Generally, most of us tend to start each New Year with a sense of hope for growth and a prosperous business environment but I believe that 2016 is shaping up to be an altogether different year. The year ahead is going to require that we all find a way to create a unique niche for

our particular business within our different industries. We will need to ensure that we are all able to make a positive contribution to our Local Community and in this way to the Country – we need to find ways to support our local economy and ensure that we take care of the Kokstad Community as a priority. Local is very Lekker.

The end of 2015 left many feeling a little punch drunk. There seemed to be one financial alarm after another set off by the continuous drama of all the changes and challenges South Africa faced.

Students started the #Feesmustfall movement and created chaos in our institutions of Tertiary learning, our Minister of Finance changed and then changed again (I’m sure that you do not need a re-hash of all the details), there was the on again, perhaps off again saga of the AGOA agreement with the US (which is still a threat), the increasingly dire situation with our water shortages countrywide (still very real to many who are now without water) and then the awful rash of racist remarks flying around throughout the country with such an incredible backlash from all sides.

The Rainbow Nation appeared at times to be tearing itself apart!

On the other hand, I have recently heard of more and more cases of Ubuntu – almost as if in response to the hate, the majority of South Africans are doing more and more to disprove the haters. Long may the love for our fellow South Africans continue.

If we have a look at the surface of what our Economists and the media are saying this year, it all looks rather gloomy:

  • Drought will push up the costs of food (which in turn impacts the staff of every business)
  • Our previous Finance Minister, Mr Nhlanhla Nene predicted in October 2015 that there would in all likelihood be a tax increase this year.
  • There is a strong possibility of an Eskom increase
  • It appears that our Interest rates will increase, possibly more than once in 2016.
  • The rand may continue to lose ground against foreign currencies.

So how do we stay positive and create a strong local economy?

  • Shop around for the best deals on food staples, consider different brands of goods, buy in bulk, don’t spend more money on conveniently pre-prepared foods – it won’t do any harm to chop and peel your vegies yourself – or get your kids to do this. Sign up for newsletters which list weekly / monthly specials on everything from food to cosmetics.
  • Unfortunately tax, as the saying goes, is unavoidable and we will have to wait for the Budget speech next week on 24 February to learn what we will be facing.
  • Eskom are waiting to hear from the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) whether they will be granted the right to unbudgeted costs from 2014. If granted we could see an increase of as much as 16%. It is worth looking at alternative or green energy or perhaps there are other solutions such as operating outside of the high use times – this obviously will only work for businesses not dependant on foot traffic. The SESSA (Sustainable Energy Society of South African) website has a number of suggestions for energy saving : http://sessa.org.za/energy-efficiency/energy-efficiency-basics
  • Those with borrowings or who have debts will find the interest rate increases the most onerous so …
    • Add up your debts to have a true reflection of the total debt
    • Prioritise payment of debts
  • Remember, that we are all East Griqualanders! The community in which we live is a very special one where the spirit of looking out for our neighbours is an old and longstanding one. Ubuntu is alive and well. Let’s concentrate on this sharing and caring rather than on what makes us all so very different to one another.
  • Our town has a truly unique history which is something to be proud of so those wishing to learn more about this please find the time to visit our museum where Audrey & Yvonne are always happy to share their knowledge.
  • By supporting our local businesses, we can hopefully create an environment where more jobs are created, where money spent in Kokstad, remains in the community and continues to develop the community.
  • K’mali is an initiative started by local, Piet Bosman, with the Mt Currie Community Development Organisation in conjunction with the University of Cape Town as a way of keeping the economy local. More information is available on the website -
  • Water has become the rather large proverbial Elephant in the Room of late. It’s running out at an alarming rate and we have to all learn to work around the challenges that this causes.

As a community let us work together to get through what may be a worrying year. We can face the challenges ahead with a positive attitude and refuse to be beaten by the them but to rather use them as stepping stones to a better and more prosperous future for our businesses and our town.