Johannesburg: South Africa's economic heart

With more than 70% of South Africa's corporate head offices and 55% of its IT enterprises located all within Johannesburg, it is no wonder this city has become an attractive new destination for investors and travellers alike.

Johannesburg, or more commonly "Joburg," is the world-class city in Africa due to its concentration of business and financial services. It is also South Africa's regional hub for a majority of industries, with more than 70% of the country's corporate head offices. Since the fall of apartheid and the dawn of democracy in 1994, Joburg has undergone significant restructuring and has adopted an aspirational plan titled Joburg Global Development Strategy 2040. This long-term plan to boost investment and economic growth is paying off: in February, Joburg hosted the C40 Cities Mayors Summit on climate change, a first for an African city.

Despite the many obstacles the city still faces, it is making positive progress toward its goal of an equitable future for all.

Business Culture

Sandton is the heart of Joburg's business centre and the dress code can be formal, chic and conservative. While there are 11 official languages, English is the main language used for business and is spoken widely. As the South African approach to deadlines can be casual, it is best to include deadline dates in contracts. The pace of business may be slow; try not to show impatience toward decision-making. Forcing deadlines or rushing deals may prove counterproductive.

Johannesburg and South Africa chart

Etiquette

  1. While citizens may be forthright about discussing critical issues affecting the country, they can be sensitive to outside moralities and opinion. It's best to tread lightly on potentially controversial subjects.
  2. Expect western customs for business practices: a handshake upon greeting, being punctual for meetings and engaging in minimal small talk before getting to negotiations.

Facts for Investors

  1. Johannesburg was rated one of the most affordable cities in the world for foreigners.
  2. South Africa was ranked the 53rd most competitive country out of 148, making it the second-highest ranked country in Africa.
  3. The country also ranks 15th among the most attractive emerging markets for investors.

Visiting Johannesburg for the First Time

  1. Credit is widely accepted and cash is useful mainly for taxis and tips. But don't offer to tip in any other currency than rand, as the use of foreign currency in South Africa is illegal.
  2. Insure everything for worldwide loss or damage. Keep belongings (laptop bag or cellphone) in sight at all times when in public.
  3. Crime is a problem but as long as you're vigilant, particularly at ATMs, and stay near the business district, you should be fine.
  4. It's best to use a metered taxi — if you can find one. Otherwise call a taxi service to arrange pickup. Uber taxis are recommended: they're equivalent to luxury pickup taxi/limo services in Canada. They also offer the advantage of online booking.
  5. Renting a car is another option — the roads in Joburg's centre are excellent and driving is safe. However, to avoid opportunistic crime, be sure to keep your windows closed and leave valuables in the trunk.

About the Author

Louisa Kalimeris


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