“If it bleeds, it leads and if does not bleed it can’t lead,” is a mantra long practiced by merchants of doomsday who buy ink by the barrel.  For the uninitiated laymen this paraphrase refers to a toxic culture in the newsroom that for a story to lead in the pages of newspapers there ought to be blood streaming on the streets, chaos, corruption, crime, loadshedding, unemployment, a poor performing economy and Armageddon.

By Thoko Modise

Due to this insatiable appetite and habit to narrate doom, you would swear South Africa has reached its apocalypse and failed state. There is an increasingly dwindling effort to paint a balanced picture of news reflecting both the positive and the negative.

On all media platforms, these merchants of doom speak in twangy English, often with zero substance to their arguments. Because of their rolled tongues and their self-induced sinus accents, many confuse their content to be intellectual. Many of these doomsayers offer no solutions to the challenges.

Absolutely no amount of fault-finding and vilification wrapped in a twang can hide the fact that South Africa remains the best investment destination on the continent.

People must not confuse expansion of multinational corporations beyond South Africa and to other regions on the continent as a disinvestment in South Africa. It is unnecessary tautology to be explaining that multinationals in their profit seeking nature look for opportunities across nations. That is why they are called multinationals.

The fact is no large multinational conglomerate, that can seriously compete in the South African market, has closed shop in favour of another country on the African continent. None!

Yes, the country is battling corruption, poor availability of electricity, failing municipalities, and its junk status; but what are the positive fundamental stories that make South Africa a great and the best investment destination on the continent?

We have strong and tested democratic institutions that make it conducive for companies to invest in South Africa. Our judiciary, yet not perfect, is really great. A company can take a South African government department to court and still win. In many countries the judiciary is seriously compromised, making it difficult for corporates to trade.

We have a free media in South Africa that does a good job, in its one-sidedness, to expose the malice in South Africa. No politician, businessmen and even God’s sidekick can stop a credible writer from doing a damning news story.

The South African democratic climate has oxygen for a strong civil society in South Africa that is allowed to operate and take-on leviathan exploitative corporations and under-performing government departments.

South Africa has a relatively strong Independent Electoral Commission and voting laws that empower the voters to choose the political parties and leaders they want.  There aren’t much super-economies on the African continent that perform better than South Africa in terms of democratic institutions.

One English speaking football coach would often quip that statistics are a bikini; they do not reveal everything.

The respected Economist Intelligence EIU democracy report in 2022 rated South Africa’s democracy number 45 globally. The only African countries better than South Africa were Mauritius, Botswana, Cabo-Verde.

Yes, South Africa has unacceptable levels of crime, but corporate executives here are rarely kidnapped in exchange for ransoms. 

When investors look to move into a country, they assess the ability to withdraw and repatriate the cash they have invested. The country with the largest foreign currency gross reserves on the continent is South Africa. Our gross-foreign currency reserves were reported at just over $61.8bn by the South African Reserve Bank. This is the highest on the continent and not many countries in Africa can reassure investors if they want to move their money. We know that many multinationals on the African continent struggle to repatriate cash invested. Our ability to sort out Value Added Tax receipts is world class, the South African Revenue Services does a stellar job.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange formed in 1887, is ranked the 17th largest stock exchange in the world by market capitalisation and the largest exchange in the African continent. The strength of the JSE is paramount as it is a window in which foreign investors look through for solid and world class South African companies.

Yes, South Africa has been greylisted, but if you look deep, you will discover that other countries on the continent are not even reviewed by FATF. South Africa has not been classified as high risk by FATF and has plans to exit the grey-list in a year to three.

Despite the noise by the merchants of doom, the Dutch based beer goliath, Heineken, is steaming ahead with its over R40bn acquisition of South African adult drinks maker, Distell. The transaction has not been abandoned by Heineken despite the irritating noise from the merchants of doom.

Amazon is moving ahead with its multi-billion-rand real estate investment in South Africa with all the negativity.

Premier Group has reignited its listing on the JSE after being petitioned by investors. This shows capital want to invest. The doomsayers must look at the actions of the retailers. Shoprite has exited a number of African countries and is re-investing in South Africa. Woolworths has sold down its business in Australia and is re-investing locally.

Old Mutual and Woolworths have announced in excess of billions of rand in share-buy backs. Their decisions to do share-buy backs of their stock and not take the capital out of the country is a sign of confidence in the economy.

Yes, we must not allow South Africa to sink to the pits. It is not a failed state.


Thoko Modise is the General Manager: Communication at Brand South Africa, the official marketing agency of South Africa, with a mandate to build the country’s brand reputation to improve its global competitiveness.