The USD/ZAR currency pair (US Dollar/South African rand) is closely correlated with the EUR/ZAR (Euro/South African rand) with an 83.9% correlation. Simply put, the performance of the USD and the EUR with respect to the ZAR are one and the same. When the USD or the EUR appreciates, we are likely to see similar trends taking place with respect to the USD/ZAR and the EUR/ZAR currency pairs.
As of Thursday, 17 August 2017, the USD/ZAR exchange rate was 13.169. The 52-week trading range for this currency pair is 12.298 on the low end and 14.748 on the high-end. 10 years ago, at the height of the global financial crisis (August 21, 2007), $1 was trading at R13.17040. The USD appreciated sharply against emerging market currencies, notably the ZAR, in the years following the crisis. Between 2007 and January 2016, the USD gained on the ZAR. It reached a high of R16.44437 on 14 January 2016, before retreating sharply to R12.43849 on 24 March 2017.
Unbeknownst to many millennials in South Africa, the ZAR was not always trading at its current levels. Before Jacob Zuma assumed the presidency, and gross malfeasance engulfed the South African economic system, the Rand was a force to be reckoned with in global financial markets.
South Africa was considered the bright star of emerging market economies in Africa. Gold, platinum, coal, iron ore, tourism and other factors helped to create a positive image of the South African economy.
Economic Malfeasance Impacts Credit Ratings
Enter the Gupta scandal, Nkandla, multiple successive votes of no-confidence in the president, and ongoing fears about nationalization, the exodus of multinational corporations, and a crumbling infrastructure – the result is evident in the Rand. The South African economy continues to absorb swelling numbers of illegal immigrants, many of whom are living in squatter camps where rising levels of ethnocentrism are brewing. A flare-up is imminent.
International credit ratings agencies have downgraded South Africa’s rating over time, with the following ratings and outlooks from major agencies:
- Moody’s assigned a Baa3 rating to South Africa with a negative outlook – June 9, 2017
- S&P assigned a BB + rating to South Africa with a negative outlook – April 3, 2017
- Fitch assigned a BB + rating with a stable outlook – April 7, 2017.
These credit ratings are extremely important to international investors says Weiss Finance professional, Sal Caputo, ‘They determine capital flows into South Africa. Investors, pension funds and sovereign wealth funds look towards credit ratings for their investment decisions in foreign countries. If we wind the clocks back to 1994, Fitch assigned a BB rating, Moody’s a Baa3 rating and S&P a BB rating to South Africa’s economy. While the ratings appear similar today, the sentiment (the outlook) is decidedly negative this time around.’
Pre-Global crisis, in 2006 the USD/ZAR was trading at 6.1392. Put into perspective, R100,000 would buy you $16,288.76, 11 years ago, and that same R100,000 is the equivalent of $7,588.17 today. These figures do not take into account the real money depreciation, or how much more you could have earned by investing that $16,288.76 over 11 years. The differences are dramatic. Inflation in South Africa is currently recorded at 5.1% year on year (June 2017).
This is good news in that it means the real purchasing power of the South African rand is not being adversely affected by rising prices. This is the lowest inflation rate for South Africa in 1.5 years. Conversely, the inflation rate in the United States for the 12 months ending July 2017 was measured at 1.7% – 3 times less than South Africa’s rate.
Clearly the value of the South African currency is being eroded away every year. The current interest rate at South African banks was measured at 6.75% on July 20, 2017. This means that investments in SA banks yield real money growth to capital. Provided inflation is kept in check, and the SA infrastructure is renovated, upgraded and maintained, good governance can help the SA economy to get back on track.
A Thought: In the 1960s, the South African rand was grand, as it traded at a mere R0.72 to the USD. Things have certainly reversed since then, but the Rainbow Nation has the ability to turn a new page and make the Rand proudly South African once again.
How Investors Can Take Advantage Of The Rand’s Currency Trading Rates
Negative sentiment is likely to be pervasive with the SA economy, and it will take more than a new figurehead in government to right the wrongs of a mismanaged economy.
The USD/ZAR currency pair is trading in the 13.65 range heading into mid-December 2017. Over the past year, the 52-week low was 12.3126, and the 52-week high was 14.5742. As one of the more volatile currencies in the trading spectrum, the ZAR is closely associated with the political shenanigans taking place in South Africa.
The year to date return for the currency pair is -0.50%, after having started 2017 at 13.7351. Much of the activity taking place with the ZAR is speculative. Futures contracts are largely responsible for the whipsaw movements in prices.
Wilkins Finance strategists stress the importance of credit ratings agencies on currencies:
‘Whenever credit ratings agencies such as Moody’s and Fitch downgrade their assessments of the South African economy, this has a negative impact on the ZAR. The impact is not always predictable however – towards the end of November 2017, the USD/ZAR had appreciated after the recent ratings downgrade of the economy.’
Moody’s Investors Service downgraded South Africa’s economy to a rating of Baa3. This is the lowest rating level for Moody’s. Further ratings will be announced in February next year. Fitch has already downgraded the foreign currency and local currency to BB +, but has offered a stable Outlook for the ZAR.
That S&P also downgraded the South African economy to sub-investment grade is an important decision, and one that will have negative ramifications for the South African bonds market. Now, the Barclays Global Bond Index will no longer feature South African bonds. That South Africa’s bond market will be excluded from the World Government Bond Index will also be a bugbear to any hopes of the ZAR appreciating.
Interest Rates in the South African Economy
The South African interest rate is highly attractive to foreign investors, given that the UK, US, Canada, Japan, and European bank rates are at historic lows. There is little to be gained by investing cash in fixed-interest-bearing securities in these economies. The current interest rate in South Africa is 6.75% (as at November 23, 2017). The interest rate has dropped to expand economic activity in the country.
Overall, South Africa’s inflation rate for the year is expected to remain at 5.3% dropping to 5.2% in 2018 and rising to 5.5% by 2019. Global investors remain concerned about the risk/reward environment in South Africa. The country has experienced significant capital outflows in recent years, driven in large part by uncertainty regarding future prospects. The USD/ZAR was trading at 14.60 in late November, and current ZAR strength is being attributed to USD weakness.
Factors on Both Sides of the Atlantic
One of the major economic events affecting exchange rates will be the reconciliation of the House and Senate bills on US tax legislation. Any major overhaul of the US tax code will invariably result in a dramatically boosted USD, and a weakened ZAR. For traders, it appears to be short-term call options on the local currency and long-term call options on the USD.
It is evident that currency traders are hedging against the ZAR over the long-term. The fundamentals of the economy are structurally unstable. The power grid infrastructure, water supply problems, and political instability at the highest echelons are but a few of the many problems plaguing South African growth prospects.
However, the ZAR will draw strength from the election of a credible leader, and this will be particularly noteworthy with Cyril Ramaphosa’s appointment. Overall, negative sentiment is likely to be pervasive with the SA economy, and it will take more than a new figurehead in government to right the wrongs of a mismanaged economy.
For many people, the holiday season represents a time of change.
For many people, the holiday season represents a time of change. Some folks have made the decision throughout the year to start a new business in 2018, and the festive season’s message is one of hope for a bright new entrepreneurial future. Unfortunately, for most, this dream can become a nightmare without considerable amounts of planning on part of the entrepreneur and start-up founder.
So, without sounding too depressing, Christmas and New Year’s should be a time for stringent planning rather than celebration for the season and the year ahead. Call me Ebenezer Scrooge, but hitting the laptop and doing research is the best thing an entrepreneur can do while family and friends are unwrapping gifts or holiday-making.
As a business owner who has used the month of January as a starting block for my foray into a new industry, I can say that one of the problems I encountered was not accurately defining my customer personas, both in real-time and online. It got me thinking; if I can make the mistake when it comes to accurately segmenting customers in real-time, how many people make the mistake of inaccurately creating customer personas for their online brands?
It’s All About the Customer
Creating a customer persona is easy. Most business founders have an idea of who their customer is before marketing their product. And once you know who the customer is, its just as easy to find out their likes and dislikes, as well as their habits.
The best way to create customer personas is to base your personas on research and data. Many established businesses find this a simple task, as they have a wealth of clients from which to draw this data. Unfortunately, this is not the case for business founders, so they must carefully test the waters using surveys, third-party research, and an ear-to-the-ground within the industry.
Once a business understands its various buyer personas, it’s time to start considering the typical online buyer persona…
Just because you can accurately determine your optimal customer due to your created customer personas, you may have to create alternative personas for online consumers. This is because a slightly different person will be looking for your product online.
As an example, Bob owns a pool business, building as well as maintaining pools for residential clients across Johannesburg. Bob’s nominal customer persona is that of Adam, the 40-something business owner who owns a home in a middle-class neighbourhood. Adam is likely to come across Bob’s out-of-home marketing material, or comes to Bob for business through referrals. However, Adam differs from Lerato. Lerato is a different age, race and gender. Even more importantly, Lerato looks for products and services exclusively online. To appeal to Lerato over Adam, Bob’s customer persona must be changed for the online customer, and the online customer must be exposed to tailored content to be appealed to.
Lerato also lives in a middle-class neighbourhood, but Lerato has young children, while Adam’s children have now moved out of home. This means that Bob can take advantage of Lerato’s need for pool safety nets and a custom-built pool fences, and Bob will make sure that Lerato is exposed to content about these services while making her online journey.
When creating online material, ensure that it is developed to take advantage of the online customer. One mistake that business owners make is that, in their attempts to be recognised as industry leaders, they try very hard to use industry specific language. They make attempts toward showing their prowess in the trade and showcase their own certification and business journey.
The online customer persona representing the business’s primary online buyer does not care about the business’s goals and objectives, and they have no clue as to what is being said when the website uses online lingo. They want content created for them; they want to know why they need the product or service, they want to know that they are using the best business for the job, and they want social proof regarding the service offered.
Make sure that you do proper content mapping research, and identify the online journey taken by the consumer through online channels before they make a purchasing decision.
Take this a step further and make sure that you define several online customer personas. Determine the value of each persona and structure content and the consumer journey for the most profitable of the personas. Additionally, determine the lifecycle of the journey, how much attention a segment of online content generates, and capitalise accordingly. For example, if most of the purchasing decision is made on the product or service landing page, make sure that the landing page is optimised as often as possible to increase your business’s revenue.
Hit January 2018 running, and make sure you understand your online client before receiving your first online lead. And if you make a few mistakes initially, don’t worry. 2017 was – and 2018 will be – known for being the year of big data, where business owners make operations and marketing decisions based on the behaviour of customers online. Always analyse the data available to your business when made available, and make changes accordingly. The best of luck for the year ahead!
How South African Small Business Owners Can Overcome Economic Uncertainty
Here are three things you can do to overcome these economic challenges.
South Africa’s entrepreneurs haven’t had it easy. The current political landscape coupled with global uncertainty has brought with it significant business instability.
This is evidenced in Xero’s 2017 State of SA Small Business Report which found that 68% of small businesses view economic instability as their number one challenge, while 38% are concerned about their cash flow.
Within the small business community, the report also highlights a growing frustration with the government’s lack of support to help keep them afloat. Despite being set up to do just that, 89% of small businesses don’t feel that The Department of Small Business provides the right support.
This lack of support extends across government: 48% of entrepreneurs would like to see more funding, 44% want less red tape, 43% call for more tax breaks, and 36% want better access to finance. While these requests are perfectly reasonable, they’ll only take effect if the government gives them the go-ahead.
Implementing more measures to support small businesses will take time. This means 2018 is going to be just as challenging as 2017 – if not more so.
Here are three things you can do to overcome these economic challenges.
Smaller businesses are typically more agile than their larger competitors. This is a huge advantage when navigating an unpredictable market. Macro-economic challenges are, for the most part, beyond your control. Rather than try and ‘fix’ the situation, move with the market and adapt to its changing nature.
The best way to maintain customer relevancy is to review your offer regularly and look for ways to improve it. You could consider lowering your prices – as long as it doesn’t upset the books. Or think about investing money back into the business to yield greater returns.
There’s no one-size-fits all approach, so just make sure you do what is right for your business. Part of this is ensuring you stay fresh in the eyes of your customers by continuing to respond to their evolving needs.
2Invest in new technologies
Investing in the most up-to-date technology will pay off in the long run. For South Africa’s small businesses, technology is only growing in importance: where 19% said it was essential last year, that number has increased to 49% in 2017.
Cloud accounting software, for example, can help you understand your company finances and track budgetary health in real-time. Knowing exactly where your funds are and how they’re being allocated, enables a much faster response time – this is critical during unstable economic times.
Technology can also help you build a more competitive business by reducing wasteful expenses, automating time-consuming data entry tasks and streamlining processes for greater efficiency.
The more knowledge you have, the easier it is to put measures in place that will enhance your company’s operations.
3Deliver superior customer service
Purse strings might get tightened during tough economic times, but there will always be demand for certain products. Ensure you give your customers a superior user experience when they engage with you, and they’ll return.
It’s not always possible to compete on price. Bigger, more established companies generally have the capital reserves to undercut their rivals. But, small businesses can always compete on value. If you can offer a superior customer service, then you’ll receive customer loyalty in return – this is priceless in a volatile economy.
The past year has been incredibly challenging – and it’s unlikely to get easier as we move into 2018. But, the most successful entrepreneurs don’t let the economy thwart their ambitions – they equip their business to weather any storm. The sooner you innovate and adapt your business, the better your chances of success.
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