Labour issues could affect SA ports

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JOHANNESBURG - LABOUR issues and infrastructural challenges
at main trade ports could hamper plans to ensure export-led growth in
South Africa’s agricultural sector.

Industry experts raised concern following the recurrent strikes in the
country’s harbours as workers demand increase in pay. There are also
promotion disputes.

The Agricultural Business Chamber (AGBIZ) noted other reports suggesting
that the strikes had been resolved.

“Whatever the situation, the bottom line is that there will be delays in
export activity,” the organisation stated.

There has been recent strikes by employees at some ports, most severely
at the Ngqura Container Terminal in Port Elizabeth, much to the concern
of the Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa.

Mike Fanucchi, chief customer officer at Transnet, the ports company,
said consequently the container, automotive and citrus industries had
been disrupted.

The two-week go-slow has cost the economy an estimated R1 billion ($72,1
million).

The Citrus Growers’ Association of Southern Africa has opted to
transport consignments of the perishable products through Durban and
Cape Town for export, which comes at an extra cost.

A further setback has been suffered with the organisation expressing
concern about the poor performance of the Durban port. This has led to
delays in shipments of citrus products.

The Durban port, which is South Africa’s prime facility, is facing
technical issues such as narrow roads which often lead to congestion.

Other concerns are lack of investment in maintaining and refurbishing
the port and inadequate cold storage infrastructure.

AGBIZ said this was worrying as South Africa has recently been hailed
for having logistics that are comparatively more efficient than most
industrialising countries.

However, the country has relapsed from 2016’s ranking.

This is based on the World Bank’s logistics performance index (LPI),
which ranked South Africa 33rd out of 160 surveyed in 2018. It was rated
20th in 2016.

Such setbacks are hindering the government’s plan to expand South
Africa’s agricultural footprint in export markets.

Meanwhile, South African banks must prioritise value
over price in the wake of the so-called pricing war currently waging
between the country’s financial institutions.

This is according to an industry executive as the “war” elicits debate
in the sector.

Vanesha Palani, Nedbank executive: transactional products, noted
challenging economic conditions, the need to enable fully inclusive
banking services and the entry of some new banking participants had
created a “race for the pricing bottom” among the country's banks.

These now offer low/no-cost bank accounts to existing and prospective
customers.

The executive said while banks certainly needed to be fully committed to
ensuring fully inclusive access to banking by offering affordable
accounts to their clients, this should never compromise the delivery of
real value.

“That means avoiding the temptation to offer bank accounts that are
designed to appeal to customers solely on the basis that they are cheap
or free,” Palani said.

She said while lower banking costs benefitted customers, a truly
value-driven banking offering required an ability by the bank that
offered it to deliver a personal touch, built on a clear understanding
of what the customer needs and insight into their typical banking
behaviours.

“So, if a fee-free account ends up being little more than a generic
offering, with no personalisation or focus on delivering lasting value,
the affordability aspect could very quickly lose its sheen and be
replaced by client frustration or worse, stagnation.”

Palani said ultimately, inclusive banking should be attentive to the
needs and requirements of all members of society, while adding
sustainable value.

“.....and just because low-cost bank accounts are affordable, that
doesn't exclude them from this prerogative,” she concluded.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) believes 2019 is likely to be heralded as
“the year of the customer in South African banking” with the launch of
three retail banking operations – TymeDigital, Discovery Bank and Bank
Zero.

“Across both retail and wholesale banking, the customer is poised to
benefit from greater choice and increased competition,” PwC stated.

- CAJ News

 

 

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