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Noticeable recent legal developments on the continent
- Nigeria Finance Bill signed into law
The Finance Bill, 2019, which aims to create an enabling environment for business and investment in Nigeria, was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on 13 January 2020 and recently published in the Official Gazette. The Bill was introduced alongside the 2020 Budget, to:
• reform Nigeria’s tax laws to align with global best practices;
• support MSMEs in line with ease-of-doing-business reforms;
• incentivise investments in infrastructure and capital markets; and
• raise government revenues.
According to the president, this is the first time since the return of democracy in 1999 that a Federal Budget was accompanied by the passage of a Finance Bill specially designed to support its implementation, and “to create a truly enabling environment for business and investment by the private sector”.
- South Africa implements parental leave, adoption leave and commissioning parental leave
Employers of employees in South Africa should review their employment contracts and policies as these may need to be updated following the implementation of new types of leave for employees who become parents.
The Labour Laws Amendment Act 10 of 2018 introduced a statutory right to parental, adoption and commissioning parental leave for employees, as well as the right to claim payment of leave benefits in this regard from the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Although the Act was signed into law in November 2018, not all of the provisions came into force then. However, as of 1 January 2020, the provisions relating to parental, adoption and commissioning parental leave came into force.
- Zimbabwe reduces VAT rate
As of 1 January 2020, the VAT rate in Zimbabwe was reduced from 15% to 14,5%. This proposal had been included in the 2020 National Budget Statement to Parliament in November 2019, which included a number of tax and customs-related proposals.
- Significant competition law developments in South Africa
There may be an increase in complaints against dominant firms in South Africa after several important changes relating to buyer power and price discrimination took place this month.
This was after several sections of the Competition Amendment Act, 2018, as well as the Buyer Power Regulations and the Price Discrimination Regulations, came into effect on 13 February 2020. The aim of the amendments is to support participation in the economy by small and medium businesses’ and those controlled or owned by historically disadvantaged persons.
The amendments also relate to the disclosure of confidential information and penalties. Some of the changes are:
• a dominant firm in the grocery wholesale and retail, agro-processing, or e-commerce and online services sector (or any other sector designated by the Minister of Trade and Industry) may not require from or impose on a supplier that is a small and medium business or a firm controlled or owned by a historically disadvantaged person unfair prices or trading conditions;
• an action by a dominant firm is prohibited price discrimination if it is likely to have the effect of impeding the ability of small and medium businesses or firms controlled or owned by historically disadvantaged persons to participate effectively; and
• the Minister of Trade and Industry may have access to a firm’s confidential information for purposes of the Competition Act only, unless it is required to be disclosed in terms of any other law or the minister has reasonable grounds to believe that the information discloses a potential criminal offence.
- Major changes to the ADR landscape in Tanzania as a new Arbitration Act is passed
In the space of just two weeks, the Tanzania Arbitration Bill, 2020 was introduced in the National Assembly and passed. The Act, which is awaiting the president’s assent, will replace the Arbitration Act, Cap 15 R.E. 2002 and aims to create a friendly regime to encourage alternative dispute resolution and establish a more conducive framework for the enforcement of arbitral awards.
The main aim of the Act is to provide for conduct relating to domestic commercial arbitration, international commercial arbitration and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards. The Act also provides for the establishment of the Tanzania Arbitration Centre.
- Zambia introduces a raft of tax changes
In Zambia, several VAT-related amendments came into effect on 1 January 2020. This was after the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Act, No. 14 of 2019, the Value Added Tax (Zero-Rating) (Amendment) Order, No. 88 of 2019 and the Value Added Tax (General) (Amendment) Regulations, No. 90 of 2019 were passed on 31 December 2019.
Further, in other tax-related news, amendments were recently made to the schedules to the Customs and Excise Act, Chapter 322 of the Laws of Zambia, the Income Tax Act, Chapter 323 of the Laws of Zambia, and the Property Transfer Tax (Amendment) Act, No. 13 of 2019.
Noticeable political, economic, business and operating events – in collaboration with Africa Risk Consulting
- Angola – The Tribunal Provincial de Luanda (TPL) (Luanda Provincial Court) has frozen the Angolan assets of Isabel dos Santos, her husband, Sindika Dokolo, and Mário Filipe Moreira Leite da Silva, a principal business manager and shareholder, including the shareholdings that the three hold as beneficial owners in BIC, telecommunications company Unitel, BFA, Condis hypermarkets and ZAP Media. Freezing dos Santos’ shares also affects the impending sale of Brazil-based Oi TV’s 25% share of Unitel. The case will be heard after the court re-opens in March.
- Mozambique – President Filipe Nyusi (2015-present) is inaugurated for a final five-year term. He promises a term of development and security. Few western heads of state attend – still smarting from the hidden debt scandal – but Southern African Development Corporation (SADC) leaders turn out in force. The Total SA-led liquefied natural gas (LNG) project is expected to boost growth to around 5% in 2020 and 2021. Falling inflation and currency stability show that the country’s economy is recovering.
- Zimbabwe – President Emmerson Mnangagwa (2017-present) continues to conduct official duties during his presidential leave, increasing speculation about power struggles with Zimbabwe’s vice president, Constantino Chiwenga. The United Kingdom (UK) government excludes Mnangagwa’s government from the UK-Africa Investment Summit and issues travel warnings for Zimbabwe. The African Development bank (AfDB) reveals that Zimbabwe has fallen behind on its $700m debt arrears to the continental financial institution.
To find out more about the above, see our ARC category.
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