SA pledges to help companies like MTN and Vodacom stand up to "extortion" by African governments

SA pledges to help companies like MTN and Vodacom stand up to “extortion” by African governments

The South African government is stepping up its support for some of the country’s largest companies to help them look for business in Africa and protect them from extortion.

Clayson Monyela said Naledi Pandor, the foreign minister, and country officials met with business executives this week to discuss how South Africa can present itself as a “unifying force” when operating on the continent, and ensure businesses take full advantage of the opportunities available. Spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

He said that a platform has been created for South African countries that are active on the continent to exchange experiences and ideas with their peers.

The initiative comes as companies such as Vodacom and MTN, Africa’s largest mobile operators, grapple with conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon, respectively.

South African companies also faced challenges in countries such as Nigeria and Ghana, and the government lamented the lack of uniform rules and guidelines in Africa regarding operating procedures and dispute resolution.

“When some governments run out of money, they target companies in South Africa, or at least it seems that way,” Monyela said in a phone interview. “In some of the countries they work in, someone will wake up and say you owe us money and there’s no justification for it. In other cases, they’ll be charged taxes they don’t know about. It’s literally blackmail.”

Vodacom is currently embroiled in a tax dispute in Congo, where at one point the authorities closed its offices and confiscated the passports of some of its executives.

Meanwhile, MTN is trying to regain control of the funds in Cameroon, after the government froze its bank accounts and sought to transfer the money to a third party account. The move stems from a dispute between a local businessman and a South African bank unrelated to the mobile phone company’s operations.

The South African government plans to raise its companies’ concerns to the African Union and ask the continental body to adopt protocols on how businesses and investors should be treated on the continent, and discuss how to address difficulties in returning funds from some markets, according to Monyela.

He said issues related to specific industries such as telecommunications, energy and infrastructure will be addressed by working groups which are expected to lead to the CEOs cooperating with senior government officials.

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