that Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and protective labour legislation are under review as part of the country's programme to beef up South Africa's annual economic growth to 6% of GDP by 2014 and halve unemployment.

As elsewhere in the region - South Africa boasts some of the highest unemployment rates in the world. Government statistics for 2006 indicate that unemployment in the country is at 25%, but estimates from outside organisations place the rate as high as 40%. Observers point out that unemployment in the country is delineated along racial lines with black unemployment around seven times higher than the rate for white people.

The government also announced its intention to invest in research and construction of nuclear-generated power networks over the next 20 years. South Africa plans to construct 20 to 30 Pebble Bed Modular Reactors (PBMR) that would generate an estimated 5000 megawatts of energy per year, $ 1.2bn in export revenue and up to 57,000 new jobs.

South Africa began 2007 by officially assuming its seat as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC). The government has indicated that it will make a concerted effort to represent the interests of countries in the African Union (AU) and to create synergies between the work of the AU Peace and Security Council and the UNSC to prevent outbreaks of violence and conflict in Africa.

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