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The Evolution Of Savings In South Africa

Saving has always been difficult for South Africans; we have one of the lowest savings rates in the world. Nolene Parboo, Senior Manager: Savings & Investments at Standard Bank, reviews our savings history and suggests that remedying the present situation could rely on looking to our past.

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It is no secret that South Africans are not great savers – it is also no secret that our spend-thrift ways have been a matter of debate for years. Solutions have been posed and economic models have been suggested to change the national outlook, all to no avail.

Six years ago, Dr Monde Mnyande, then advisor to the Governor and Chief Economist at the Reserve Bank, pointed out that the evolution of South African savings – instead of displaying a positive curve – was doing just the opposite when savings were expressed as a percentage of GDP.

Related: How Tax-Free Savings Could Fund Your Child’s Education

He showed that between 1960 and 1999, gross savings in the South African economy averaged around 22%. However, the aggregate saving rate between 1985 to 1999 fell to around 18% from about 23% in the period from 1960 to 1972, and 25% in the period from 1973 to 1978. During the 1990s, the national savings performance deteriorated to about 16%. Dr Mnyande said the steady decline in savings during the 1980s and 1990s resulted from slow economic growth, rising tax and interest rate burdens. South Africans, rather than continuing to save, concentrated on maintaining their lifestyles.

During apartheid, this encouraged South African migrant workers to form stokvels, collaborative ‘safety nets’ to survive financially outside of their social settings back home, with some schemes attracting up to 50 members. But in the late 1980s, the apartheid government began to recognise the power of these collective savings schemes within black communities and tried to ban them. This became a huge barrier, because the savings were used to assist stokvel members to pay for necessities, such as burials and groceries.

In support of these collaborative savings groups, the National Stokvel Association of South Africa (NASASA) was formed in a bid to secure legal representation and protect stokvels. As a result, NASASA is today a self-regulatory body, approved by the registrar of Banks under the Banks Act of 1990.

This year, the South African Savings Institute (SASI) celebrates its 15th anniversary and looks back on the evolution of the nation’s savings during this period. Tracing back the country’s history, we can see that the household saving rate increased to -0.80% in the first quarter of 2016 from -2.40% in the fourth quarter of 2015. Personal savings in South Africa averaged 4.98% from 1960 until 2016, reaching an all-time high of 23.80% in the second quarter of 1972 and a record low of -2.70% in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Standard Bank research indicates that only 5.5% South African households potentially have the ability to save, as they have positive net-income balances. The higher-end households can potentially save 19% of their after-tax income, while affluent households have a savings potential of 65%.

The bottom line, however, is that arresting deterioration in our savings rate requires an ‘about turn’ in our behaviour. A culture of savings means examining priorities and deciding which personal expenses are acceptable and which should be avoided. Essentially, as has been pointed out by more than one expert, people can spend and then decide what portion can be saved, or they can save first and then decide what portion of what remains can be spent.

Perhaps, as a nation, we can reverse our ‘devolution’ of savings by re-examining our most successful saving mechanism and adopting some of the behaviours that make it so: Stokvels epitomise ‘the peak’ in inculcating savings habits by changing consumer behaviour.

In stokvels, the emphasis every month is on getting your contribution in by the due date. The penalties are subtle; other members are from the community and know you well. As regular meetings are held to discuss savings and the objectives of the society, the fact that you have not contributed is known by friends and neighbours. Worst of all, by not meeting obligations, you are placing the group in danger of not meeting their objectives. It is peer pressure at its best.

Related: A Savings Culture is Not Enough

Add to the mix the fact that stokvels have defined objectives for saving and you have the perfect recipe for a new attitude to savings that most South Africans could embrace. The irony, of course, is that stokvels are generally schemes that have been the preserve of lower-income groups, yet they have succeeded in mobilising billions of rands in national savings. Recent reports put their value in South Africa at and estimated R49 billion annually.

We have now reached the point where the power of stokvels combined with the need to attract more people into mainstream banking has seen them become organised: To have bank accounts, stokvels must have constitutions and office bearers. Like any business, no payments can be made without authorisation by nominated signatories.

As banks, we are already seeing savvy young professionals take on the lessons provided by their elders. There is an increase in the number of savings schemes that rely on the stokvel principles of pooling and distributing funds. However, their ambitions are loftier and the contributions significantly higher. Middleclass South Africans are saving together to invest in equities and unit trusts, or to use joint resources to acquire lifestyle purchases. The trick is finding ways to expand these changes in habits so that saving by groups becomes attractive to the majority of South Africans.

Apart from stokvels, South Africans should consider various savings and investment accounts that can help them plan for their future better – be it for retirement, that special holiday, or to cover unplanned expenses. The question each consumer should pose is, which savings account is right for me? Standard Bank’s PureSave account is, for example, an easy way to start saving and gain instant access to your money when you need it. With the MarketLink account, you gain the flexibility of being able to access your cash, in addition to competitive interest rates. Should you have a lump sum of money, consider the Tax-Free Call Account, where you can invest up to R30 000 a year and a maximum of R500 000 in your lifetime – and get tax free returns on your contributions.

Maybe the key to our national savings evolution rests on going back to our roots, and saving as a collective toward a common goal..

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5 Things SME’s Need To Be Thinking About In 2018

In 2018, small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) will be looking for a glimpse of inspiration to chart a new growth path and scale their businesses. This is off the back of a tough 2017 and previous years which have inhibited the growth of local SMEs.

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In 2018, small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) will be looking for a glimpse of inspiration to chart a new growth path and scale their businesses. This is off the back of a tough 2017 and previous years which have inhibited the growth of local SMEs.

Jesse Weinberg, Head of the SME Customer Segment at FNB Business says “Small business success becomes a monumental task when there’s arguably very little to no real economic growth overall. However every challenge presents an opportunity, and in South Africa, not only are we fortunate to consistently have SME development as a key objective on the national government agenda, but most corporates are also  hungry to shift spend to smaller businesses as part of the procurement policies.”

Weinberg says as 2018 begins in earnest, there are some important insights that business owners should consider in order to grow their businesses.

The digital economy is in full swing

SME’s that are comfortably operating without adopting digital technology in their business will likely be outperformed by their competitors unless they adapt to the current reality. Across the globe, consumers and businesses are rapidly migrating services to digital channels for its sheer efficiency, convenience and scalability. This includes basic elements like digitising accounting processes with software, through to using social media to campaign to customers.

If you’re ever unsure where to start, start by observing your customers and listening carefully to how they expect to be dealing with a business like yours – you can’t go wrong by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and then reflecting on your business through their eyes.

Related: 4 Unique Marketing Ideas For SMEs On A Budget

Expect little to no help from the economy

The Word Bank recently predicted that SA will grow at roughly 1.1% in 2018 and while this is not cast in stone, it’s a relatively firm indicator that SME’s will have to do the hard yards to engineer any form of business growth. The focus should thus mainly be on differentiating your business, products or services from your competitors through marketing or even innovation if possible.

Maximise your banking relationship

Banks are investing a lot of time to understand the needs of businesses and have some of the tools to help SME’s run efficiently. The relationship should not be only be limited to just banking. With the multitude of rewards and value-add services offering by most banks, with just a bit of time spent understanding the offerings, great value can be derived for you and your business. Examples of these offered by FNB include eBucks rewards, free Instant Accounting software and CIPC registration services.

‘Think Local, Act Global’

Your business may be based in South Africa but its potential to scale shouldn’t be hampered by your location. In other words, be open to the opportunity of growing your business beyond South African shores, especially if your service or product has universal appeal and relevance. With global marketplaces such as Alibaba and AirBnB, the world market has never been more accessible and easier to do business with.

Related: SchoemanLaw Shakes Up The Legal Industry To The Benefits Of SMEs

Avoid the race to the bottom

Market forces continue to show that consumers aren’t only focused on the cheapest product or service despite the tough economic conditions. These days offering great service will build trust and loyalty with customers and keep them coming back. If you combine this with good quality, accessible products and services you will generally have an edge over your competitors offering the same or similar products and services.

“Even though 2018 is unlikely to come with an SME development boom, a solid homegrown business can still grow sustainably. More than ever, business owners need to arm themselves with as much information and insights as they can to grow their businesses or even reduce the risk of total business failure. With South Africa’s level of unemployment showing little to no signs of reduction, we need to sustain the spotlight on growing our SME sector and offering as much support to it as possible. SME’s represent one of the most effective ways to create employment in local communities, especially if these businesses find ways to trade with customers beyond their normal operating territories.” says Weinberg.

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Surge In South Africans Swopping Their Cars For Bitcoin

The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has experienced a seemingly interminable rise. Early adopters have experience lottery-sized pay-outs on minor investments as the currency exploded in value in 2017.

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The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has experienced a seemingly interminable rise. Early adopters have experience lottery-sized pay-outs on minor investments as the currency exploded in value in 2017.

As South Africans are itching to get their hands on the digital currency, there’s been an increase in swops and bitcoin-only sales on Gumtree.co.za, says Claire Cobbledick, Head of Core at Gumtree. “This is particularly true for high-value items like cars, bikes and boats. Many sellers are willing to take a gamble with their assets in hopes of a large pay-out.”

This is on trend with other marketplaces. In the United States a McLaren 720S was put up for sale in exchange for 25 bitcoin, a theoretical value of $425,000.

Related: 11 Things You Need To Know About Bitcoin

While Gumtree does not allow for the sale of bitcoin miners or services, Cobbledick says that customers can exchange goods for bitcoin on the site, but should be fully aware of the risks. “Bitcoin is a volatile currency, so while you could easily see a 50% increase in your investment, you could just as easily end up with nothing. It’s up to the seller to decide if they are willing and able to take a gamble.”

Some cars currently up for sale in exchange for bitcoin includes a Land Rover Defender, BMW X5 and a rare 1970 Mercury Cougar V8.

“There are also a few other sellers accepting bitcoin in exchange for Kruger Rands,” says Cobbledick. “Perhaps proving that gold as a store of value is falling out of vogue.”

But the most unusual swop would have to go to an entrepreneurial seller who is offering carnivorous plants in exchange for the cryptocurrency.

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Zando Sold 80 Items A Minute During Black Friday – By Doing This

Black Friday has brought immense success for numerous local online retailers – reflecting the potential of e-commerce in South Africa. Why not learn from Zando’s success in 2017 to ensure your success during the 2018 Black Friday sales season?

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For South African e-retailers, Black Friday is a big sales event. But you need to ensure you’re prepared for the web traffic and that your e-commerce store can handle the logistics of thousands of orders.

zando-sascha-breussAccording to Zando, they experience 100% up-time during Black Friday and less than a week after the season sales event, 95% of customer orders have already been shipped.

To help fellow e-tailers perform better next year, Zando’s CEO, Sascha Breuss answers some key questions about the company’s preparations and learnings around Black Friday:

1. How did you encourage greater sales on Black Friday?

Over the last few years Black Friday has developed a following in South Africa, so we benefitted from the existing hype around it. We didn’t focus too much on upfront marketing, but put our energy into flawless execution and of course great deals for the customers.

Related: The Evolution Of Retail: From Corner Store To Artificial Intelligence

2. How much planning went into ensuring your store platform ran at optimum?

The real ‘hot phase’ started with the first day of November when our IT department went into a ‘feature freeze’ and we focused 100% on site-stability and scalability.

We went through some intense testing of our site with loads up to 15 times the average daily amount of visitors. So, when the actual day came, we were confident in our systems.

3. How were you able to successfully co-ordinate logistics during Black Friday?

Early preparation and experience from past years have been the key to success. We increased our head count in both Warehouse and Customer Service well in advance so that we could rely on well-trained and experienced colleagues come Black Friday.

4. How did you ensure a seamless experience between your website and your app?

We know that our customers are browsing Zando on all platforms, desktop, mobile and app so we implemented some handy features to make the transition between each platform easier. For example, shared baskets and wish lists are now a feature. Some of the deals however have been app-only and sometimes we reward our app users with early access to shop the best deals. So it is definitely worth it to download our app.

Related: How SA’s Online Retailers Can Cash In On Black Friday Fever

5. How did you scale your entire operation for a single event?

This is easy to summarise in one word – TEAMWORK. The Zando staff did an amazing job and were the backbone of our success. Not only did they put the required extra hours in and worked hard until the job was done, but they also showed real team-spirit. When you called our Customer Service during Black Friday it’s very possible that you spoke to someone in our HR, Social Media or Legal team who helped out answering calls.

6. How did your marketing campaign affect traffic on your platforms?

The most surprising element was probably the high volume of traffic that we saw during the night. Visits started to increase every minute before midnight and during the first two hours of the day we saw peaks that were higher than on our strongest week day. This traffic never dropped with a lot of orders being placed between 2am and 3am on Black Friday.

7. How did your technology systems handle the influx of shopper traffic?

In the build up to Black Friday we added additional server capacity and changed the way we handled the flow of traffic. This made us very flexible to switch on additional capacity wherever required. So it was a combination of intensive preparation, close monitoring and ultimately very little sleep for a couple of days to ensure we monitored our system health 24 hours a day.

8. What was your sales strategy?

For us everything that had a discount of 40%-80%, and was still a relevant and recent look, qualified for Black Friday 2017. Once these criteria were fulfilled we made sure that we had sufficient stock available – in some cases the demand was so high that we brought on additional stock from our suppliers during the Black Friday weekend.

Related: 5 Last-Minute Tips For Small Retailers To Boost Black Friday Sales

9. What were your biggest learnings?

We have been very successful in our approach to remain true to the idea of Black Friday – offering great deals on relevant product and not outdated clearance ranges. The customer is very educated and will identify a good deal, and we have seen consumers’ negative comments on stores who used Black Friday solely as a warehouse clearance opportunity.

10. What surprised you about Zando’s success during Black Friday?

Thanks to extensive preparation we have been able to achieve an uptime of 100% for the full month of November. We also kept the deliveries and returns 100% free regardless of discount or basket size. It seems like our customers appreciated this approach and we have actually seen very positive sales numbers after Black Friday while we expected a drop. I believe the full focus and investment on the Customer Experience has worked for us.

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