News in South Africa 23rd February:
1. Lessons learned from second wave:
We’re past the worst of our second COVID wave, but experts warn that South Africa will almost certainly be facing a third and fourth wave — possibly with more infections and deaths than in previous waves.
A third wave could be only three months away, amidst a new, more infectious SARS-CoV-2 variant (the virus that causes COVID-19), 501Y.V2, that emerged during our second wave and is now dominant in South Africa. The new variant has also changed itself in such a way that it can evade the antibodies that our bodies produce in response to the original version of the virus.
Lessons South Africa can learn from the second wave to be better equipped to survive the country’s next surge in SARS-CoV-2 infections:
- We need to do more genomic sequencing — so we can identify new variants quickly
- Complacency is dangerous and needs to be targeted
- The number of binge-drinkers at home and on the roads needs to be reduced
2. International investment in TymeBank:
African Rainbow Capital Investments announced this morning that two international investors will take minority stakes in Tyme (which owns TymeBank in SA).
A fund managed by UK-based Apis Partners will take 14.9%, while JG Summit Holdings, a conglomerate in the Philippines, will hold 5.1%. Together, their investments will total R1.6 billion.
The investment, which is one of the largest foreign investments any fintech company has secured in South Africa, will be deployed to bolster Tymes growth and secure its path to commercial success. In addition, it will be used to fund Tymes offshore expansion opportunities.
The investment represents a strong endorsement for both TymeBank as one of the worlds fastest growing digital banks and for South Africas banking sector overall. Like all banks in South Africa, TymeBank is regulated by the Prudential Authority of the SA Reserve Bank. TymeBank is the first bank in South Africa to be operated fully off a cloud-based infrastructure network. It was also the first bank to be granted a commercial banking license since 1999.
TymeBank continues to onboard an average of 110,000 new customers per month. Having launched formally in February 2019, the bank will reach the 3 million customer milestone in March 2021.
3. No slack from Universities for Matriculants:
SA’s 26 public universities will not be trimming or diluting their curricula to accommodate first-year students who may have knowledge gaps because of Covid-19 disruptions to schooling last year.
Instead the institutions will offer intensive learning support programmes to assist students who are battling academically.
Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen said academic content will not be diluted because it had to maintain the academic quality and integrity of its qualifications. “Much effort, however, will go into bringing underprepared entrants up to the appropriate level, so they can achieve academic success.”
He said the additional support included extended peer-to-peer support, as well as the existing tutor and mentor programmes and psychosocial support. “Provisionally accepted students will have access to video recordings of current Stellenbosch University students sharing their experiences of transitioning from school to university.”
He said students will be assisted with their transition to university life through an “onboarding programme” that would include topics such as time management, success and wellbeing, stress management and academic reading.
4. Tourism sector prepping for trading:
South Africa’s tourism sector is eager to open and get back to trading, but says that it is unlikely to see any recovery in 2021 – only next year. Despite this, plans are in place to invest and prepare the sector for the return to full operation.
With lockdowns still in place, travel severely restricted, and the vaccine rollout progressing slowly, tourism is simply not happening, SA Tourism said.
However, things need to be done right now to prepare – including sorting out South Africa’s visa issues, it said.
5. Strong growth in Mining sector:
Mining sector sees strong growth with multiple companies (Amplats, Harmony, Kumba Iron Ore) showing significant annual profit growth.
Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) saw its revenue rose 38% last year, with headline profit up 63% to more than R30 billion – thanks to the dollar price for platinum group metals gaining 51%. Its dividend rose by 63%. The company also announced plans to increase its production by 20% in 2030.
Gold miner Harmony saw a 336% increase in its half-year net profit (to R5.8bn) thanks to the sharp increase in the gold price. It declared an interim dividend of 110c – there was no dividend in the previous year.
Kumba Iron Ore’s annual profit grew by 40%, with a strong increase in dividends. Higher iron ore prices and costs savings of R1.3 billion helped to deliver a record EBITDA of R45.8 billion. The lifespan of its Sishen project will be extended to 2039 thanks to a new R3.6 billion project.