SA companies count the costs of xenophobic attacks

A total of four MTN outlets in Nigeria were last week damaged by attacks in retaliation to ongoing violence against foreign nationals in certain parts of South Africa, the telecom giant's CEO Rob Shuter has said. 

Shuter was on Monday speaking to the media after attending a meeting convened by the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry that brought together business leaders and security officials, including Police Minister Bheki Cele.

MTN, which has an expansive African footprint, is one of a number of South Africa-headquartered companies affected by retaliatory attacks that followed xenophobic violence and the looting of shops in South Africa. 

Shuter said the four outlets were franchises owned by Nigerians. MTN is 20% owned by Nigerian investors, and Shuter told Fin24 that there had been extensive engagements between company executives in Nigeria and local security officials in a bid to curb the disturbances.

While the mobile phone operator has a presence in 17 countries across the continent, attacks on its businesses in response to the xenophobic violence in South Africa have been limited to Nigeria.

Speaking after the meeting in Johannesburg, Shuter condemned the xenophobic violence, which he said "affects all of us" and degrades investor sentiment on the continent.

Police Minister Bheki Cele told the conference that 12 people had died and 639 arrested since xenophobic violence first erupted in the capital Pretoria. Dozens of businesses owned by foreign nationals have been looted and burned down, drawing drawing local and international outrage. He assured the business leaders that the police were working to restore order.

Other South African operations which reported disturbance to thier operations include MultiChoice and Shoprite.

MultiChoice CEO, Calvo Mawela, said its operations in Nigeria were shut for four days, affecting the company’s ability to connect with customers, but calm had since returned. Mawela said the financial impact of the downtime had not yet been quantified. 

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