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South Africa among countries where debt collection is most difficult

Out of 49 countries, South Africa is the 43rd most difficult for debt collection, according to a ranking by international insurer Allianz Trade.

The Allianz Trade Collection Complexity Score, which measures how difficult it is to collect debt in a given country, found that South Africa has a severe level of collection complexity. 

The ranking measures the level of complexity relating to international debt collection procedures from zero (least complex) to 100 (most complex). South Africa has a score of 67. Sweden and Germany top the ranking as having the least complex debt collection, both with scores of 30, with global collection complexity at 49.

Allianz’s assessment of debt collection complexity comes as central banks around the world tighten monetary policy to curb soaring inflation, causing financing costs to rise for companies and contributing to business insolvencies. In this context, Allianz says, recovering debt could become even more difficult.

In South Africa most companies take up to 90 days to settle debts, because of financial constraints, according to Allianz. In some cases, small to medium enterprises are taking as long as 120 to 180 days to settle debts.

With western European countries standing out as having less severe levels of collection complexity, and countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa having the most complex, the gap between advanced and emerging markets is large.

But Allianz points out that “this gap has been reducing over time”, with the collection complexity scores of 20 of the 49 countries decreasing over the past four years. 

Covid-19 led several countries to accelerate the reforms of their insolvency frameworks, according to Fabrice Desnos, who is in charge of credit intelligence, reinsurance and surety at Allianz Trade. 

There have also been improvements in preventive restructuring frameworks, which ensure that action is taken before businesses default on their loans. For example, in 2019 the European Union adopted a directive enabling viable businesses that are in dire financial straits to have access to effective national preventive restructuring frameworks so that they can continue operating. China and Saudi Arabia, which rank 46th and 49th on the Allianz score, also showed some noticeable improvements. The collection complexity scores in these two countries were reduced by two and three points respectively.

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