ONE of the City of London’s most respected business leaders says SA can be the financial services centre for Africa in the way London has become the global nerve centre for the financial sector.
In an interview at the weekend, Peter Levene, chairman of Lloyd’s of London insurance market, said SA had the most sophisticated financial services and legal sector in Africa.
It made sense for it to promote itself as a centre of financial excellence, which would attract investment, jobs and skills .
Lord Levene said he would support such an initiative if it received the support — and involvement — of the government and the financial sector in SA.
He said he had discussed the idea with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who also saw merit in the suggestion.
"SA has the best sectors in banks, accounting, legal and insurance, and if it is promoted to become the centre of excellence for financial services, there will be a lot of business into the country, and, most importantly, you will get new jobs," Lord Levene said.
FNB CEO Michael Jordaan believes Johannesburg is already "the New York of Africa" . "If a businessman from Ghana does a big deal with a businesswoman from Kenya and they choose a neutral jurisdiction, it is likely to be SA, and the legal firm (also) from SA," he said yesterday.
"SA uses ‘soft power’ in Africa rather than the ‘hard power’ used by some old colonial powers in the past. We are not seen as a military threat by other African countries," said Mr Jordaan.
Lord Levene said Lloyd’s was considering expanding into sub- Saharan Africa using SA as its base. Lloyd’s last year earned about R2,5bn in premium income from its South African operations, he said .
He also spoke against tougher regulations, particularly for insurers, saying rules can be strengthened without adding more. He meanwhile warned that insurance and reinsurance premiums would rise to enable the industry to restore profitability following a spate of claims from clients hit by such disasters as the tsunami in Japan and flooding in SA, New Zealand and the US.
Local insurers last week also confirmed premiums will have to go up, mainly in response to the effect of the worst flooding SA has experienced in recent years.
SOURCE : businessday.co.za