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South Africa sets out planned minimum wage level

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South Africa’s government has proposed a national minimum wage of 3,500 rand ($242; £199) a month.

About 47% of working South Africans earn less than the wage, which is being introduced to combat income poverty and inequality.

But critics say it could put more people out of work as employers might not be able to afford the higher wages.

The government says it will consult on the issue, but hopes to introduce a minimum wage within two years.

Announcing the rate, which was proposed by a panel of advisers, the country’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We are now a step closer to finalising discussions on the national minimum wage. All social partners will now decide what their take is.”

He said the panel was not endorsing the proposed figure as a living wage, but wanted to set a minimum payment for workers.

Wages are politically sensitive in the country, where the official unemployment rate is close to 25%.

One employment expert reckoned the figure was only about a quarter of the amount needed for the upkeep of a typical South African working-class household.

Prof Chris Malikane of the University of Witwatersrand told a Johannesburg radio station: “You would need 12,000 rand to sustain a basic household.”

The African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling party, supported the proposal calling it “credible and clearly supported by clear evidence”.

However, the Economic Freedom Fighters, the country’s third largest political party, said the plan “favours business at the expense of workers”.

It called for a higher minimum wage of at least 4,500 rand.

South Africa faces a possible downgrade to sub-investment grade by credit ratings agencies next month, with concerns remaining over violent wage strikes.

Moody’s currently rates South Africa two notches above subinvestment grade, with a negative outlook, while Fitch and S&P Global Ratings have it just a step above “junk”.

However, Mr Ramaphosa said: “We have made tremendous progress on the labour instability issues,”

24 Hours Across Africa

EU to probe Amazon over use of merchant data

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Amazon became the target of an antitrust investigation by the European Union on Wednesday over its use of merchants’ data, underlining the increasing regulatory scrutiny about how tech companies exploit customers’ information.

The European Commission has been seeking feedback from retailers and manufacturers since September into Amazon’s dual role as a marketplace for merchants and acting as a competitor following complaints from traders about Amazon’s practices.

The Commission said its investigation would focus on Amazon’s standard agreements with marketplace sellers and its use of data in choosing winners of the “buy box”, which allows consumers to add items from a specific retailer directly to their shopping carts.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who can fine companies up to 10% of their global turnover, said the issue was crucial as more and more Europeans shop online.

“E-commerce has boosted retail competition and brought more choice and better prices. We need to ensure that large online platforms don’t eliminate these benefits through anti-competitive behavior,” she said.

Amazon said it would cooperate fully with the EU investigation. The company reached a deal with Germany’s antitrust authority on Wednesday to overhaul its terms of service for third-party merchants.

Under its terms of service for Europe here set out on its website, merchants grant Amazon “royalty-free” rights to use in a range of ways their materials, such as technology, trademarks, content and product information.

“There have been concerns around the world that competition authorities have failed to appreciate the market power that comes from ownership of data,” he said.

In Amazon’s case, he said the Commission needed to show “the standard agreements with retailers were anti-competitive in somehow allowing Amazon to use the data to manipulate market outcomes, or that Amazon had in some way abused its dominance.”

The Commission had been struggling to define the market in which Amazon operates in order to identify where the competitive harm could have been, sources said.

This would not be Amazon’s first run-in with the Commission. Two years ago, it was told to pay back taxes of about 250 million euros ($280 million) to Luxembourg because of illegal tax benefits. That same year it settled with the regulator over its distribution deals with e-book publishers in Europe.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Senegal to terminate deal with Mauritius over hiked tax

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Senegal has threaten to part ways with Mauritius over hike taxation, also stated they will pull out from the deal.

Senegal could leave the double taxation treaty signed with Mauritius in 2002. According to President Macky Sall, Senegal has lost more than $250 million in tax revenue to its partner in 17 years.

The Dakar government believes that Mauritius, already on the European Union’s grey list, is home to many companies investing in Senegal in mining resources such as Zircon or gold.

A way for these companies to bypass tax revenues by taking advantage of the treaty between the two countries.

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