A sound, well-regulated financial system buoys economy
Updated: 2013-03-26 08:01
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Country's banking sector has resisted knocks and proven resilient in the face of crisis
Backed by a sound regulatory and legal framework, South Africa's sophisticated financial services sector features dozens of domestic and foreign institutions providing a full range of services.
As one of the largest financial services companies in the world, Citibank needs no introduction. The bank enjoys a strong position within South Africa as an international bank with global expertise that works to understand the local market while helping domestic investors launch operations outside of South Africa.
Today, Citibank operates in 15 countries across Africa, spanning corporate, consumer and private banking.
"South Africa's financial sector did so well during the global crisis and has continued to do well because there is a strong central bank and competent people who provide hands-on supervision of the industry," said Donna M. Oosthuyze, country manager of Citibank South Africa.
"South Africa has also maintained exchange controls and the intention is for the exchange regime to be both a strengthening element of the economic environment, and one that facilitates investment into the rest of Africa.
"In addition, South African banks did not have a lot of off-balance sheet activity, so they are very well-capitalized. It is important to remember that 92 percent of the industry is concentrated in the hands of the top five banks.
"We do have world-class talent here, but maybe not enough of it. The banks emerged from the crisis strong, and going forward they can rest on all these strengths."
The bank, which has been in Africa since 1914, sees huge potential in South Africa.
"First, we recognize the compelling nature of the market," said Oosthuyze. "It is a large economy, with large and important corporations. The economy of South Africa is about a third of the entire continent and out of the top 500 companies operating in Africa, about 175 are right here.
"This is an industrialized country, with large companies, which was attractive. Also, we saw South Africa as being an engine of growth for the rest of Africa and in the internationalization of the new South Africa.
"It is a country that has world-class economies, industries and a rich endowment of natural resources. We knew it was going to internationalize and that is exactly how we positioned our business."
Professional law firm ENS
Meanwhile, as the largest law firm in Africa, Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs, ENS for short, has a growing footprint across sub-Saharan Africa.
Whether dealing with the complexity of a multi-jurisdictional project or the start-up process in one particular country, ENS's localized experience and expertise ensures that clients obtain the benefit of their scale and scope when doing business anywhere in Africa.
ENS offers clients quality and cost-effective legal advice wherever they choose to do business on the continent. Importantly, its professionals speak English, French and Mandarin and have excellent experience of Chinese clients.
"I am confident in saying that I do not believe there is any other law firm on the continent that can service Chinese needs in Africa as well as we can," CEO Piet Faber said.
Ernie Lai King, executive, agreed: "ENS has a significant Chinese client base. Through our experience, we understand the challenges Chinese companies have when they come here in terms of the cultural and linguistic barriers."
InFocus provided the story
(China Daily 03/26/2013 page19)