Liberia offers opportunities for investment, especially in natural resources such as mining, agriculture, fishing, and forestry, but also in more specialized sectors such as energy, telecommunications, tourism, and financial services. The economy, which was severely damaged by more than a decade of civil wars that ended in 2003, has been slowly recovering, but Liberia has yet to attain pre-war levels of development. Liberia’s largely commodities-based economy relies heavily on imports even for most basic needs like fuel, clothing, and rice – Liberia’s most important staple food. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many sectors of the economy, which contracted in 2019 and 2020. However, the World Bank and IMF expect per capita GDP to return to pre-COVID-19 levels by 2023. Growth will be driven mainly by the mining sector, although structural reforms are also expected to increase activity in agriculture and construction.
Low human development indicators, expensive and unreliable electricity, poor roads, a lack of reliable internet access (especially outside urban areas), and pervasive government corruption constrain investment and development. Most of Liberia lacks reliable power, although efforts to expand access to the electricity grid are ongoing through an extension from the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant, connection to the West Africa Power Pool, and other internationally supported energy projects. Public perception of corruption in the public sector is high, as indicated by Liberia’s poor showing in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index, where Liberia ranked 136 out of 180 countries. Low public trust in the banking sector and seasonal currency shortages result in most cash being held outside of banks. To remedy this, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) in 2021 initiated a plan to print and circulate additional currency. The new printing and minting will provide 48 billion Liberian dollars through 2024. The CBL and commercial banks have also successfully pushed the adoption of mobile money, which Liberians access through their mobile phones to make everyday purchases and pay bills. However, the government has yet to activate the “national switch,” meaning banking instruments like ATMs and mobile money accounts remain unintegrated and are not interoperable.
The government-backed Business Climate Working Group (BCWG) works with public and private sector stakeholders to explore how to create a friendlier business environment. International donors also work with the government to improve the investment climate, which ranks toward the global bottom by most global measures. Despite these numerous challenges, Liberia is rich in natural resources. It has large expanses of potentially productive agricultural land and abundant rainfall to sustain agribusinesses. Its rich mineral resources offer significant potential to investors in extractive industries. Several large international concessionaires have invested successfully in agriculture and mining, though negotiating these agreements with the government often proves to be a lengthy and byzantine struggle. The fishing industry, long dormant compared to pre-war levels, is making improvements that should make it more attractive for investment.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
3. Legal Regime
4. Industrial Policies
5. Protection of Property Rights
6. Financial Sector
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Liberia has approximately 20 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which are governed by boards of directors and management teams overseen by government ministries. All are wholly government-owned and semi-autonomous. The president of Liberia appoints board members and directors or managers to govern and run SOEs. The Public Financial Management (PFM) Act defines the requirements for SOEs.
SOEs employ more than 10,000 people in sea and airport services, electricity supply, oil and gas, water and sewage, agriculture, forestry, maritime, petroleum importation and storage, and information and communication technology services. Not all SOEs are profitable, and some citizens and advocacy groups have called for SOEs to be dissolved or privatized. Liberia does not have a clearly defined corporate code for SOEs. Reportedly, high-level officials, including some who sit on SOE boards, influence government-owned enterprises to conduct business in ways not consistent with standard corporate governance. Not all SOEs pay taxes, or do so transparently, and SOE revenue is not always transparently reported or adequately reflected in national budgets.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
Liberian authorities have not clearly defined responsible business conduct (RBC). The Liberian Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), however, includes RBC requirements in policies such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Resilience Strategy (2020-2030), the National Climate Change Response Strategy (2018), and the National Adaptation Plan (2020-2030). Foreign companies are encouraged, but not required, to publicly disclose their policies, procedures, and practices to highlight their RBC practices.
Some non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), and workers organizations/unions promote or monitor foreign company RBC policies and practices. However, NGOs and CSOs monitoring or advocating for RBC do not conduct their activities in a structured and coordinated manner, nor do they tend to monitor locally owned companies.
Most Liberians are generally unaware of RBC standards. Generally, the government expects foreign investors to offer social services to local communities and contribute to a government-controlled social development fund for the area in which the enterprise conducts its business. Some communities complain that these contributions to social development funds do not reach them. The government frequently includes clauses in concession agreements that oblige investors to provide social services such as educational facilities, health care, and other services which other governments typically provide. Foreign investors have reported that some local communities expect benefits in addition to those outlined in formal concession agreements.
Liberia is a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The National Bureau of Concessions monitors and evaluates concession company compliance with concession agreements, but it does not design policies to promote and encourage RBC. Some NGOs report that several concessions have violated human or labor rights, including child labor and environmental pollution. Liberia has several private security companies, but the country is not a signatory to the Montreux Document on Private and Security Companies. Private security companies are regulated by the Ministry of Justice, and they perform a range of tasks such as providing security or surveillance to large businesses, international organizations, diplomatic missions, and some private homes.
Liberia has laws against economic sabotage, mismanagement of funds, bribery, and other corruption-related acts, including conflicts of interest. However, Liberia suffers from corruption in both the public and private sectors. The government does not implement its laws effectively and consistently, and there have been numerous reports of corruption by public officials, including some in positions of responsibility for fighting corrupt practices. On December 9, 2021, the United States Treasury Department sanctioned Nimba County Senator Prince Yormie Johnson under the Global Magnitsky Act for personally enriching himself through pay-for-play funding schemes with government ministries and organizations. In 2021, Liberia ranked 136 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index . See http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview.
The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) currently cannot directly prosecute corruption cases without first referring cases to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) for prosecution. If the MOJ does not prosecute within 90 days, the LACC may then take those cases to court, although it has not exercised this right to date. The LACC continues to seek public support for the establishment of a specialized court to exclusively try corruption cases.
In October 2021 the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), launched “The Anti-Corruption Innovation Initiative Project.” LACC will hire at least 15 officers around the country who will report on corruption to the LACC. LACC is also developing a national digital platform for the public to report corruption.
Foreign investors generally report that corruption is most pervasive in government procurement, contract and concession awards, customs and taxation systems, regulatory systems, performance requirements, and government payments systems. Multinational firms often report paying fees not stipulated in investment agreements. Private companies do not have generally agreed and structured internal controls, ethics, or compliance programs to detect and prevent bribery of public officials. No laws explicitly protect NGOs that investigate corruption.
Liberia is signatory to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on the Fight against Corruption, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (AUCPCC), and the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), but Liberia’s association with these conventions has done little to reduce rampant government corruption.
10. Political and Security Environment
President Weah’s inauguration in January 2018 marked the first peaceful transfer of power in Liberia from one democratically elected president to another since 1944. International and domestic observers have said midterm senatorial and special elections since then have been largely peaceful, although there were reported instances of vote tempering, election violence, intimidation, and harassment of female candidates. Liberia’s relatively free media landscape has led to vigorous pursuit of civil liberties, resulting in active, often acrimonious political debates, and organized, non-violent demonstrations. Liberia adopted a press freedom law in 2019, but there have been reports and instances of violence and harassment against the media and journalists. Numerous radio stations and newspapers distribute news throughout the country. The government has identified land disputes and high rates of youth and urban unemployment as potential threats to security, peace, and political stability.
The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), a peacekeeping force, withdrew from Liberia in March 2018 and turned over responsibility for security to the government. Protests and demonstrations may occur with little warning. The Armed Forces of Liberia and law enforcement agencies, including the Liberia National Police (LNP), Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), and Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA), maintain security in the country. There are also many private security firms. Most security personnel are in the capital city Monrovia and other urban areas. The effectiveness of soldiers and police is limited by lack of money and poor infrastructure.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
With a literacy rate of just under 50 percent, much of the Liberian labor force is unskilled. Most Liberians, particularly those in rural areas, lack basic vocational or computer skills. Liberia has no reliable data on labor force statistics, such as unemployment rates. Government workers comprise the majority of formally employed Liberians.
An estimated four out of five Liberian workers engage in “vulnerable” or “informal” employment. Many work in difficult and dangerous conditions that undermine their basic rights. The Ministry of Labor (MOL) largely attributes high levels of vulnerable and informal employment to the private sector’s inability to create employment. There is an acute shortage of specialized labor skills, particularly in medicine, information and communication technology, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Migrant workers are employed throughout the country, particularly in service industries, artisanal diamond and gold mining, timber, and fisheries.
The predominantly female workers who sell in markets and on the streets face significant challenges, including a lack of access to credit and banking services, limited financial literacy and business training, few social protections or childcare options, harassment from citizens and local authorities, and poor sanitation within marketplaces. Through the Bureau of Small Business Administration (SBA) at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, businesses owned by female informal workers are being formalized using a “one-stop shop” registration mechanism. Development partners are also designing programs aimed at empowering women businesses and entrepreneurs.
Liberia’s labor law, the 2015 Decent Work Act, gives preference to employing Liberian citizens, and most investment contracts require companies to employ a defined percentage of Liberians, including in top management positions. In 2021, the Ministry of Labor issued an order that restricts certain employment opportunities in commercial business establishments with branches in Monrovia and other parts of the country to Liberians. The order was the result of a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Labor and the Liberia Chamber of Commerce calling for the creation of five hundred jobs for new college and university graduates.
Foreign companies often report difficulty finding local skilled labor. Child labor is a problem, particularly in extractive industries. The Decent Work Act guarantees freedom of association and gives employees the right to establish labor unions. Employees can become members of organizations of their own choosing without prior authorization. Workers, except for civil servants and employees of state-owned enterprises, are covered by the Act. The Act allows workers’ unions to conduct activities without interference by employers. It also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of membership in or affiliation with a labor organization. Unions are independent from the government and political parties. Employees, through their associations or unions, often demand and sometimes strike for better compensation. When company ownership changes, workers sometimes seek payment of obligations owed by previous owners or employers.
The Decent Work Act provides that labor organizations, including trade or employees’ associations, have the right to draw up constitutions and rules regarding electing representatives, organizing activities, and formulating programs.
There were no major labor union-related negotiations affecting workers or the labor market during 2021.
While the law prohibits anti-union discrimination and provides for the reinstatement of workers dismissed because of union activities, it allows for dismissal without cause provided the company pays statutory severance packages. The Decent Work Act sets out fundamental rights of workers and contains provisions on employment and termination of employment, minimum conditions of work, occupational safety and health, workers’ compensation, industrial relations, and employment agencies. It also provides for periodic reviews of the labor market as well as adjustments in wages as the labor conditions dictate. The government does not waive labor laws to attract or retain investment, but the National Investment Commissions (NIC) provides investment incentives based on economic sectors and geographic areas (see Investment Incentives in section 4 above).
The MOL does not have an adequate or effective inspection system to identify and remedy labor violations and hold violators accountable. It lacks the capacity to effectively investigate and prosecute unfair labor practices, such as harassment or dismissal of union members or instances of forced labor, child labor, and human trafficking.
Nigeria’s economy – Africa’s largest – exited recession with a 3.4% GDP growth rate in 2021 following a contraction of 1.9% the previous year. The IMF forecasts growth rates of under 3% in 2022 and 2023 while the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics predicts a more robust 4.2% growth rate in 2022. President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has prioritized diversification of Nigeria’s economy beyond oil and gas, with the stated goals of building a competitive manufacturing sector, expanding agricultural output, and capitalizing on Nigeria’s technological and innovative advantages. With the largest population in Africa, Nigeria is an attractive consumer market for investors and traders, and offering abundant natural resources and a low-cost labor pool.
The government has undertaken reforms to help improve the business environment, including by facilitating faster business start-up by allowing electronic stamping of registration documents and making it easier to obtain construction permits, register property, obtain credit, and pay taxes. Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows nevertheless declined from roughly $1 billion in 2020 to $699 million in 2021 as persistent challenges remain.
Corruption is a serious obstacle to Nigeria’s economic growth and is often cited by domestic and foreign investors as a significant barrier to doing business. Nigeria’s ranking in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index fell slightly from its 2020 score of 149 out of 175 countries to154 of 180 in 2021. Businesses report that corruption by customs and port officials often leads to extended delays in port clearance processes and to other issues importing goods.
Nigeria’s trade regime is protectionist in key areas. High tariffs, restricted foreign exchange availability for 44 categories of imports, and prohibitions on many other import items have the aim of spurring domestic agricultural and manufacturing sector growth. The government provides tax incentives and customs duty exemptions for pioneer industries including renewable energy. A decline in oil exports, rising prices for imported goods, an overvalued currency, and Nigeria’s expensive fuel subsidy regime continued to exert pressure on the country’s foreign exchange reserves in 2021. Domestic and foreign businesses frequently cite lack of access to foreign currency as a significant impediment to doing business.
Nigeria’s underdeveloped power sector is a bottleneck to broad-based economic development and forces most businesses to generate a significant portion of their own electricity. Reform of Nigeria’s power sector is ongoing, but investor confidence continues to be weakened by regulatory uncertainty and limited domestic natural gas supply.
Security remains a concern to investors in Nigeria due to violent crime, kidnappings for ransom, and terrorism in certain parts of the country. The ongoing Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa (ISIS-WA) insurgencies have included attacks against civilian and military targets in the northeast of the country. Nigeria has experienced a rise in kidnappings for ransom and attacks on villages by armed gangs in the North West and North Central regions. Criminal attacks on oil and gas infrastructure in the Niger Delta region that restricted oil production in 2016 have eased, but a significant rise in illegal bunkering and oil theft has left the sector in a similar state of decreased output.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
Nigeria belongs to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a free trade area comprising 15 countries located in West Africa. Nigeria signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) – a free trade agreement consisting of 54 African countries, which became operational on January 1, 2021 – but its legislature has yet to ratify it and implementation of the agreement remains nascent. Nigeria has bilateral investment agreements with: Algeria, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Jamaica, the Republic of Korea, Kuwait, Morocco, the Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Uganda, and the United Kingdom. Fifteen of these treaties (those with China, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Romania, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom) have been ratified by both parties.
The government signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the United States in 2000. U.S. and Nigerian officials held their latest round of TIFA talks in 2016. In 2017, Nigeria and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding to formally establish the U.S.–Nigeria Commercial and Investment Dialogue (CID). The ministerial-level meeting with private sector representatives was last held in February 2020. The CID coordinates bilateral private sector-to-private sector, government-to-government, and private sector-to-government discussions on policy and regulatory reforms to promote increased, diverse, and sustained trade and investment between the United States and Nigeria, with an initial focus on infrastructure, agriculture, digital economy, investment, and regulatory reform.
Nigeria has 14 ratified double taxation agreements, including: Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Nigeria does not have such an agreement with the United States. Nigeria’s Finance Act of 2021 empowered the FIRS to collect corporate taxes from digital firms at a “fair and reasonable turnover” rate, which translates to 6% of turnover generated in Nigeria. This will address the profit attribution issues raised following the ambiguity of the Finance Act of 2019 which subjected non-resident companies with significant economic presence to corporate and sales taxes. Most of the affected companies are digital firms, many with U.S. headquarters. Nigeria enacted the Petroleum Industry Act (2021) which overhauled the institutional, regulatory, administrative, and fiscal arrangements for the oil and gas industry. While the legislation provides long-awaited additional clarity and updates Nigeria’s governance structures and fiscal terms for the traditional energy sector, U.S. oil companies contend that it has not increased Nigeria’s competitiveness relative to other oil producing countries and may fail to attract significant new investments in the sector.
Nigeria is a member of the OECD Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Sharing but declined to sign the two-pillar solution to global tax challenges in October 2021.
3. Legal Regime
4. Industrial Policies
5. Protection of Property Rights
6. Financial Sector
7. State-Owned Enterprises
The government does not have an established practice consistent with the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for state-owned enterprises (SOEs), but SOEs have respective enabling legislations that govern their ownership. To legalize the existence of state-owned enterprises, provisions have been made in the Nigerian constitution relating to socio-economic development and in section 16 (1). The government has privatized many former SOEs to encourage more efficient operations, such as state-owned telecommunications company Nigerian Telecommunications and mobile subsidiary Mobile Telecommunications in 2014. SOEs operate in a variety of sectors ranging from information and communication; power; oil and gas; transportation including rail, maritime, and airports; and finance.
Nigeria does not operate a centralized ownership system for its state-owned enterprises. Most SOEs are 100% government owned. Others are owned by the government through the Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOFI) or solely or jointly by MOFI and various agencies of government. The enabling legislation for each SOE also stipulates its governance structure. The boards of directors are appointed by the president and occasionally on the recommendation of the relevant minister. The boards operate and are appointed in line with the enabling legislation which usually stipulates the criteria for appointing board members. Directors are appointed by the board within the relevant sector. In a few cases, however, appointments have been viewed as a reward to political allies. Operational autonomy varies amongst SOEs. Most SOEs are parastatals of a supervising ministry or the presidency with minimal autonomy. SOEs with regulatory or industry oversight functions are often technically independent of ministerial supervision; however, ministers and other political appointees often interfere in their operations.
All SOEs are required to remit a share of their profits or operational surpluses to the federal government. This “independent revenue” more than doubled from 2020 to 1.1 trillion naira ($2.6 billion) in 2021 and exceeded budget projections by 13%. This was as a result of the government’s drive to increase non-oil revenues as well as increasingly stringent oversight of SOE remittances. The 60 largest SOEs (excluding the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)) generated a combined 1.2 trillion naira ($2.9 billion) in revenues and spent a total 410 billion naira ($983 million) in the first eleven months of 2021. The government often provides certain grants to SOEs that are inefficiently run and/or loss-making. For example, and over the past five years, the government has allocated 102 billion naira ($245 million) to the Transmission Company of Nigeria, 402 billion naira ($964 million) to the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading Company, 154 billion naira ($369 million) to the Nigerian Railway Corporation, and 24 billion naira ($58 million) to the Ajaokuta Steel Company. These SOEs wereall ostensibly established to generate and remit revenue.
NNPC is Nigeria’s most prominent state-owned enterprise. Under the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act, NNPC was incorporated as a limited liability company in September 2021, although the incorporation process does not appear to have led to a de facto change in the company’s operations and the government maintains 100% ownership. NNPC Board appointments are made by the presidency, but day-to-day management is overseen by the Group Managing Director (GMD). The GMD reports to the Minister of Petroleum Resources. In the current administration, the President has retained that ministerial role for himself, and the appointed Minister of State for Petroleum Resources acts as the de facto Minister of Petroleum in the president’s stead with certain limitations.
NNPC is Nigeria’s biggest and arguably most important state-owned enterprise and is involved in exploration, refining, petrochemicals, products transportation, and marketing. It owns and operates Nigeria’s four refineries (one each in Warri and Kaduna and two in Port Harcourt), all of which are currently and largely inoperable. NNPC remits proceeds from the sale of crude oil less operational expenses to the federation account which is managed by the federal government on behalf of all tiers of government. It is also expected to pay corporate and petroleum profits taxes to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). NNPC began publishing audited financial statements in 2020 for the three prior fiscal years, a significant step toward improving transparency of NNPC operations. The government generated crude oil net revenue of 1.5 trillion naira ($3.6 billion) in 2020 in large part due to NNPC’s $10 billion gross revenue and the government’s removal of the gasoline subsidy for half of 2020 in the face of low global oil prices. However, despite higher oil prices, crude oil revenue fell to 970 billion naira ($2.3 billion) in the first eleven months of 2021. This is largely due to declining crude production and the significant subsidy costs which NNPC deducts from revenue before remitting the balance to the government.
NNPC’s dual role as industry operator and unofficial regulator as well as its proximity to government lends it certain advantages its competitors lack. For instance, the CBN often prioritizes NNPC’s foreign exchange requests and has offered the corporation a subsidized exchange rate for its importation of petroleum products in the past. In addition, its proximity to government affords it high-level influence. NNPC’s inputs formed a critical part of the government’s position during the drafting of the Petroleum Industry Act of 2021. NNPC’s objection to the sale of an international oil company’s subsidiary with which it operates a joint venture has stayed the government approval required for the divestment.
The government also owns equity in some private-sector-run entities. It retained 60% and 40% equity in the generation and distribution companies, respectively, that emerged from the power sector privatization exercise in 2013. Despite being privately-run, revenues across the power sector value chain are hindered by the overall inefficiencies and illiquidity in the sector. Consequently, a government facility finances a sizeable portion of the sector’s activities. The Transmission Company of Nigeria, of which the government retained full ownership, is largely financed by the government. The government owns 49% of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited (NLNG) with the balance held by several international oil companies. NLNG is one of Nigeria’s most profitable companies and the dividends paid to the government accounted for nearly 3% of federal government revenues in 2021.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
There is no specific Responsible Business Conduct law in Nigeria. Several legislative acts incorporate within their provisions certain expectations that directly or indirectly regulate the observance or practice of corporate social responsibility. In order to reinforce responsible behavior, various laws have been put in place for the protection of the environment. These laws stipulate criminal sanctions for non-compliance but are not consistently enforced. There are also regulating agencies which exist to protect the rights of consumers. Additionally, the Nigerian government has no specific action plan regarding OECD Responsible Business Conduct guidelines.
Nigeria participates in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and is an EITI compliant country. Specifically, in February 2019 the EITI Board determined that Nigeria had made satisfactory progress overall with implementing the EITI Standard after having fully addressed the corrective actions from the country’s first Validation in 2017. The next EITI Validation study of Nigeria will occur in 2022.
The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (the Commission) also ensure comprehensive standards and guidelines to direct the execution of projects with proper consideration for the environment. These two agencies replaced the now defunct Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and its Environmental Guidelines and Standards of 1991 for the petroleum industry. These two agencies aim to continue the DPR’s mission to preserve and protect the environmental issues of the Niger Delta.
The Nigerian government provides oversight relating to the competition, consumer rights, and environmental protection issues. The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, the Standards Organization of Nigeria, and other entities have the authority to impose fines and ensure the destruction of harmful substances that otherwise may be sold to the general public. The main regulators and enforcers of corporate governance are the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Corporate Affairs Commission (which register all incorporated companies). Nigeria has adopted multiple reforms on corporate governance.
The Companies Allied Matter Act 2020 and the Investment Securities Act provide basic guidelines on company listing. More detailed regulations are covered in the NSX Listing rules. Publicly listed companies are expected to disclose their level of compliance with the Code of Corporate Governance in their Annual Financial Reports.
Domestic and foreign observers identify corruption as a serious obstacle to economic growth and poverty reduction. Nigeria ranked 154 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index.
Businesses report that bribery of customs and port officials remains common and often necessary to avoid extended delays in the port clearance process, and that smuggled goods routinely enter Nigeria’s seaports and cross its land borders.
Since taking office in 2015, President Buhari has focused on implementing a campaign pledge to address corruption, though his critics contend his anti-corruption efforts often target political rivals.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment Act of 2004 established the EFCC to prosecute individuals involved in financial crimes and other acts of economic “sabotage.” Traditionally, the EFCC has achieved the most success in prosecuting low-level internet scam operators. A relatively few high-profile convictions have taken place, such as a former governor of Adamawa State, a former governor of Bayelsa State, a former Inspector General of Police, and a former Chair of the Board of the Nigerian Ports Authority. The EFCC also arrested a former National Security Advisor (NSA), a former Minister of State for Finance, a former NSA Director of Finance and Administration, and others on charges related to diversion of funds intended for government arms procurement. EFCC investigations have led to 5,562 convictions since 2010, with 2,200 in 2021. In 2020 the EFCC announced that the Buhari administration convicted 1,692 defendants and recovered over $2.6 billion in assets over the previous four-year period. In 2021, EFCC’s investigation of a former petroleum minister resulted in seizure of properties valued more than $80M.
The Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act of 2001 established an Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to prosecute individuals, government officials, and businesses for corruption. The Corrupt Practices Act punishes over 19 offenses, including accepting or giving bribes, fraudulent acquisition of property, and concealment of fraud. Nigerian law stipulates that giving and receiving bribes constitute criminal offences and, as such, are not tax deductible. Between 2019-2020 the ICPC filed 178 cases in court and secured convictions in 51 cases. The ICPC announced in early 2022 that it had recovered cash and assets valued at 166.51 billion naira (about $400 million at the official exchange rate) from corrupt persons in the preceding two and half years.
In 2021, the Deputy Commissioner of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and Chief of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Abba Kyari, often publicly referred to as “Nigeria’s Supercop,” was suspended from the NPF and arrested for drug dealing, evidence tampering, and corruption for reportedly accepting bribes from a Nigerian internet fraudster Ramon Abbas, popularly known as “Hushpuppi,” who pleaded guilty to money laundering in the United States. The Nigeria Police Service Commission finalized the suspension of Kyari on July 31, following the release of unsealed court documents filed in a U.S. District Court ordering the arrest of Kyari for his involvement in a $1.1 million fraud scheme with Abbas. Kyari is alleged to have solicited payment for the detainment and arrest of Abbas at Abbas’s behest.
In 2016, Nigeria announced its participation in the Open Government Partnership, a significant step forward on public financial management and fiscal transparency. The Ministry of Justice presented Nigeria’s National Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership.
Implementation of its 14 commitments has made some progress, particularly on the issues such as tax transparency, ease of doing business, and asset recovery. The National Action Plan, which ran through 2019, covered five major themes: ensuring citizens’ participation in the budget cycle, implementing open contracting and adoption of open contracting data standards, increasing transparency in the extractive sectors, adopting common reporting standards like the Addis Tax initiative, and improving the ease of doing business. Full implementation of the National Action Plan would be a significant step forward for Nigeria’s fiscal transparency, although Nigeria has not fully completed any commitment to date.
The Buhari administration created a network of agencies intended to work together to achieve anticorruption goals – the EFCC, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) – and which are principally responsible for the recovery of the ill-gotten assets and diverted tax liabilities. The government launched the Financial Transparency Policy and Portal, commonly referred to as Open Treasury Portal, in 2019, to increase transparency and governmental accountability of funds transferred by making the daily treasury statement public. The Open Treasury Portal mandates that all ministries, departments, and agencies publish daily reports of payments in excess of N5m ($13,800). Agencies are also required to publish budget performance reports and other official financial statements monthly. Anticorruption activists demand more reforms and increased transparency in defense, oil and gas, and infrastructure procurement.
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) Act of 2007 provided for the establishment of the NEITI organization, charged with developing a framework for transparency and accountability in the reporting and disclosure by all extractive industry companies of revenue due to or paid to the Nigerian government. NEITI serves as a member of the international Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which provides a global standard for revenue transparency for extractive industries like oil and gas and mining. Nigeria is party to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Nigeria is not a member of the OECD and not party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery.
Foreign companies, whether incorporated in Nigeria or not, may bid on government projects and generally receive national treatment in government procurement, but may also be subject to a local content vehicle (e.g., partnership with a local partner firm or the inclusion of one in a consortium) or other prerequisites which are likely to vary from tender to tender. Corruption and lack of transparency in tender processes have been a far greater concern to U.S. companies than discriminatory policies based on foreign status. Government tenders are published in local newspapers, a “tenders” journal sold at local newspaper outlets, and occasionally in foreign journals and magazines. The Nigerian government has made modest progress on its pledge to conduct open and competitive bidding processes for government procurement with the introduction of the Nigeria Open Contracting Portal in 2017 under the Bureau of Public Procurement.
The Public Procurement Law of 2007 established the Bureau of Public Procurement as the successor agency to the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit. It acts as a clearinghouse for government contracts and procurement and monitors the implementation of projects to ensure compliance with contract terms and budgetary restrictions. Procurements above 100 million naira (approximately $243,000) reportedly undergo full “due process,” but government agencies routinely flout public procurement requirements. Some of the 36 states of the federation have also passed public procurement legislation.
Certain such reforms have also improved transparency in procurement by the state-owned NNPC. Although U.S. companies have won contracts in numerous sectors, difficulties in receiving payment are not uncommon and can deter firms from bidding. Supplier or foreign government subsidized financing arrangements appear in some cases to be a crucial factor in the award of government procurements. Nigeria is not a signatory to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement.
10. Political and Security Environment
Political, criminal, and ethnic violence continue to affect Nigeria. Boko Haram and Islamic State – West Africa (ISIS-WA) have waged violent terrorist campaigns, killing of thousands of people in the country’s North East. Boko Haram and ISIS-WA attacked civilians, military, police, humanitarian, and religious targets; recruited and forcefully conscripted child soldiers; and carried out scores of attacks on population centers in the North East and in neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Abductions by Boko Haram and ISIS-WA continue. These attacks resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries, numerous human rights abuses, widespread destruction, the internal displacement of more than three million persons, and the external displacement of at least 327,000 Nigerian refugees to neighboring countries as of the end of 2021. ISIS-WA terrorists demonstrated increased ability to conduct complex attacks against military outposts and formations. During 2021, ISIS-WA terrorists took over significant territory formerly held by Boko Haram. ISIS-WA expanded efforts to implement shadow governance structures in large swaths of Borno State.
President Buhari has sought to address matters of insecurity in Nigeria. While the terrorists maintain the ability to stage forces in rural areas and launch attacks against civilian and military targets across the North East, Nigeria is also facing rural violence in many parts of the country carried out by criminals who raid villages and abduct civilians for ransom. Longstanding disputes between migratory pastoralist and farming communities, exacerbated by increasingly scarce resources and intensified by climate change impacts, also continue to afflict the country.
Due to challenging security dynamics throughout the country, the U.S. Mission to Nigeria has significantly limited official travel in the North East, and travel to other parts of Nigeria requires security precautions. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a political separatist group declared a terrorist organization by the Nigerian government in 2013, established a militant arm in December 2020, the Eastern Security Network (ESN). ESN has been blamed for a surge in attacks in early 2021 against Nigerian police and security installations across the South East, the region in which IPOB claims the most support. Following extradition from Kenya and subsequent arrest of IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu in June 2021, IPOB/ESN issued a “stay at home” order on Mondays for the five states of the South East (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo). Residents or visitors to the area who disobey the order have faced violent intimidation, which has led to a near complete shutdown of activity across the South East each Monday and other days significant to Kanu’s trial. The U.S. Mission to Nigeria does not allow official travel in those states on days that a stay-at-home order is in place.
Decades of neglect, persistent poverty, and environmental damage caused by oil spills and illegal refining activities have left Nigeria’s oil rich Niger Delta region vulnerable to renewed violence. Though each oil-producing state receives a 13% derivation of the oil revenue produced within its borders, and several government agencies, including the Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC) and the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, are tasked with implementing development projects, bureaucratic mismanagement and corruption have prevented these investments from yielding meaningful economic and social development in the region. Niger Delta criminals have demonstrated their ability to attack and severely damage oil instillations at will, as seen when they cut Nigeria’s production by more than half in 2016. Attacks on oil installations decreased due to a revamped amnesty program and high-level engagement with the region at the time, but the underlying economic woes and historical grievances of the local communities were not addressed. As a result, insecurity in various forms continues to plague the region.
More significant in recent years is the region’s shift from attacks against oil infrastructure to illegal oil bunkering and illicit refining. In its July 2021 audit, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) reported that Nigeria lost42.25 million barrels of crude oil to oil theft in 2019, valued at $2.77 billion. While the Nigerian Navy Eastern Naval Command disclosed that it had deactivated 175 illegal refineries and seized 27 vessels throughout its area of operation over a period of 11 months during 2021, such illegal activities have nonetheless continued, and oil theft remains a significant issue for both the industry and the region’s environment. In 2021, Nigeria reportedly lost $3.5 billion in revenue to crude oil theft, representing approximately 10% of the country’s foreign reserves, and the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) still reports hundreds of oil spills each year.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Nigeria’s skilled labor pool has declined over the past decade due to inadequate educational systems, limited employment opportunities, and the migration of educated Nigerians to other countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and South Africa. The low employment capacity of Nigeria’s formal sector means that almost three-quarters of all Nigerians work in the informal and agricultural sectors or are unemployed. Companies involved in formal sector businesses, such as banking and insurance, possess an adequately skilled workforce. Manufacturing and construction sector workers often require on-the-job training. The result is that while individual wages are low, individual productivity is also low, which means overall relative labor costs can be high. The Buhari Administration is pushing reforms in the education sector to improve the supply of skilled workers but this and other efforts run by state governments are in their initial stages.
The labor movement has long been active and influential in Nigeria. Labor organizations remain politically active and are prone to call for strikes on a regular basis against the national and state governments. Since 2000, unions have successfully called eight general strikes. While most labor actions are peaceful, difficult economic conditions fuel the risk that these actions could become violent.
Nigeria’s constitution guarantees the rights of free assembly and association and protects workers’ rights to form or belong to trade unions. Several statutory laws, nonetheless, restrict the rights of workers to associate or disassociate with labor organizations. Nigerian unions belong to one of three trade union federations: the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), which tends to represent junior (i.e., blue collar) workers; the United Labor Congress of Nigeria (ULC), which represents a group of unions that separated from the NLC in 2015; and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), which represents the “senior” (i.e., white collar) workers.
According to figures provided by the Ministry of Labor and Employment, total union membership stands at roughly seven million. A majority of these union members work in the public sector, although unions exist across the private sector. The Trade Union Amendment Act of 2005 allowed non-management senior staff to join unions.
Collective bargaining in the oil and gas industry is relatively efficient compared to other sectors. Issues pertaining to salaries, benefits, health and safety, and working conditions tend to be resolved quickly through negotiations. Workers under collective bargaining agreements cannot participate in strikes unless their unions comply with the requirements of the law, which includes provisions for mandatory mediation and referral of disputes to the Nigerian government. Despite these restrictions on staging strikes, unions occasionally conduct strikes in the private and public sectors without warning. In 2021, localized strikes occurred in the education, government, energy, power, and healthcare sectors. The law forbids employers from granting general wage increases to workers without prior government approval, but the law is not often enforced.
In April 2019, President Buhari signed into law a new minimum wage, increasing it from 18,000 naira ($50 at the 2019 official exchange rate) to 30,000 naira ($73 at the 2021 official exchange rate) per month. More than 15 state governments have yet to commence with the implementation of the new minimum wage. [Note: The federal government has even threatened to sanction the management of the National Assembly over its breach of the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2019, for failing to pay its employees at the new minimum rate as of April 18, 2019.] Nigeria’s Labor Act provides for a 40-hour work week, two to four weeks of annual leave, and overtime and holiday pay for all workers except agricultural and domestic workers. No law prohibits compulsory overtime. The Act establishes general health and safety provisions, some of which specifically apply to young or female workers and requires the Ministry of Labor and Employment to inspect factories for compliance with health and safety standards. Under-funding and limited resources undermine the Ministry’s oversight capacity, and construction sites and other non-factory work sites are often ignored. Nigeria’s labor law requires employers to compensate injured workers and dependent survivors of workers killed in industrial accidents.
The Nigerian Minister of Labor and Employment may refer unresolved disputes to the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) and the National Industrial Court (NIC). In 2015, the NIC launched an Alternative Dispute Resolution Center. Union officials question the effectiveness and independence of the NIC, believing it unable to resolve disputes stemming from Nigerian government failure to fulfill contract provisions for public sector employees. Union leaders criticize the arbitration system’s dependence on the Minister of Labor and Employment’s referrals to the IAP.
The issue of child labor remains of great concern in Nigeria, where an estimated 15 million children under the age of 14 are working, and about half this population being exploited as workers in hazardous situations according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). Nigeria’s laws regarding minimum age for child labor and hazardous work are inconsistent. Article 59 of the Labor Act of 1974 sets the minimum age of employment at 12, and it is in force throughout Nigeria. The Act also permits children of any age to do light work alongside a family member in agriculture, horticulture, or domestic service.
The Federal 2003 Child Rights Act (CRA) codifies the rights of children in Nigeria and must be ratified by each State to become law in its territory. To date, 28 states and the Federal Capital Territory have ratified the CRA, with all eight of the remaining states located in northern Nigeria. [Note: The legislatures in Kebbi and Yobe States tentatively approved the law and are only awaiting their governors’ signatures to ratify the bills.]
The CRA states that the provisions related to young people in the Labor Act apply to children under the CRA, but also that the CRA supersedes any other legislation related to children. The CRA restricts children under the age of 18 from any work aside from light work for family members; however, Article 59 of the Labor Act applies these restrictions only to children under the age of 12. This language makes it unclear what minimum ages apply for certain types of work in the country.
While the Labor Act forbids the employment of youth under age 18 in work that is dangerous to their health, safety, or morals, it allows children to participate in certain types of work that may be dangerous by setting different age thresholds for various activities. For example, the Labor Act allows children age 16 and older to work at night in gold mining and the manufacturing of iron, steel, paper, raw sugar, and glass. Furthermore, the Labor Act does not extend to children employed in domestic service. Thus, children are vulnerable to dangerous work in industrial undertakings, underground, with machines, and in domestic service. In addition, the prohibitions established by the Labor Act and CRA are not comprehensive or specific enough to facilitate enforcement. In 2013, the National Steering Committee (NSC) for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Nigeria validated the Report on the Identification of Hazardous Child Labor in Nigeria. The report has languished with the Ministry of Labor and Employment and still awaits the promulgation of guidelines for operationalizing the report.
The Nigerian government adopted the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement, and Administration Act of 2015. While not specifically directed against child labor, many sections of the law support anti-child labor efforts. The Violence against Persons Prohibition Act was signed into law in 2015 and, while not specifically focused on child labor, it covers related elements such as “depriving a person of his/her liberty,” “forced financial dependence/economic abuse,” and “forced isolation/separation from family and friends” and is applicable to minors.
Draft legislation, such as a new Labor Standards Act which includes provisions on child labor, and an Occupational Safety and Health Act that would regulate hazardous work, have remained under consideration in the National Assembly since 2006.
Admission of foreign workers is overseen by the Ministry of the Interior. Employers must seek the consent of the Ministry in order to employ foreign workers by applying for an “expatriate quota.” The quota allows a company to employ foreign nationals in specifically approved job designations as well as specifying the validity period of the designations provided on the quota.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source*
USG or international statistical source
USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)
South Africa boasts the most advanced, broad-based economy in sub-Saharan Africa. The investment climate is fortified by stable institutions; an independent judiciary and robust legal sector that respects the rule of law; a free press and investigative reporting; a mature financial and services sector; and experienced local partners.
In dealing with the legacy of apartheid, South African laws, policies, and reforms seek economic transformation to accelerate the participation of and opportunities for historically disadvantaged South Africans. The Government of South Africa (GoSA) views its role as the primary driver of development and aims to promote greater industrialization, often employing tariffs and other trade measures that support domestic industry while negatively affecting foreign trade partners. President Ramaphosa’s October 2020 Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan unveiled the latest domestic support target: the substitution of 20 percent of imported goods in 42 categories with domestic production within five years. Other GoSA initiatives to accelerate transformation include labor laws to achieve proportional racial, gender, and disability representation in workplaces and prescriptive government procurement requirements such as equity stakes and employment thresholds for historically disadvantaged South Africans. In January 2022, the World Bank approved South Africa’s request for a USD 750 million development policy loan to accelerate the country’s COVID-19 response. South Africa previously received USD 4.3 billion from the International Monetary Fund in July 2020 for COVID-19 response. This is the first time that the institutions have supported South Africa’s public finances/fiscus since the country’s democratic transition.
In November 2021 at COP 26 the GoSA, the United States, the UK, France, Germany, and the European Union (EU) announced the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). The partnership aims to accelerate the decarbonization of South Africa’s economy, with a focus on the electricity system, to help achieve the ambitious emissions reduction goals laid out in South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in an inclusive, equitable transition. The partnership will mobilize an initial commitment of USD 8.5 billion over three-to-five years using a variety of financial instruments.
South Africa continues to suffer the effects from a “lost decade” in which economic growth stagnated, hovering at zero percent pre-COVID-19, largely due to corruption and economic mismanagement. During the pandemic the country implemented one of the strictest economic and social lockdown regimes in the world at a significant cost to its economy. South Africa suffered a four-quarter technical recession in 2019 and 2020 with economic growth registering only 0.2 percent growth for the entire year of 2019 and contracting -6.4 percent in 2020. In a 2020 survey of over 2,000 South African businesses conducted by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), over eight percent of respondents permanently ceased trading, while over 36 percent indicated short-term layoffs. Although the economy grew by 4.9 percent in 2021 due to higher economic activity in the financial sector, the official unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2021 was 34.9 percent. Other challenges include policy certainty, lack of regulatory oversight, state-owned enterprise (SOE) drain on the fiscus, widespread corruption, violent crime, labor unrest, lack of basic infrastructure and government service delivery and lack of skilled labor.
Due to growth in 2021, Moody’s moved South Africa’s overall investment outlook to stable; however, it kept South Africa’s sovereign debt at sub-investment grade. S&P and Fitch ratings agencies also maintain assessments that South Africa’s sovereign debt is sub-investment grade at this time.
Despite structural challenges, South Africa remains a destination conducive to U.S. investment as a comparatively low-risk location in Africa, the fastest growing consumer market in the world. Google (US) invested approximately USD 140 million, and PepsiCo invested approximately USD 1.5 billion in 2020. Ford announced a USD 1.6 billion investment, including the expansion of its Gauteng province manufacturing plant in January 2021.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
3. Legal Regime
4. Industrial Policies
5. Protection of Property Rights
6. Financial Sector
7. State-Owned Enterprises
State-owned enterprises (SOEs) play a significant role in the South African economy in key sectors such as electricity, transport (air, rail, freight, and pipelines), and telecommunications. Limited competition is allowed in some sectors (e.g., telecommunications and air). The GoSA’s interest in these sectors often competes with and discourages foreign investment.
There are over 700 SOEs at the national, provincial, and local levels. Of these, seven key SOEs are overseen by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and employee approximately 105,000 people. These SOEs include Alexkor (diamonds); Denel (military equipment); Eskom (electricity generation, transmission, and distribution); Mango (budget airlines); South African Airways (national carrier); South African Forestry Company (SAFCOL); and Transnet (transportation). For other national-level SOEs, the appropriate cabinet minister acts as shareholder on behalf of the state. The Department of Transport, for example, oversees South African’s National Roads Agency (SANRAL), Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), and Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), which operates nine of South Africa’s airports. The Department of Communications oversees the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). A list of the seven SOEs that are under the DPE portfolio are found on the DPE website at: https://dpe.gov.za/state-owned-companies/. The national government directory contains a list of 128 SOEs at: https://www.gov.za/about-government/contact-directory/soe-s.
SOEs under DPE’s authority posted a combined loss of R13.9 billion (USD 0.9 billion) in 2019 (latest data available). Many are plagued by mismanagement and corruption, and repeated government bailouts have exposed the public sector’s balance sheet to sizable contingent liabilities. The debt of Eskom alone represents about 10 percent of GDP of which two-thirds is guaranteed by government, and the company’s direct cost to the budget has exceeded nine percent of GDP since 2008/9.
Eskom, provides generation, transmission, and distribution for over 90 percent of South Africa’s electricity of which 80 percent comes from 15 coal-fired power plants. Eskom’s coal plants are an average of 41 years old, and a lack of maintenance has caused unplanned breakdowns and rolling blackouts, known locally as “load shedding,” as old coal plants struggle to keep up with demand. Load shedding reached a record 1136 hours as of November 30, 2021, costing the economy an estimated USD eight billion and is expected to continue for the next several years until the GoSA can increase generating capacity and increase its Energy Availability Factor (EAF). In October 2019 the DMRE finalized its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity, which outlines South Africa’s policy roadmap for new power generation until 2030, which includes replacing 10,000 MW of coal-fired generation by 2030 with a mix of technologies, including renewables, gas and coal. The IRP also leaves the possibility open for procurement of nuclear technology at a “scale and pace that flexibly responds to the economy and associated electricity demand” and DMRE issued a Request for Information on new nuclear build in 2020. In accordance with the IRP, the GoSA approved the procurement of almost 14,000 MW of power to address chronic electricity shortages. The GoSA held the long-awaited Bid Window 5 (BW5) of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program (REIPPPP) in 2021, the primary method by which renewable energy has been introduced into South Africa. The REIPPPP relies primarily on private capital and since the program launched in 2011 it has already attracted approximately ZAR 210 billion (USD 14 billion) of investment into the country. All three major credit ratings agencies have downgraded Eskom’s debt following Moody’s downgrade of South Africa’s sovereign debt rating in March 2020, which could impact investors’ ability to finance energy projects.
Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA), the monopoly responsible for South Africa’s ports, charges some of the highest shipping fees in the world. High tariffs on containers subsidize bulk shipments of coal and iron. According to the South African Ports Regulator, raw materials exporters paid as much as one quarter less than exporters of finished products. TNPA is a division of Transnet, a state-owned company that manages the country’s port, rail, and pipeline networks. In May 2020 S&P downgraded Transnet’s local currency rating from BB to BB- based on a generally negative outlook for South Africa’s economy rather than Transnet’s outlook specifically.
South Africa’s state-owned carrier, South African Airways (SAA), entered business rescue in December 2019 and suspended operations indefinitely in September 2020. The pandemic exacerbated SAA’s already dire financial straits and complicated its attempts to find a strategic equity partner to help it resume operations. Industry experts doubt the airline will be able to resume operations. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines provide regular service between Atlanta (Delta) and Newark (United) to Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The telecommunications sector, while advanced for the continent, is hampered by poor implementation of the digital migration. In 2006, South Africa agreed to meet an International Telecommunication Union deadline to achieve analogue-to-digital migration by June 1, 2015. The long-delayed migration is scheduled to be completed by the end of March 2022, and while potential for legal challenges remain, most analysts believe the migration will be completed in 2022. The independent communications regulator initiated a spectrum auction in September 2020, which was enjoined by court action in February 2021 following suits by two of the three biggest South African telecommunications companies. After months of litigation, the regulator agreed to changes some terms of the auction, and the auction took place successfully in March 2022. One legal challenge remains, however, as third-largest mobile carrier Telkom has alleged the auction’s terms disproportionately favored the two largest carriers, Vodacom and MTN. Telkom’s case is due to be heard in April 2022, and its outcome will determine whether the spectrum allocation will proceed.
The GoSA appears not to have fulfilled its oversight role of ensuring the sound governance of SOEs according to OECD best practices. The Zondo Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture in the public sector has outlined corruption at the highest echelons of SOEs such as Transnet, Eskom, SAA and Denel and provides some explanation for the extent of the financial mismanagement at these enterprises. The poor performance of SOEs continues to reflect crumbling infrastructure, poor and ever-changing leadership, corruption, wasteful expenditure and mismanagement of funds.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
There is a general awareness of responsible business conduct in South Africa. The King Committee, established by the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa (IoDSA) in 1993, is responsible for driving ethical business practices. They drafted the King Code and King Reports to form an inclusive approach to corporate governance. King IV is the latest revision of the King Report, having taken effect in April 2017. King IV serves to foster greater transparency in business. It holds an organization’s governing body and stakeholders accountable for their decisions. As of November 2017, it is mandatory for all businesses listed on the JSE to be King IV compliant.
South Africa’s regional human rights commitments and obligations apply in the context of business and human rights. This includes South Africa’s commitments and obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. In 2015, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) published a Human Rights and Business Country Guide for South Africa which is underpinned by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and outlines the roles and responsibilities of the State, corporations and business enterprises in upholding and promoting human rights in the South African context.
The GoSA promotes Responsible Business Conduct (RBC). The B-BBEE policy, the Companies Act, the King IV Report on Corporate Governance 2016, the Employment Equity Act of 1998 (EEA) and the Preferential Procurement Act are generally regarded as the government’s flagship initiatives for RBC in South Africa.
The GoSA factors RBC policies into its procurement decisions. Firms have largely aligned their RBC activities to B-BBEE requirements through the socio-economic development element of the B-BBEE policy. The B-BBEE target is one percent of net profit after tax spent on RBC, and at least 75 percent of the RBC activity must benefit historically disadvantaged South Africans and is directed primarily towards non-profit organizations involved in education, social and community development, and health.
The GoSA effectively and fairly enforces domestic laws pertaining to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, and environmental protections to protect individuals from adverse business impacts. The Employment Equity Act prohibits employment discrimination and obliges employers to promote equality and eliminate discrimination on grounds of race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, HIV status, conscience, belief, political opinion, culture, language and birth in their employment policies and practices. These constitutional provisions align with generally accepted international standards. Discrimination cases and sexual harassment claims can be brought to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), an independent dispute reconciliation body set up under the terms of the Labour Relations Act. The Consumer Protection Act aims to promote a fair, accessible and sustainable marketplace for consumer products and services. The National Environmental Management Act aims to to provide for co-operative, environmental governance by establishing principles for decision-making on matters affecting the environment, institutions that will promote co-operative governance and procedures for co-ordinating environmental functions exercised by organs of state.
The SAHRC is a National Human Rights Institution established in terms of the South African Constitution. It is mandated to promote respect for human rights, and the culture thereof; promote the protection, development, and attainment of human rights; and monitor and assess the observance of human rights in South Africa. The SAHRC is accredited with an “A” status under the United Nations’ Paris Principles. There are other independent NGOs, investment funds, unions, and business associations that freely promote and monitor RBC.
The South African mining sector follows the rule of law and encourages adherence to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains of Minerals from Conflict-Afflicted and High-Risk Areas. South Africa is a founding member of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) aimed at preventing conflict diamonds from entering the market. It does not participate in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). South African mining, labor and security legislation seek to embody the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. Mining laws and regulations allow for the accounting of all revenues from the extractive sector in the form of mining taxes, royalties, fees, dividends, and duties.
South Africa has a private security industry and there is a high usage of private security companies by the government and industry. The country is a signatory of The Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.
South Africa has a robust anti-corruption framework, but laws are inadequately enforced, and public sector accountability is low. High-level political interference has undermined the country’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). “State capture,” a term used to describe systemic corruption of the state’s decision-making processes by private interests, is synonymous with the administration of former president Jacob Zuma. In response to widespread calls for accountability, President Ramaphosa launched four separate judicial commissions of inquiry to investigate corruption, fraud, and maladministration, including in the Public Investment Corporation, South African Revenue Service, and the NPA which have revealed pervasive networks of corruption across all levels of government. The Zondo Commission of Inquiry, launched in 2018, has published and submitted three parts of its report to President Ramaphosa and Parliament as of March 2022. Once the entire report is reased and submitted to Parliament, Ramaphosa stated his government will announce its action plan. The Zondo Commission findings reveal the pervasive depth and breadth of corruption under the reign of former President Jacob Zuma.
The Department of Public Service and Administration coordinates the GoSA’s initiatives against corruption, and South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations focuses on organized crime, economic crimes, and corruption. The Office of the Public Protector, a constitutionally mandated body, investigates government abuse and mismanagement. The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (PCCA) officially criminalizes corruption in public and private sectors and codifies specific offenses (such as extortion and money laundering), making it easier for courts to enforce the legislation. Applying to both domestic and foreign organizations doing business in the country, the PCCA covers receiving or offering bribes, influencing witnesses, and tampering with evidence in ongoing investigations, obstruction of justice, contracts, procuring and withdrawal of tenders, and conflict of interests, among other areas. Inconsistently implemented, the PCCA lacks whistleblower protections. The Promotion of Access to Information Act and the Public Finance Management Act call for increased access to public information and review of government expenditures. President Ramaphosa in his reply to the debate on his State of the Nation Address on 20 February 2018 announced Cabinet members would be subject to lifestyle audits despite several subsequent repetitions of this pledge, no lifestyle audits have been shared with the public or Parliament.
The South Africa government’s latest initiative is the opening of an Office on Counter Corruption and Security Services (CCSS) that seeks to address corruption specifically in ports of entry via fraudulent documents and other means.
10. Political and Security Environment
South Africa has strong institutions and is relatively stable, but it also has a history of politically motivated violence and civil disturbance. Violent protests against the lack of effective government service delivery are common. Killings of, and by, mostly low-level political and organized crime rivals occur regularly. In May 2018, President Ramaphosa set up an inter-ministerial committee in the security cluster to serve as a national task force on political killings. The task force includes the Police Minister‚ State Security Minister‚ Justice Minister‚ National Prosecuting Authority, and the National Police Commissioner. The task force ordered multiple arrests, including of high-profile officials, in what appears to be a crackdown on political killings. Criminal threats and labor-related unrest have impacted U.S. companies in the past. In July 2021 the country experienced wide-spread rioting in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma for contempt of court during the deliberations of the “Zondo Commission” established to review claims of state-sponsored corruption during Zuma’s presidency. Looting and violence led to over USD 1.5 billion in damage to these province’s economies and thousands of lost jobs. U.S. companies were amongst those impacted. Foreign investors continue to raise concern about the government’s reaction to the economic impacts, citing these riots and deteriorating security in some sectors such as mining to be deterrents to new investments and the expansion of existing ones.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
The unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2021 was 34.9 percent. The results of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the third quarter of 2021 show that the number of employed persons decreased by 660,000 in the third quarter of 2021 to 14.3 million. The number of unemployed persons decreased by 183,000 to 7.6 million compared to the second quarter of 2021. The youth unemployment (ages 15-24) rate was 66.5 percent in the third quarter of 2021.
The GoSA has replaced apartheid-era labor legislation with policies that emphasize employment security, fair wages, and decent working conditions. Under the aegis of the National Economic Development and Labor Council (NEDLAC), government, business, and organized labor negotiate all labor laws, apart from laws pertaining to occupational health and safety. Workers may form or join trade unions without previous authorization or excessive requirements. Labor unions that meet a locally negotiated minimum threshold of representation (often, 50 percent plus one union member) are entitled to represent the entire workplace in negotiations with management. As the majority union or representative union, they may also extract agency fees from non-union members present in the workplace. In some workplaces and job sectors, this financial incentive has encouraged inter-union rivalries, including intimidation and violence.
There are 205 trade unions registered with the Department of Labor as of February 2019 (latest published figures), up from 190 the prior year, but down from the 2002 high of 504. According to the 2019 Fourth QLFS report from StatsSA, 4.071 million workers belonged to a union, an increase of 30,000 from the fourth quarter of 2018. Department of Labor statistics indicate union density declined from 45.2 percent in 1997 to 24.7 percent in 2014, the most recent data available. Using StatsSA data, however, union density can be calculated: The February 2020 QLFS reported 4.071 million union members and 13.868 million employees, for a union density of 29.4 percent.
The right to strike is protected on issues such as wages, benefits, organizational rights disputes, and socioeconomic interests of workers. Workers may not strike because of disputes where other legal recourse exists, such as through arbitration. South Africa has robust labor dispute resolution institutions, including the CCMA, the bargaining councils, and specialized labor courts of both first instance and appellate jurisdiction. The GoSA does not waive labor laws for foreign direct investment. The number of working days lost to strike action fell to 55,000 in 2020, compared with 1.2 million in 2019. The sharp decrease is attributable to the GoSA’s imposition of the National State of Disaster at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the accompanying lockdown that commenced on March 26, which forced many businesses either to close or lay off workers and implement wage cuts or shorten time of work. The fact that many wage negotiations were put on hold also led to a reduction in strike figures.
Collective bargaining is a cornerstone of the current labor relations framework. As of February 2019, the South Africa Department of Labor listed 39 private sector bargaining councils through which parties negotiate wages and conditions of employment. Per the Labor Relations Act, the Minister of Labor must extend agreements reached in bargaining councils to non-parties of the agreement operating in the same sector. Employer federations, particularly those representing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) argue the extension of these agreements – often reached between unions and big business – negatively impacts SMEs. In 2019, the average wage settlement resulted in a 7.1 percent wage increase, on average 2.9 percent above the increase in South Africa’s consumer price index (latest information available).
In his 2022 state of the nation address President Ramaphosa spoke of tax incentives for companies that employ youth in efforts to curb youth unemployment. In addition, President Ramaphosa announced measures to move funds in the national budget to address youth unemployment.
South Africa’s current national minimum wage is USD 1.45/hour (R21.69/hour), with lower rates for domestic workers being USD 1.27/hour (R19.09/hour). The rate is subject to annual increases by the National Minimum Wage Commission as approved by parliament and signed by President Ramaphosa. Employers and employees are each required to pay one percent of wages to the national unemployment fund, which will pay benefits based on reverse sliding scale of the prior salary, up to 58 percent of the prior wage, for up to 34 weeks. The Labor Relations Act (LRA) outlines dismissal guidelines, dispute resolution mechanisms, and retrenchment guideline. The Act enshrines the right of workers to strike and of management to lock out striking workers. It created the CCMA, which mediates and arbitrates labor disputes as well as certifies bargaining council impasses for strikes to be called legally.
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) establishes a 45-hour workweek, standardizes time-and-a-half pay for overtime, and authorizes four months of maternity leave for women. Overtime work must be conducted through an agreement between employees and employers and may not be more than 10 hours a week. The law stipulates rest periods of 12 consecutive hours daily and 36 hours weekly and must include Sunday. The law allows adjustments to rest periods by mutual agreement. A ministerial determination exempted businesses employing fewer than 10 persons from certain provisions of the law concerning overtime and leave. Farmers and other employers may apply for variances. The law applies to all workers, including foreign nationals and migrant workers, but the GoSA did not prioritize labor protections for workers in the informal economy. The law prohibits employment of children under age 15, except for work in the performing arts with appropriate permission from the Department of Labor.
The EEA, amended in 2014, protects workers against unfair discrimination on the grounds of race, age, gender, religion, marital status, pregnancy, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, color, sexual orientation, disability, conscience, belief, political, opinion, culture, language, HIV status, birth, or any other arbitrary ground. The EEA further requires large- and medium-sized companies to prepare employment equity plans to ensure that historically disadvantaged South Africans, as well as women and disabled persons, are adequately represented in the workforce. More information regarding South African labor legislation may be found at: www.labour.gov.za/legislation
14. Contact for More Information
Trade and Investment Officer
877 Pretorius Street
Arcadia, Pretoria 0083
+27 (0)12-431-4343 LeggSC@state.gov