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South African Banks Urged To Adapt To Chinese Currency Or Lose Business

South African Banks Urged To Adapt To Chinese Currency Or Lose Business

South African banks that fail to adapt to the rise of the the Chinese currency, or renminbi, are being warned they could lose business to international banks better adapted to trade with the world’s second-largest economy, according to a Ventures Africa article.

The renminbi as currency will become a prominent factor in doing business by 2015, according to a survey by an international bank HSBC. One third of the China’s international business transactions –  about $2 trillion worth – is expected to be made in the renminbi within three years.

David Bloom, HSBC’s global head of foreign exchange strategy research, said South Africa is the 21st-largest exporter to China with exports worth about $12 billion. Data shows Angola is 14th, with exports valued at $23 billion, Bloom said.

South African exports to Asia are increasing while those to Europe are falling, research shows. During the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Summit in March, the South African Reserve Bank suggested it could invest up to $1.5 billion in China’s bond markets. Other sovereigns in Africa are likely to follow this trend, according to HSBC.

Chinese companies are happy to bypass the dollar and African companies have been very receptive to the idea of switching to yuan-based transactions, according to John Bennet, an independent currency specialist in Johannesburg.

At least 150 countries now do business in renminbi each month, a sign that use of the currency is growing for cross-border transactions, according to the HSBC survey. Payments in yuan grew by 171 percent in the year ending January 2013.


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In 2012, 8.2 percent of import and export goods trade with China was done in renminbi compared to 2.6 percent in 2010.

There are initiatives to allow foreign companies to raise renminbi funding through initial public offerings and bond issuance, according to HSBC.

In South Africa, Standard Bank and Absa Group are leveraging banking relationships with  China and other international players to take advantage of those initiatives.

Africa’s largest bank by assets and earnings,  Standard Bank has a relationship with Industrial Commercial Bank of China. Absa Group has the benefit of its relationship parent Barclays.

Standard Bank with branches in 17 countries in Africa is moving to provide yuan deposits and withdrawals at all of them. The expectation is at least 40 percent of the $120 billion in annual trade between Africa and China will be done in yuan by 2015.

Thousands of Chinese companies do business across Africa. The renminbi is used to pay suppliers back home, settle debts and pay employees. African companies doing business with Chinese sub-contractors are also switching to the renminbi to pay bills, cutting costs and cutting out a third party.