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Pillars of Justice

Surprising Growth in South African Economy Defies Expectations

In an unexpected turn of events, the South African economy exhibited resilience and growth, surpassing forecasts for the second quarter. Contrary to a median GDP growth prediction of 0.1% among economists surveyed by Reuters, the economy expanded by a robust 0.6%.

The notable performance can be attributed to the impressive strides made by the manufacturing and mining sectors, which counteracted challenges posed by soaring interest rates, Transnet disruptions, and a rand depreciation triggered by the Lady R diplomatic crisis.

Despite a rocky start marked by intensive power cuts, June witnessed the lowest monthly load shedding since August 2022, providing a boost to the manufacturing industry. Statistics SA reported a 2.2% growth in the sector, with nine out of ten manufacturing divisions expanding in the second quarter.

The mining industry also contributed to the positive trend, expanding by 1.3%. Noteworthy growth was observed in platinum group metals, gold, and coal, despite Transnet's rail performance issues leading to significant revenue losses in commodity exports. Agriculture, after contracting over 12% in the first quarter, staged a remarkable comeback, growing by 4.2%, thanks to favorable weather conditions, increased cultivation, and heightened export demand.

The finance, real estate, and business services industry recorded a growth of 0.7%. However, after a nine-month growth streak, the construction industry contracted in the second quarter. The economy additionally benefited from a substantial increase in investments in machinery and equipment, particularly in the realm of renewable energy, according to Statistics SA. Gross fixed capital investments rose by 3.9% from the first quarter.

Despite the stronger-than-expected growth, the South African economy continues to grapple with challenges, including persistent load shedding, 475 basis points in rate hikes over 18 months, and consistently high inflation. Household incomes are failing to keep pace, leading to a surge in bad debts, with over 70% of new credit applications being rejected, as reported by the National Credit Regulator. The anticipated lowering of interest rates is only expected in the coming year.

In the second quarter, household final consumption expenditure decreased by 0.3%, as per Statistics SA. However, spending on restaurants and hotels experienced growth. Although the South African economy was 1.6% larger than the previous year, it has yet to recover to its peak in the third quarter of 2022. Notably, South Africa avoided a technical recession in the first quarter of 2023, growing by 0.4% following a 1.1% contraction in the fourth quarter of 2022. A technical recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction, was averted.



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